The Writers Voice
The World's Favourite Literary Website

The Chauvinist


Harry Buschman

What would Fletcher Tishman do now? Who would take care of him? He could neither cook nor clean. The washing machine had always been a female mystery to him and so was almost everything on the shelves of his refrigerator.

He told himself to sit down and relax -- to think things over calmly -- “First things first,” He said. “Second things second.” It wasn’t the first time a woman had walked out on her husband, although it was the first time Stella walked out on him.

She could have left many times before. He gave her reason to split time and again. He had a nasty habit of looking down his nose -- no short man has a physical reason to look down on anyone. It had to be arrogance -- and Fletcher Tishman had a lot of that. He preached, rather than spoke to Stella. Raising his index finger, like a teacher reminding the children not to forget their homework over the weekend, he would explain to her the importance of statistics in the insurance business and the necessity of starch in the sleeves of his white shirts, and the sooner she accepted this the better.

Now, as he sat in his recliner, he suspected he might have been a little demanding. He looked across the room through the golden light of the whiskey decanter in his hand, wondering if he should turn on CNN. He reached for the remote, then put it down again to consider his present state. An unattached male, admittedly somewhat short, but of more than sufficient means, now separated from an unappreciative wife, a man young enough to consider having another go at some kind of relationship. It was the first comforting thought he had since Stella left, but it was brought to an abrupt halt when he looked down at his feet. His socks were two different colors - one brown, and one blue.

It was a sobering sight to Fletcher. In a way it reminded him of Stella. If she were here it would never have happened. It reminded him to check on his shirts and underwear -- did he have enough or were they stuffed in the hamper. He thought it would be a good idea to check his wardrobe. CNN could wait. He polished off the whiskey quickly and put the wet glass down firmly on the polished mahogany end table, never for once considering that it would leave a ring.

Stepping across his untidy living room and carefully putting one brown socked foot down after a blue, he found his way to the bedroom. The mates to his socks were in his top bureau drawer -- the penalty of dressing in the dark, he thought. There was only one clean shirt and no clean underwear. He panicked when he realized he had no idea how to operate the washing machine and dryer.

He dreaded domesticity in any form -- it was no job for a man. What he needed now was a maid -- no, more than a maid. A cook too, and a valet. He couldn’t do these things alone. He had more important things to do -- he was a professional man, after all. He was also the man of this house -- the breadwinner.

If things were this bad in the bedroom what were they like in the kitchen -- and even worse, the bathroom?!

Fletcher glanced at his watch, (that, at least was functioning) 7:30 -- already dark. He couldn’t think here in the apartment -- he would go out for something to eat. “That’s the ticket,” he said to himself, “I’ll find a nice quiet place to eat, and think it over. I’m sure something will come to me.”

“Strange,” he thought as he was leaving. “The things you have to think of when you live alone. Have I got my keys? Did I leave the water running? Is the answering machine on?” When he stepped into the street he looked back at the old four story brownstone, the red sandstone steps of the stoop were worn down in the center like the steps of an ancient altar. The wrought iron filigree covering the beveled glass doors was rusty with age. How long had he and Stella lived here? It came as a shock to remember that they moved there right after their honeymoon.

“Honeymoon,” he grunted. “That’s when the clash of personalities began. When we stood beside the car looking at Monument Valley and the ‘Four Corners,’ we couldn’t agree in which of the four states we were standing.” The love was good, he remembered. The physical side. But even that, in time became sexless and as automatic as a popup toaster.

Fletcher clutched his coat collar close to his neck to ward off the night chill and headed for the Greek restaurant around the corner. The “Athenian” was a favorite eating spot for Fletcher and Stella in the beginning, it was smelly, the food was only faintly Greek and the decor, with its faded pictures of the Acropolis was ice cream parlor art deco. It was family owned and operated. That meant everyone in Victor Fada’s extended family was there all the time -- every day, whether they were working or not. It was noisy and argumentative. Sometimes the arguments would spill over and involve the diners as well.

Victor seemed to be everywhere. From the wine cellar to the cash register, (which boasted the sign, ‘no plastic please’) to the kitchen. It was in the kitchen that his deep chested roar could be heard night and day and when he stormed out of the kitchen his blue black jowls still pulsated with remarks he had not yet delivered. He would stop, however, at tables occupied by nervous diners and ask them with a threatening stare, “How does the food? You like? You eat like bird.” His bushy black mustache would broaden and reveal his enormous teeth. At such times Fletcher and Stella would nod agreeably and chew as though their lives depended on it.

It was warm in the Athenian that evening and the smell of roast lamb and onions was overwhelming. Fletcher felt his appetite might not be up to Victor’s standards, but after a retsina or two he was sure he could handle it. Anyway, he had an ulterior motive. The Fada family was abundant and he was sure one of them would be willing to be a maid, cook, laundress -- and whatever else was necessary to take the place of Stella. He stopped for a moment in the doorway to consider that thought. Stella? Had she been a domestic? Is that what their relationship had been these last few years? And if that was what she was, then what was he? Fletcher shrugged out of his coat and took a small table near the back of the room.

Victor was on him immediately. “My friend. You are alone -- your wife is ill! It is not surprising to me, if she ate here more often she would not be susceptible to colds and flu.”

“No, she’s not ill, Victor -- so far as I know. She’s ... just not with me tonight.”

Victor sat down sat down across from Fletcher. He smoothed his mustache and tried to appear understanding. The smell of the kitchen seemed to ooze from him. “Would you care for a smoke, my friend?” He pulled a package of gauloises from the pocket of his checkered shirt. “Is okay. We permit smoking at the tables for two. If anybody complains I tell them to go elsewhere.”

“No thanks Victor.” Fletcher picked up his menu, hoping that Victor wouldn’t get too comfortable. “You have lamb chops I see.”

“Yes. Yes. Of course. Moussaka, and squid, and split chickens ... as usual ... but why is your wife not with you?”

“It’s a personal thing, Victor ...” Victor’s bushy, black eyebrows shot up as one and his brow wrinkled in pain. “We’ve had a slight disagreement, you might call it. We thought it would be wise to take some time off from each other ... just for a bit. In the meantime it’s made things a little difficult for me.”

Victor’s eyebrows now expressed condolence. Fletcher was amazed - they reacted to every word and seemed to have an existence of their own. “You need woman?” Victor planted both elbows on the table across from Fletcher and leaned forward. “My wife’s brother ... no longer with us -- I have no regrets. But what I mean to say is ... he had a daughter. She is not a looker ... “

“Really Victor ... I”

“Say no more. I understand. But, if you change your mind you will let me know, right?” Victor smiled broadly and winked - one eyebrow suddenly sank like a stone. “Have good digestion, my friend.”

“Just a minute, Victor.”


“I am looking for a good domestic. You know, a maid. One who would also be able to cook and clean.”

“Full time?”

“It would almost have to be, wouldn’t it, Victor?”

“Like a wife, you mean?”

“Well, up to a point, Victor ... if you get my drift.”

Victor sat back and pondered, his brows hung low over his eyes as if they, too, were thinking. They slowly lifted and Fletcher was suddenly aware that Victor was staring at him. “The husband of my younger sister has a brother in New Jersey. This brother has a daughter, Alexandra by name. Alexandra is a fine Greek name, (he pronounced it “Giddick”) - it means, the savior of mankind.”

“Impressive,” Fletcher said.

Victor stubbed out the butt of his cigarette in Fletcher’s butter dish and stood up. “She’s in the kitchen. I bring her -- don’t forget ... Alexandra.”

Fletcher wished he hadn’t decided to have dinner at the Athenian. It would have been wiser to put an ad in the paper - hiring a relative of someone you know, didn’t seem like a good idea at all. He scanned the menu half-heartedly. Nothing looked good to him, but he knew if he didn’t eat something he’d never get through the night.

“Can I help you?”

Fletcher thought it was the waiter, but when he raised his eyes it was an olive skinned girl in her middle twenties. She was wearing black slacks and a man’s denim work shirt. A soiled apron, untied, hung loosely about her neck.

“Are you Andromeda?“ he asked.

“Alexandra. Uncle Victor said you wanted to see me.”

“Yes, Alexandra ... er ... it’s a little hard to explain. Why don’t you sit down?”

“What’s so hard? Your wife bailed out and you’re up the creek. You need a woman, right?” She took off her apron, pulled out a chair and sat down. The movement was quick and efficient -- almost masculine.

“A woman to cook and clean ... and wash. You know ... a domestic.”

“Whatever,” she said, looking directly at him. “What’s your name?”

“Tishman. Fletcher Tishman, I work in insurance. I live around the corner on Regis Street, it’s a four story brownstone -- there’s a kitchen, a bedroom, a living room ... a bathroom ... oh, and a den, there’s a small den where I sometimes work nights.” In one sentence, Fletcher had blurted out everything. Alexandra hadn’t batted an eye.

“Dogs? Kids?”

“No, nothing like that. I’m the only living thing in the apartment.”

“Y’gonna be bringin’ in people?”

“I don’t think so. I never have ... I live a quiet life.”

“No sweat then.” She sat up straight and looked back at the kitchen. “When can I see it?”

“Well, I was going to have dinner but we can go now if you can get away.”

“No, have dinner first. Uncle Vic’ll have my ass if you walk outta here without eatin’. After you’re done we can take a look at it.”

Fletcher ordered quickly and ate quickly. He was preoccupied about the arrangement - she was a strange girl, this Alexandra - he had never met anyone quite like her. When he stood up to leave, Alexandra walked out of the kitchen - he figured she must have been watching him through the little window in the swinging door. She had her coat on, a short leather coat with a lambs wool collar. A hat too, a knitted woolen cloche pulled down over her ears -- it gave her a vulnerable appearance, something he wasn’t expecting.

“How did you like the moussaka,” she asked?

“It was good. It’s always good here.”

“I made it tonight,” she said. “I’m getting good at it.”

They walked out into the night, it was colder than it was when he came in. There were icicles hanging from the canopy over the sidewalk. When they started to walk, Fletcher circled around her to walk between her and the curb.

“Are you deaf on the other side?” She asked.

“No. It’s an old custom I guess. The man is supposed to protect the woman from runaway horses. I guess it’s old-fashioned, huh?”

“I wouldn’t know,” she said. “I forgot what you said you did for a living?”

“I sell commercial insurance.”

“Sounds like fun.”

Fletcher didn’t catch on until he saw her laugh. “What do you do?” He asked.

“City College, nights. Third year Engineering School, I wanna be a structural engineer.”

“I went to City ... God it’s twenty years ago. I wouldn’t know the place.” He stopped and said, “This is where I live, I’m on the second floor.” Fletcher dug out his key at the lobby door. Just as he did, he noticed the curtains of the living room windows on the first floor part quickly and close again. “That was Mrs. McBride. She owns the place ... she’s probably putting two and two together.”

“ ... and getting the wrong answer.” Alexandra said firmly.

The apartment was dark and Fletcher flipped the lights on as they went from room to room. When they were through, he said “That was it, not much to see. The wife and me, we didn’t spend much time here.”

She pulled off her hat and opened her coat. “Got a vacuum?” she asked.

“Oh sure,” he answered quickly. “In the closet over here. A nice new Hoover.”

She suddenly turned on him when he flipped the light switch in the closet ... “Okay - now listen up! This is the way it’ll go down. You make your own breakfast then get outta here, I don’t wanna be lookin’ at you in the morning. I’ll be here at eight and I’ll do what’s gotta be done all day until four. I’ll have your supper all ready sittin’ for you in the oven. All you have to do is eat it ...” She smiled at him. “You can feed yourself cant’cha?”

“That’s Monday to Friday. Weekends you’re on your own. I got my own stuff to do. Go somewhere. Do somethin’ -- eat at uncle Vic’s if you have to.” She paused a second or two and looked up at the ceiling. “I’ll take 200 bucks a week and bill you for what I buy.”

“I can live with that, I guess.” He answered weakly.

“Check or cash, don’t make a bit of difference to me. Got a spare key?”

He opened a drawer in an end table, “Here’s the key to the lobby door and this one’s for the apartment. My wife left them.”

“That’s it,” she said, pulling her hat on. I’ll be here at eight a.m. tomorrow. I gotta get back to uncle Vic.” She began walking to the door.

Before Fletcher could ask her to stay a moment, she was gone. The apartment was empty - emptier than it had ever been before, even when Stella was there. The lingering aroma of the Athenian restaurant still hovered in the air. Fletcher walked to the window in the living room facing the street hoping to catch a glimpse of Alexandra, but she was too fast for him. She had already turned the corner. What an amazing young woman, he thought. Twenty years his junior and already more capable of making decisions than he was. Something must have done it to him - something had made him unfit to live without assistance - he was like a blind man crossing the street.

What a wife she would make some day, he thought. But who could handle her? Well -- he would get himself to bed now. That much he could do. He would get by on his one clean shirt and yesterday’s underwear tomorrow and be out of the apartment right after breakfast. Breakfast? He would spend half the night wondering what to have for breakfast.

©Harry Buschman 2005

Critique this work

Click on the book to leave a comment about this work

All Authors (hi-speed)    All Authors (dialup)    Children    Columnists    Contact    Drama    Fiction    Grammar    Guest Book    Home    Humour    Links    Narratives    Novels    Poems    Published Authors    Reviews    September 11    Short Stories    Teen Writings    Submission Guidelines

Be sure to have a look at our Discussion Forum today to see what's
happening on The World's Favourite Literary Website.