WANTED: One Good Wife
"Rick! Rick! Rick, hurry! Get out here! Rick!
Like a curious giraffe, Rick Simon craned his neck from where he sat behind his desk.
"Out where? Where the heck are you?"
"In the hallway by the elevator! Come on! Move it! I need your help!"
"What the..." Rick rose and ambled out the open office door. "A.J., what the hell are you doing?"
A.J.'s blond head popped out of the old-fashioned car. "I'm disabling the elevator! I need you to lock the door to the stairwell. Hurry!"
"I don't think you'd better do that. The last time we disabled the elevator old man Harlson threatened to evict us."
"I don't care about that right now!" A.J. punched the buttons on the elevator's control panel. "I'll deal with Harlson later. Just lock the damn stairway door and be quick about it!
"Okay." Rick gave a perplexed shrug and walked over to the heavy door. "If you say so. But I still don't understand what it is you've got your shorts in such a bundle over. I...hey, what's that noise?"
At first it sounded like thunder was rumbling the sky outside the building. But instead of slowly rolling away, the noise grew louder and closer.
The puzzled Rick cocked his head.
"It sounds like a herd of raging buffalo is stampedin’ up the stairs."
"That's why I need you to lock the door!"
"All right. All right. It's locked. Now what the heck is going...A.J., it sounds like women. Like women yelling! And they're pounding on the door with their fists!"
"I know. I know!" A.J. ran out of the now disabled elevator. He snared his brother by the shir front, dragging Rick along behind him. "Hurry! Let's get in the office and lock the door! Shut the lights off, too! If they do manage to get in the hallway maybe they'll think I'm gone."
"Think you're gone?" Rick was flung into the middle of Simon and Simon Investigations by his frenzied brother. He watched dumbfounded as A.J. hit the light switch and locked the door both at the same time. "Why would you want them to think you're gone? I mean, if a bunch of women were chasing me, I sure wouldn’t be playin’ hard to get."
"With these women you would." A.J. crossed the room and peered cautiously out the window to the ground four stories below. "These women are pissed."
"I don't know. But come over here and take a look."
Rick joined his brother at the picture window.
"See all of them?"
The lanky detective looked down. A large crowd of irate women were shouting and waving their fists upward at the Simon and Simon office. There were women as young as twenty, and women as old as seventy. Some were in business suits and high heels, while others were wearing blue jeans and sweatshirts, while still others were in their bathrobes and had curlers in their hair.
"They were waiting for me when I pulled in the parking lot," the confused A.J. explained. "There's at least one hundred of them out there, Rick, if not more. They were yelling some nonsense about some ad I placed for a wife. I don't know what the heck they're even talking about! I certainly didn't place an asinine ad like that."
With great unrest, Rick cleared his throat. "Ooops."
A.J.'s eyes narrowed. "What do you mean, ooops?"
Rick took three steps backward. "Uh...well...uh..."
A.J. took three steps forward. "Richard Simon, you'd better find your tongue and you'd better find it quick, or so help me God I'll find it for you and rip it right out of your head. I want a coherent explanation as to what's going on, and I want it now!"
"Yeah, well...uh...I'm gettin' to that part." Rick retreated another two steps. "I just need to go over to my desk and find it."
A.J.'s hands came to rest on his lean hips. "Find what?"
"A copy of that ad I placed. I'll read it to ya,' and then you'll understand."
"What's goin' on. With the women I mean."
"Oh, this had better be good."
"It is. Well, I mean, at least I thought it was. Only I guess maybe it's not workin' out exactly like I had planned."
"Like you had planned?"
"Yeah. Remember when Mom drafted me to help her clean out the attic last Saturday?"
"Drafted you? More like bribed you with the promise of three home cooked meals, and dessert to take back to the boat, thrown in to sweeten the deal."
"Whatever. Anyway, in the course of our cleanin' I ran across a box full of Mom's old high school textbooks. And in her Home Economics book there was a chapter titled, How To Be A Good Wife."
"And so what does that have to do with me and some ad being placed that evidently has enraged half the female population of San Diego?"
"Well...uh...see, it's like this. Mom was just gonna throw the book out anyway, so I kept it long enough to make a photocopy of that chapter. Then using the standards the book set for a good wife, I placed an ad for one." Rick retreated another two steps. "In. . .uh...your name."
"An ad for a wife? In my name!" A.J. roared. "Are you nuts? Have you completely lost your mind! Why in the hell would you do something like that?"
"Well...uh...I don't know." Rick hung his head with all the contriteness of a child. "It seemed like a good idea at the time. I just wanted to see how it would work out. You know, if there would be a lot of responses."
"Oh, I can assure you there's been a lot of responses," A.J. spat. "And all of them are standing outside our office threatening to cut my male parts off and feed them to the hyenas at the San Diego zoo!
Rick looked up, his eyes wide with shock. "Really? They really said that?"
"Yes, they did! And that was one of their least painful sounding threats. You should have heard some of the others!"
"Wow. Jeez, A.J., I'm really sorry."
"Yeah, right." A.J. turned away from his brother in disgust at once again falling victim to one of Rick's outlandish schemes.
"I am. I'm sorry." Rick's regret was sincere. "I didn’t mean for this to happen. I thought...well, I thought if nothing else you'd be inundated with offers of marriage. You gotta believe me, kid, when I tell ya’ I never thought it would turn out this way."
A.J. never had been able to stay mad at his big brother for long. He heaved a sigh of exasperation before turning back to face Rick.
"Okay, okay. Apology accepted. Just tell me what the ad said please. Possibly if I know what it contained, I can somehow calm all those women down and send them on their way before they, and I quote, ‘Publicly castrate you, with a meat cleaver, A.J. Simon.’ "
Rick's hand dropped to cover the fly of his blue jeans.
"That's my thought, as well. Now please, read the ad to me. You said you have a copy of it, didn't you?"
"Yeah, it's right here in my desk drawer." Rick walked behind his desk and pulled a sheet of lined paper from his middle drawer. He looked up at his brother. "You ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be."
"Okay. Here goes." Rick's eyes returned to the paper as he read aloud.
"Wanted. One good wife for handsome, single, San Diego private investigator. In order to qualify as the above the young lady I am seeking must:
"Have a delicious dinner ready when I arrive home from a long, hard day at the office. This is a good way of letting me know you have been thinking about me and are concerned about my needs. Most men are hungry when they arrive home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome we need."
A.J. slowly shook his head back and forth. "Oh no. No," he moaned. "Please no. You didn't. You didn't actually put that in the paper, did you?"
"Of course I did. What's wrong with it? It was in Mom's textbook. This is what they taught her in high school that marriage is all about. These are the things they told her to do to please her husband."
"Yes, in 1942. But this is the 1980's, Rick! No wonder those women are out for my blood! And quite honestly, I don't blame them."
"So you don't want to hear the rest, huh?"
A.J. paled. "There's more?"
"Oh, yeah." Rick's chest swelled with pride. "Lots more."
"As much as I hate to say this, go ahead. Lay it on me. All of it."
"Okay. But just remember, you asked for it."
"No, you remember," A.J. warned with a dangerous glint in his eyes, "I didn't."
"Huh? Oh, yeah. I see what ya' mean. Well anyway, here's the rest.
"Prepare yourself. Take fifteen minutes to rest so that you will be refreshed when I arrive home. Touch up your makeup and tie a ribbon in your hair. I have just been at work with a lot of weary people. Be lively and interesting. My boring day may need a lift.
"Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the house before I arrive home gathering up schoolbooks and toys. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your efforts will make me feel like I've reached a haven of rest and order.
"Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash their hands and faces, comb their hair, and if necessary change their clothes. They are my little treasures and I would like to see them playing the part."
A.J. rolled his eyes at the ridiculousness of it all. "Oh brother."
"What?" Rick looked up from his paper. "What's wrong with that? Don't you remember how Mom used to do that to us before Dad came home when we were small? Heck, I remember her washin' me up every single night at five o'clock and then her changin' your diaper whether it needed it or not."
"Yes, but that was in 1949, and Mom also didn't have a career outside the home. The majority of women now days do."
"Oh. I guess I never thought of it that way. It all sounded pretty good to me at the time I read it."
"And just how many beers had you consumed?"
"A few, I guess."
A.J. cocked an eyebrow. "A few?"
"Okay, okay. Five or six. It was awful hot up in that attic, you know."
"Just like the street outside our office is starting to heat up." A.J. hazard a glance out the window. "Go ahead. Read me the rest."
“Minimize all noise. At the time of my arrival eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, or vacuum cleaner. Encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see me and greet me with a warm smile.
"Listen to me. You may have a dozen things to tell me, but the moment of my arrival is not the time. Let me talk first."
"Oh God," A.J. looked Heavenward and prayed. "Please, God, no. Why did You let him do this to me?"
"A.J., are you okay? You're lookin' kinda peaked."
"I'm just contemplating as to exactly how painful public castration will be."
"Oh. So, uh...you don't want to hear the rest of the ad then?"
"Oh, yes. I want to hear it." A.J.'s voice steadily rose in volume and speed like a runaway locomotive. "Every last bit of it so I can repeat it word for word to Mom when I explain to her why I handed you over to a mob of rabid females!"
Rick's head fell in mock shame. He peered at his brother from underneath the brim of his hat and in a small voice asked, "You're really gonna do that to me?"
"Don't look so pitiful. And no, I'm not really going to do that to you, though God knows you deserve it and then some. Just finish reading the damn thing please."
"If you insist."
Rick's eyes returned to his hastily scrawled writing.
"Make the evening mine. Never complain if I don't take you out to dinner or to other forms of pleasant entertainment. Instead, try to understand my world of strain and pressure, my need to unwind and relax. Make me comfortable. Have me lean back in my favorite chair and give my shoulders and neck a gentle massage. Or suggest I lie down in the bedroom away from the noise of the children. Arrange my pillow and slip off my shoes. Bring me a cool drink. Speak in a low, soft, soothing voice."
A.J.'s voice was anything but low, soft and soothing.
"For heaven's sake, Rick! You're not advertising for a wife! You're advertising for a love slave!"
"Uh...technically speaking, A.J., I'm not advertising at all. You are."
"You'd be doing yourself a favor to not remind me of that fact right at the moment."
"Yeah, I suppose I would be, wouldn't I? Okay. Moving along to the end. I kinda thought of these last couple myself. Without the help of the textbook, I mean."
"Oh joy. This ought to be good."
"I think so. Here they are.
"And now a few don'ts for my potential wife. Don't complain if I am late for dinner. Don't complain if I miss family gatherings, or your mother's birthday party. My job as a private investigator often causes me to work long and erratic hours. And most of all, don't complain about my brother. He is my business partner, and a very important person in my life."
"Not for long."
Rick chose to ignore that pointed interruption and continued reading.
"My brother will dine with us on a frequent basis, especially if you're a good cook. He loves children and wants to be an uncle to at least six. He quite often sleeps on my couch in nothing but his boxer shorts, and will continue to do so after we are married. You will find yourself picking up after him more often than not. Please do so with a smile and kind word. He is a very sensitive man."
"I don't even pick up after you with a smile and a kind word!"
"I know that. That's why I'm lookin' for someone who will. And here's how I ended the ad.
"The goal: To make my home a place of peace and order where I can relax in body and spirit. Any interested parties please contact A.J. Simon of Simon and Simon Investigations."
"Just tell me one thing please. Why did you place this ad in my name? If all this is your idea of the perfect wife, why didn't you place it in your own name?"
"Well, it's like I told you. I wanted to see how it would work. You know, be kind of an outside observer so to speak. I mean, I never thought it'd tick anyone off. I just figured you wouldn't get any responses at all, or you'd get tons of positive ones."
"And you never gave it a thought, based on the ad you placed, that the responses I'd get would be milling around my car with loaded guns in their hands?"
"I guess not. As a matter of fact, I thought it sounded like a pretty good deal."
"No wonder none of your relationships with the fairer sex last longer than 24 hours."
"Think that could be the reason, huh?"
"Yes, Rick. If these are the kinds of things you're looking for in a woman, I think that could be the reason."
"Aw, heck. And all I wanted was the kind of gal who's like the gal who married dear old Dad."
"Then you'd better look for one who's eighty years old, because that's the only way you're going to come close to finding a woman who's willing to massage your neck after a long, hard day at the office. But forget all that for now. We have to come up with some way to appease the angry throngs down there and get them out of here without losing any body parts we hold dear."
"Okay, let me think a minute." Rick crossed over to the window. "Hey, come here. Isn't that Abby down there? And Mom, too?"
A.J joined his brother. "Yes. Yes it is! It’s both of them. And Abby's brought some other cops with her. Look! She's dispersing the crowd."
Rick went over to the door and placed an ear against it.
"Listen! I don't hear them pounding on the stairwell door anymore either. Abby musta’ sent someone to clear everybody out."
A huge grin of relief spread across A.J.'s face. “Praise the Lord. I'm a free man once again."
Rick leapt backwards when a heavy fist thundered the wood beneath his ear.
"Andrew Simon, I know you're in there!" The detectives' mother shouted. "Open this door right this minute, young man!"
A.J. crossed the office floor and unlocked the door. He was still smiling when he opened it wide and stepped aside to allow the women entrance.
"Mom! Abby! Boy, am I happy to see--"
Cecilia waggled a stern finger under her son's nose with one hand, while she waved the newspaper's Want Ads in the air with the other.
"Andrew Jackson Simon, what kind of trash is this you had printed in the paper? I thought I raised you better than this. I thought I raised you to have respect for women. I thought--"
A.J. was backed up against the wall as his furious mother steadily advanced on him. "Mom, I can explain. I wasn’t--"
"Oh, no. There's no excuse for this kind of nonsense! Do you have any idea the amount of embarrassment you've caused me? Do you know how many phone calls I've gotten since the paper was delivered this morning?"
"No, ma'am, I don't. But it wasn't me it was--"
"Friends, A.J.," Cecilia stated tearfully. "Friends I've had for over forty years are calling to ask me what kind of mother I was. How I could raise my son to possess such archaic chauvinistic beliefs. I'll never be able to hold my head up in public again."
The seething Abigail Marsh joined Cecilia, her own finger waggling.
"And speaking of the public, Simon, I'll have you know your little ad caused traffic to be backed up in front of this building for two miles! Do you know how much it's costing the police department to disperse those women down there?"
"No, Abby, I don't. But it's not my fault. I didn’t--"
"I should make you pay for it," Abby threatened. "Every last penny of it. Do you know many officers this fiasco is tying up? Officers who could be out catching real criminals. But instead, I have to base them in front of some two-bit private investigator's office just to keep him from getting himself publicly flogged as he goes to his car!"
"Abby, I'm sorry. I really am. But if you'll both just listen to me I can explain."
Cecilia's hands came to rest on her hips. "Oh, you've got some explaining to do all right, young man."
"It wasn't me, Mom," A.J.'s blue eyes pleaded. "Really it wasn't. It was," A.J. craned his head to see around the two women. "Ri...hey, where'd he go?" A.J. squirmed his way out between his mother and the police lieutenant.
"Rick! Rick!" A.J. ran to the deserted hallway. "Rick, when I get my hands on you, you'll be sorry you were ever born!"
Cecilia and Abby exchanged glances. Suddenly, they understood what it was A.J. had so frantically been trying to tell them. The women trailed after the blond man, issuing threats of their own.
"Richard Simon, this is your mother speaking! You come out from wherever it is you're hiding this very second! How could you do this to your brother? How could you do this to me? Do you have any idea as to how many phone calls I've received this morning?"
"Rick Simon, do you know how much the crowd control I've been forced to provide for this escapade is costing the city? Mark my words, Simon, this is going to come out of your hide, as well as your bank account! You'll be lucky if I don't have you thrown in jail!"
"Unless I get a hold of him first, Abby!" A.J. yelled through clenched teeth. "Because if I get a hold of you first, big brother, the only place you'll be going when I'm through with you is to the hospital!"
"Rick!" A.J.'s shouts echoed off the cavernous walls of the stairwell. The heels of his shoes tapped out a steady staccato beat as he rapidly descended. "Rick, get your butt out here!"
"Richard!" Cecilia bent down to look under the couch in the hallway. "Richard Lawrence, you get over here right now!"
Abby turned to search the other offices on the floor.
"Rick Simon, you'd better show your sorry face to me right now, or I'll have you arrested for obstructing justice!"
Two blue eyes followed the activities from behind an old metal air grate in the wall. Rick wondered how long he'd have to stay hidden in the tiny, cramped shaft. And he wondered what exactly he'd eventually have to do in order to appease his irate brother, mother, and Abby.
"Jeez," Rick quietly sighed with self-pity. "And all I wanted was one good wife."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Believe it or not, the above story was inspired by a chapter in a 1950 Home Economics textbook entitled; How To Be A Good Wife. It just goes to show how times have changed.