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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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
“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
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
“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.
“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
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
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
“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
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
“ ... 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
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
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
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