The Desperate Housewife

After my Dad retired from his work as a carpenter, he needed to pick up odd jobs around Waukegan to bring in extra money. He put an ad in the newspaper offering his services as a carpenter and handyman. One day he got a call from a woman from Lake Forest, a rich suburb north of Chicago. She said she had a door that needed hanging and some repairs to do, and could he come down? He said sure.

The next day, Dad drove his truck down to a beautiful big brick house across Sheridan Road from Lake Michigan. The woman met him at the back door and showed him the work, and he unpacked his tools and got started. She watched him for a while, then left.

After a while she came back and watched him work some more. Then she got restless and started talking to him. He had to be really strong to do the work he did. He was really good with his tools, wasn't he? Her husband was away on a business trip and she was alone in the house. And anyway, he never could do what my Dad could.

At this point, I thought, "Whoa, did he know?" But of course he knew. A man with two sperm cells would know.

Dad kept on working as she talked on and on. He hung and balanced the door, did the other repairs, swept and cleaned the work site, and packed up his tools. She paid him, and he left.

What's significant about this story, other than that my Dad still had the old whammo late in life?

It's that I heard this story from my mother. Dad had driven his truck home and told her about it -- all embarrassed, she said.

No fool he.

I never thought of my Dad as subtle, but in my view he had done exactly the right thing, whether by reason or by instinct. He saw the Desperate Housewife as trouble. Maybe he pictured her calling him at home, whether from loneliness or from darker motives of division and conquest. He knew that concealing this experience from his wife was dangerous, and he took the terrible risk of trust.

In the old days, people would have called the Desperate Housewife a homewrecker. But in truth, there are no homewreckers, only stupid and faithless men.

24-May-2008