The Handyman, by Lester Barclay

Let’s tackle another invisibility story! This one is a little different, in that it is a story about an imaginary invisible friend!

“The Handyman,” by Lester Barclay, appeared in the October 1950 issue of Fantastic Adventures. It is short and sweet, so this will be a very short blog post! Spoilers follow… you can read the story on archive.org in advance if you like.

“The Handyman” is a very straightforward story. Tom Randolph, a wealthy and successful businessman, is irritated that his son Brian spends time reading fairy tales instead of reading serious books and doing the chores around the house. Brian’s mother Alice wants him to be able to be a little kid, but is afraid to go against her husband.

But Brian overhears his father talking about hiring a handyman, and after Brian learns what a handyman is, his chores start getting done much faster than he could possibly do them. Randolph accuses the servants of helping with the chores, but Brian insists that he has a friend, a handyman named Joe, who nobody can see.

Randolph gets increasingly angry, and decides to take away all of Brian’s fairy tale and fantasy books. But he also has a bigger problem: there are two important business meetings coming up one the same day, one in New York and one in Denver, and either of them could decide the fate of his company. Randolph cannot decide which meeting to attend, but finally makes a desperate choice to take his private jet to New York.

But he is in for a surprise:

The sound of the plane slowing to a landing speed awakened Randolph. He peered through the window, expecting to see the spires of the New York. His eyes widened in horror as they recognized the Denver landscape with the mountains on all sides.

“Archer, you damned fool! I said New York!” The head turned and Randolph found himself looking into a perfectly strange face.

“Where’s Dick?” Randolph asked inanely.

“Oh. I asked him to do me a favor and get me some cigarettes. I knew he would have taken you to New York, but Denver is where you really wanted to go.”

“I’ll have you arrest. . .” Randolph paused in the middle of his threat.

“Who are you?” he went on.

“I? I’m Joe.. .”

We do not learn what exactly happens at the Denver meeting, but it has clearly changed Randoph:

She was reading to the boy. He lay full length on the white throw rug beside the fire and looked up at his mother with adoration in his eyes.

Neither heard the outer door open.

Quite suddenly they became aware of his presence. She dropped the book and stared guiltily at the man. “I couldn’t help it, Tom. I thought …” she couldn’t go on under the cold spell of his eyes.

He continued into the room, and as he passed the boy he ran his fingers through the tousled hair. Then he fell wearily into the sofa close by his wife’s side. He placed an arm about her shoulders and leaned his weight against her.

“Fairy tales, Alice?”

“Yes, Tom,” there was a hushed whisper of expectancy in her voice.

“I’ve forgotten them. Think you and Brian can teach them to me again?”

It was as if she knew. “It shouldn’t be hard,” she said. “Now that you believe in them once again …”

As you can see, “The Handyman” is a rather simple story about the power of imagination. As far as invisibility goes, there is no scientific discussion of it, because it really is a story about an “invisible friend.”

I include it in my list of invisibility stories because Joe clearly is a tangible being who is not visible until he chooses to be! Though not a scientific story, it is an interesting illustration of the variety of stories about unseen beings that are out there.

This entry was posted in Invisibility, Weird fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Handyman, by Lester Barclay

  1. kaleberg says:

    Brings to mind the short story “No Life of Their Own”. Simak?

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