Appears (in an edited form) in Open All Night

Charles Bukowski

I moved into a new place and decided to change the locks.
I phoned the nearest locksmith and he told me
I needn't change the locks, he could make new keys.

"all you have to do," he said, "is take
the locks out and bring them down here.
just remove the 3 little screws
and pull the locks out."

the side door wasn't difficult.
I pulled the lock out and put it carefully into
a cardboard box.
I went to the front door and it seemed simple
only the front door handle came off and
I thought,
I wonder if he needs the handle too?
I put everything into the cardboard box and got into
the car and drove down to the locksmith.

"are you the guy who phoned?" he asked me.
I told him that I was and then he asked,
"do you have the key?"
I gave him the key and he took it and the locks and the handle
and disappeared into his shop.

I stood out in the alley behind the place and waited.
the only view was the back of a Chevron gas station.
I looked at it for quite a while then
I walked over to my car and looked at it for a while
and then
I lit a cigarette and walked back.
the man had the keys ready.
"$10," he said.
I asked him if he might tell me a little bit about reinstalling
"sure," he said, "now this part fits here. it
doesn't matter which part you stick in here,
either end will do."

I asked him if either end would do then why did one end
have a nodule on it while the other end was flat?
"that's a good question," he said, "now this
part, these two prongs slip in here, you hold
it together against the front of the lock and
tighten the 3 screws. also, when you do this
make sure the lock is in the locked position."

I drove the locks back to my place and
I tried the side door first and everything seemed to
fit all right, it locked and unlocked, although
there was space around the lock and the door itself
and it wouldn't slide in flush.

I tried the front door
I put the handle back on
I slipped the parts together.
there was some trouble pushing the screws in against
the wood and getting them started but then it was done but
it wasn't right: the latch was locked against
the handle and it wouldn't lift up.

I phoned my girlfriend and told her that
I just couldn't install door locks.
"it's easy," she said, "I've changed dozens myself,
there's nothing to it."
I told her that it wasn't easy because even when they told
you some things they left other things out.
"just forget the locks," she said, "I'll fix them
when I get there."
the problem was that she wasn't coming until the next day.

I uncorked some wine and sat down at the typewriter and
turned on the radio and smoked cigars and typed.
I drank the wine and smoked and typed until somewhere
between one and two a.m. then
I walked over to the bed, fell on it and slept.
I awakened 30 minutes later, took off my clothes and slid
under the blankets.

about 4:30 a.m.
I awakened and thought about the front door and
I got up and went downstairs naked.
I got the screwdriver and went to work but the lock parts
became scrambled.
I tried to put the lock back in, checking for the slot
for the latch tongue and then
I found that
I had lost one of the 3 screws necessary to fasten the lock
back together again.
I turned on all the lights but it was dark down on the
floor so
I turned on the front porch light but I still couldn't find
the screw so
I walked naked to the garage and looked in the glove
compartment of
the car and got the flashlight out and came back up on the
porch, got down on my knees and flicked it on and it died
after about ten seconds.
I gathered all the lock parts together and put them in a little
pile, then
I closed the door and turned out all the lights.
there was now a large hole in the door where
the moonlight came through.
I found three chairs and stacked them up against the closed door
and then
I went upstairs and got back into bed.

in the morning
I phoned the locksmith and told him that
I couldn't manage it and wasn't there somebody he could
send up? and I told him about the 3 screws. that
I had lost one of them.

"you were the guy in the white t-shirt,
weren't you?" he asked.
"yes," I said.
"we'll have a man up there in a
couple of hours."

I waited until 12 p.m. and then
I phoned again and
I told him that
I was the guy in the white t-shirt and that
I had phoned earlier and that
I had an important business appointment that afternoon
(it was one of the last days of the Oak Tree meet,
first post, 12:30 p.m.)
and that I could cancel my appointment but
I'd certainly prefer not to.

"I have another man coming in at 12:15," he said.
"we'll have him up there in a couple of

the man arrived at 1:05 and
I told him there were supposed to be 3 screws and that
I had lost one of them.

"nice place you got here," he told me.
he picked up the lock and began fitting it together
and he said,
"no, you haven't lost a screw, here it is stuck
in the back of the lock."

I stood there and watched him slip the lock into the
hole in the door.
then he pulled the lock out of the door.
"you know," he said, "this is a very complicated
lock, it's expensive and more difficult to fit

then he jiggled the lock parts and slipped them
back into the door.
then he pulled the parts out again.

"I don't understand it," he said
looking at the doorknob.
"the doorknob's frozen so I'll have to fix
the doorknob first."

he sat down on the steps and twisted at the door
knob and
I walked to a table in the other room and sat where
I could see him.
there was a newspaper there
I had already read and
I began to read it again.

5 or ten minutes went by and
I said,
"look, let's just replace every knob,
new lock and I'll pay for everything."

"wait," he said, "give me a chance."

I read the newspaper some more,
I read through the whole front section.
then the repairman stood up:
"I'll be back, I'm going to have to lubricate
this thing..."

he was gone for about twenty minutes and when he
came back the doorknob was no longer frozen and he
fit the lock parts back in and bolted them home.
then he stuck the key in and it worked.

"it works but there's still something wrong here that
I don't understand."

"it's strange," I said, "I had very little trouble
putting the lock in the side door."

"you mean," he asked, "that there are two locks?"

"yes, didn't someone tell you?"

"no. then that's the trouble: let me see the other

I showed him the other lock.
"it's falling out," I said, "but it works."

he told me, "you mixed the parts of the two locks.
they are different locks."

then he took out both locks
rearranged the parts the way they should be
put the locks back in and both of them
worked just fine.

"that'll be fifteen dollars," he said.

I thought that was very reasonable and handed him a

"damn it," he said, "I don't have any change.
don't you have any change?"

"no, all I have are twenties."

"you'll need a receipt?"

"yes, so I can take it off my income tax."

he offered to drive me down to the corner market and
I'd get change
and we got into his truck and drove down to the
market and
I went in and got two bottles of wine and change for one of
my twenties.
I came out and handed him his $15 and told him to forget the
I usually lost them anyhow long before tax time.

"I'll give you a ride back,"
he said.

so we drove back up the hill and
I missed the running board getting out
but managed not to fall as he
drove off.

I walked up the drive with my two bottles of wine
stuck the key into the door and it opened.
I sat down, corkscrewed the bottle open and poured
a drink, then
I telephoned my girlfriend.

"it's too late for the races but I got the locks

"I could have done it,"
she said. "it's so simple.
I could have saved you money!"

"I know," I said, "but you weren't here."

40 minutes later
I was at the racetrack as they were coming out
for the 5th race.

©Linda Lee Bukowski - used with permission