by James

A hug from mum could make the whole world go away. “Oh Spanna”, she would murmur, or maybe call me “Spans”, and then wrap me in her arms and make everything seem alright. The nickname came from school - kid said something stupid, he was a spanner. When your name is Anna and you spend your life tripping over your own feet, or clocking a kid in a wheelchair with your schoolbag, what else are the kinds going to call you?

I didn’t mind it from mum, and I didn’t mind it from Andy either, but Andy’s dad?

Andy and me have been together for three years, and here it is at last, our first house. A fixer-upper, my mum called it. Shithole, is how Andy’s dad put it, but he did fetch out his toolboxes and climb into his paint spattered overalls, to give us a helping hand, as he put it. Mum and I laughed about that. Imagine if Hitler hadn’t shot himself. Suppose he escaped Berlin but then fled, not to Argentina, but to Pinner, where he lived out his days running a little house renovation business on the side before one day passing the torch – and all of his people skills – down to Andy’s dad.

I was tea-girl. I was also paint-stirrer girl, and crap picker upper girl, and bacon sandwich fetcher, and move this, get that, no not there, there, THERE WHERE I’M POINTING.

And when I was trusted to something by myself? When I cocked it up? Andy was there with a hug, to murmur Spanna in a way that made it all better. Andy’s dad overheard, but strangely – for him – barely even a smirk. Perhaps I’d jaded him with all my other DIY screw ups.

Of course not. We went round Andy’s parents for tea and Andy’s dad disappeared for ages into the shed, finally emerging in triumph with a battered old tool that he presented to me solemnly.

‘It’s for you, the DIY girl. Start of your own toolbox.’

It was an old rusty spanner. Andy and I looked at each other. We knew what it meant. Andy’s mum cooed in delight, and she made us pose for a picture of him presenting it to me – “look lovely in a frame, that will”.

Anna’s Spanner, and that became the call, whenever something went wrong or was misplaced – fetch Anna’s Spanner! Even Andy took to doing it. Couldn’t find his hammer? Anna, where’s your spanner? Spilt some paint on the hall floorboards? Check out Anna’s spanner, with its super absorbent coating of rust flakes.

I had a good day working in that house if I only had to fetch my spanner eight or nine times.

Andy wasn’t there that afternoon when his dad started shouting as though the house was on fire. I went on with making his tea (just the way he didn’t like it, from the face he always pulled when he sipped it), Andy’s dad screaming more and more frantically for me to fetch my spanner. I eventually drifted upstairs to the bathroom to find Andy’s dad red faced and panting, his overalls gone dark with water, and pools of water beginning to trickle between the floorboards to the freshly painted ceiling below. Andy’s dad had both hands clasped around the end of a piece of copper that was protruding from the wall, water oozing between his fingers.