One morning at the breakfast table I told my husband about the big fire we had in the backyard the day before. He was looking at the headlines in the paper and eating his cornflakes.
Honeykins,” I said (I call him Honeykins), “I started a fire in the backyard yesterday. The apple tree is gone. The putting green is gone. The grass is gone. Part of the back porch is gone. It’s terrible. I was going to make barbecue, but things got out of control.”
“Good. Good,” he said without looking up.
"The insurance isn’t going to cover it. They think I did it on purpose because I wanted a new putting green; the old one was so ratty.”
“Good. Good,” he said as he finished off his cereal.
“It’s going to cost thousands of dollars to repair.”
He looked at me finally.
“A thousand dollars a pair? That sounds like a bit much. A pair of what?”
I can guess you’re thinking that the poor man is going deaf, but that’s not so. He’s the tinkle auditor at a pin factory. You don’t get to be a tinkle auditor (that’s not the official name) if you’re deaf.
“You don’t even know I’m here, do you?” I said.
“Of course I do, Kittykins.” (He calls me Kittykins.) “Got to go now. The pins are waiting.”
I’ve had enough. I drive downtown to the big clothing store where I have a friend.
“I need to borrow a mannequin,” I tell her.
“May I ask what for?” says my friend.
“I’d rather not say, but I’ll bring it back, in, oh, maybe a day or so.”
As soon as I get home, I dress the mannequin in my clothes, put a wig on her head, some makeup on her face, and stand her in front of the kitchen sink, with her arms resting on it. Then I stand behind the curtains in the living room, peeking out to see when he gets home.
The car pulls up. I dash to the kitchen, turn the water on in the sink, and hide myself in the walk-in pantry. I press my ear to the door so tight, I’m afraid it’s going to pop open. He walks in. I hear him pull up a chair.
“How was your day, Kittykins?” I’m completely nuts, I know, but the silence gets so long, I’m hoping the mannequin will answer.
Finally he says, “Too tuckered out to talk, eh? Don’t you worry, I’ll take care of myself.” I hear him moving around the kitchen, opening the refrigerator, putting plates on the table, and then, after twenty minutes, he says, “I’m going to watch the news.” Well, I think I’ve proved my point, and I open the door and step out in time to see him kiss the manneqin on the cheek and go into the living room. What! Even then he didn’t know it wasn’t me.
I carry the mannequin into the pantry and sit on the floor waiting for time to pass until he goes to sleep because I have one more thing I want to do. To pass the time I talk with the mannequin.
“How do you keep that nice figure? Oh, you don’t eat much. Nothing at all, you say. I should try that. I don’t have the willpower? Oh, I don’t know. If I really wanted to stop eating, I could. I’d starve to death? Well, you have a point. Do you get cold when they leave you naked in the storeroom? You get used to it? You must be a very strong person. I don’t know what I’d do if they treated me that way. I know. I know. You said you get used to it.”
Anyway, that’s how it went. It was way past his bedtime now. I lugged the mannequin upstairs, put her in bed next to him, and got under the bed, where I fell asleep. Now, you should know that I’m always up before him to make the coffee, but the next morning I, in the person of the manneqjn, stay in bed, even after the alarm goes off.
He gets up and starts dressing.
“Boy, you must have worn yourself out yesterday,” he says. “You didn’t even change into pajamas. Don’t worry; I’ll make the coffee.”
That’s the last I see of him that morning. I check the fridge. He’s eaten a couple of bananas—the monkey—I couldn’t stop thinking bad thoughts about him. Obviously he’s made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The dishes are still in the sink from last night and this morning, and he’s left some dishes and silverware on the table. Well, I’ll be damned if I’m going to clean up after him. The thing that really gets me, though, is that I forgot to turn off the water in the kitchen sink and it’s been running all night.
When he gets home that night the mannequin is standing at the sink and the water is running to make it look real, and I’m in the pantry.
“How was your day, Kittykins?” After a pause—I imagine him looking at the mess in the kitchen—he says, “You must have had a lot to do.” Then the same routine as the night before. I don’t look forward to sleeping under the bed again, but I have to see how long this is going to go on.
After three days, he starts putting things in the dishwasher. After a week, he starts vacuuming and goes shopping. After two weeks, he calls a contractor and landscaper to take care of the burned-out mess in the backyard.
I’ve taken up golf and hang gliding. I see my friends almost every day now. I’ve taken an interest in the German plans for the invasion of Russia during WWII and have written several scholarly articles on the subject.
So here’s the problem: other that my sore back, and the horrible water bill, my days are good. On the other hand, he doesn’t miss me. I don’t know what to do. It’s been a year and a half now.
An Invisible Woman
Dear Invisible Woman,
Take good care of that mannequin