Sometimes Fiero has found himself fixing six or seven dolls a month; lately, with the economy tanking, his orders have slowed to a trickle. Either way, he can't help but be appalled by some of the grotesqueries he's seen. "If you care for it, if you treat it right, you can crank her knees up to her shoulders and bang away at that doll with good hard intercourse and come out shining. But clean her out," Fiero says, his voice rising with indignation. "Clean her off. If you've got a hairy chest, you're going to leave hairs all over her. If you've got a cat, she's going to pick up cat hair. You want to take care of what you've got." And Fiero knows more than he'd care to about customers whose treatment of the dolls tips into abuse. He recalls one in particular. "He told me the doll was in great shape," Fiero says, "and she wasn't. In this guy's doll the jaw was so displaced it was in the back of her head. How the hell do you get somebody's jaw—it was on the outside, behind the doll's neck! And her left breast was hanging on by less than a half an inch of still-attached silicone. Her breast was practically ripped off. Her fingers were ripped off. It saddened me to think that somebody would spend that kind of money and treat something like that, when it's basically a human object. I had one guy from Berkeley who had sex so hard with his doll that he ripped the leg off it. The doll was less than a year old, and destroyed. Her calves, from below the knee, had what looked almost like knife puncture wounds. Hundreds of them. I don't know what this guy was doing to this doll." Fiero has his principles. He repaired the doll from Berkeley twice, but after the customer's second visit, Fiero instructed him never to make contact with him again. "Amazing," he says, "that there are human beings out there like that."

If Fiero has a wellspring of empathy for blems, it may have something to do with his own condition. In 1995 he learned firsthand what it means to be broken. Two days before his 35th birthday, Fiero went skydiving; it was something he'd done scores of times. Being a man with an appetite for extremes, he jumped out of the plane and waited until he was only about 1,000 feet above the ground before he pulled his rip cord. He wanted to see what that felt like. He found out. His parachute opened in time, but so did an emergency-backup canopy. The lines from the two chutes got tangled up, and Fiero slammed into the ground. "On my birthday I woke up in an ICU a brand-new guy," he says. "My back was busted. I was paralyzed all over the place. I had tubes and wires comin' out of me." He could walk, eventually, but only by twisting his torso around so that the muscles of his upper body forced his legs forward. Other things he could not do. "My dick didn't work, and I couldn't perform sexually," he says. This, of course, lends a layer of irony to Fiero's life. "He's able to repair the dolls," muses Elena Dorfman, "in a way that he is not able to repair himself. I think that that is his way of maybe working through his own stuff."