Fiction

No Home Should Be Without One

Sure, a woman’s place is in the home. But what if she starts to mix ballet with housework and serves dog biscuits to your boss?

RICHARD B. GEHMAN June 1 1948
Fiction

No Home Should Be Without One

Sure, a woman’s place is in the home. But what if she starts to mix ballet with housework and serves dog biscuits to your boss?

RICHARD B. GEHMAN June 1 1948

No Home Should Be Without One

Fiction

RICHARD B. GEHMAN

IT ALL started when Connie wanted her old job back and Ed wanted her to keep on being a housewife. That was funny, because Ed hardly ever argued with anybody. He was a tall friendly man with dark hair and an easy smile. Everybody liked Ed. You wouldn’t have thought he could get in such a mess.

Ed flew 52 missions in the war, then stuck around occupying Germany for a while. When he came home he went right back to his old job at the Dinwiddie Advertising Agency.

Connie was an artist in the agency fashion department, but she looked like something the other artists would paint. The first night Ed took her around to his brother Al’s house, AI knew' what was coming. Connie was small and blond and had blue-green eyes and seemed to match Ed.

“I’ve got to settle down, AI,” Ed told his brother in private. And then he went on to tell how he had it figured: the apartment, Connie in an apron, the smell of cooking when he came home.

That was the way it worked out—almost. They were married, they found an apartment, and Connie put away her paints and put on that apron. Everything was perfect, the way Ed thought it should be. Only it wasn’t.

“Ed, dear,” Connie said, one evening about two months after they were married, “I’ve been thinking that an apartment this size isn’t enough to keep a young girl busy.”

Ed, inside, zoomed to the ceiling and landed with a bump. “I know, baby,” he said, carefully. “But we can’t build that house until Mr. Dinwiddie gives me the Happy Puppy Puppy Biscuit account to handle, you know.”

Connie shook her head. “I mean,” she said, “Mr. Dinwiddie called me up today. He says they’re shorthanded in Art and they’d like to have me back.”

Ed thought fast.

“It’s just that I feel so—well, bored here,” Connie said, warming up. “There’s not enough work to do.”

Ed stretched, got up and went over and picked her up the way he would have taken a little girl in his arms. “You’re right,” he nodded. “It must be dull for you here.” He kissed her. “I’ve got an idea.”

“What is it?” she asked, excitedly.

“Just wait,” said Ed, “and see.”

The next day he made his first big mistake. He took out his bankbook, did some figuring on how much he’d have when he got that Puppy Biscuit account and went to a number of stores and a news dealer. He bought an electric washing machine, a mangle, a vacuum cleaner, a dishwasher and dryer, a pressure cooker, a breakfast gadget that did everything but butter the toast, an electric mixer and a new set of chimes for the front door. And he entered subscriptions for Connie to Women at Home, Modern Housewife, and a whole lot of other Çpmale magazines.

Sure, a woman’s place is in the home. But what if she starts to mix ballet with housework and serves dog biscuits to your boss?

Two days later, there wasn’t an electrical outlet in the whole apartment that didn’t have at least three plugs in it. Connie’s eyes got wider and wider. “But,” she protested, “I thought we were going to wait for these things until we build that house.”

“Woman’s place,” said Ed cheerfully, “isdn the home. The home should be interesting. You’ll have a fine time around here now, with all this stuff. Yoju won’t be bored a bit!”

Connie turned away and didn’t say anything. Ed might have been alarmed, though, if he’d seen her eyes.

Some of the magazines came a couple of days later. “What’s new, honey?” Ed asked that evening, flopping comfortably into his big chair.

Connie was looking terrific in a new plastic apron. “I’ve been reading.”

Ed didn’t catch the note in her voice. “Great. What’s for dinner?”

“Stew,” said Connie. “And it only took twenty minutes!”

“Is that long?”

“Long? It’s superspeedy!” she said, climbing into his lap. “It usually takes three hours.” She drew a long breath. “Old-fashioned cooking’s gone for good now that I’ve got my grand-new, brandnew Steamo Pressure Cooker!”

Ed blinked.

“Food tastes better cooked the Steamo way,” Connie continued. “Wives’ dispositions are better, too, when they don’t have to spend the whole day over an old-fashioned stove.”

Ed blinked again.

Connie laughed. “I can’t tell you how much I love my Steamo, darling. I agree with Mrs. J. R.”

“Mrs. who?"

“Mrs. J. R., of Spearfish, Saskatchewan,” said Connie promptly. “She wrote the Steamo people that her housework is house play now that she’s got her Steamo.”

Ed didn’t say much during dinner. The stew was swell but he was afraid that if he said anything about it Connie would start quoting the ads again. “I’ll help With the dishes,” he said, during the coffee. Connie shook her blond head. “No.” Ed’s eyebrows went up. “You don’t want me to help with t he dishes?”

“Good-by to dishwater drudgery,” Connie recited, “now that Dish-Dream’s here!” Ed blinked.

“Dish-dream,” Connie chanted, “makes dishwashing fun.” She jumped up and carried a stack of plates and silver to the kitchen. “Here,” she said. “Ask for a free demonstration I mean, just watch. All you do is scrape the plates, set them in the rack, close the door, fasten the clamps, turn on the water, and whist! Clean dishes in five minutes. Dish-Dream dries them, too, in ten.”

“Mighty convenient, all right,” Ed said, grudgingly. *

“Convenient is really the word for

I Dish-Dream,” Connie agreed. “It’s the modern way to household FREEDOM.”

It was a long time before Ed got to sleep that night. He got up the next morning feeling groggy and he was all the way to the agency before he realized that Connie’d spent the whole breakfast talking about her new Toast-Cheer, w'hich she’d described as “The Miracle of the Breakfast Table.” It unnerved Ed so that he bumped smack into Mr. Dinwiddie in the hall.

“Sorry, sir,” muttered Ed, scrambling up. “I guess I was thinking.”

jli R. DINWIDDIE, who was dignified and portly, wasn’t as mad as he might have been. “Just the man I wanted to see, Ed,” he wheezed. He replaced his

I pince-nez and looked hard at Ed. “Wanted to talk to you about Connie.”

“Connie?” Ed tried to sound matterof-fact.

“Took the liberty of calling her up, the ot her flay. We’d like to have her hack in the Art Department, you know.”

“I know,” Ed said. miserably. And then he made up one of the biggest lies of his whole life. “It ’s too had she’s so domestic.” “Domestic?” Mr. Dinwiddie boomed. “Connie?”

Ed swallowed. “She’s like a mad thing in that kitchen,” he said, solemnly. “You can’t get her out of it. You ought to come to dinner some night, Mr. Dinwiddie.”

Mr. Dinwiddie raised his eyebrows. “I’d like to just to see for myself,” he said, meaningfully. And then he added: “I must talk

to you about that Happy Puppy Puppy Biscuit account one of these day, Pal. The man who takes it over must be—trustworthy. Dependable. Honest as the day is long.”

Kcl couldn’t look at his employer. “Yes, sir,” he said, his face running down to his shoes. “I’d like to—I mean---” But Mr. Dinwiddie had started down the hall.

All day long, he felt as though he’d heen washed in Connie’s new dishwasher and then run through her mangle. He felt so low he knocked off at three o’clock and walked home. When he reached his apartment and opened the front door, his face froze.

Continued on page 43

No Home Should Be Without One

Continued from page 9

Connie was running the vacuum cleaner over the front-room rug—but that, wasn’t what stopped Ed. It was Connie herself.

She was wearing a ballet costume. Ed just stood there, watching her running and hopping around and doing those little jumps, the way the dancers do. She finished at one end of the room with a spin and sank to her knees like a dying swan. Then she saw Ed and ran over to him.

Ed’s voice untangled itself. “Connie,” he gasped, “I didn’t know you were taking ballet lessons.”

“I’m not!” she cried, smiling. “I’m just cutting carpet capers with my new Carver Carpet-Matic! It makes carpet cleaning as carefree as ballet!”

Ed gulped and fled. He went over and told his brother AÍ about it. “I just don’t get it,” he finished. “All she does is talk about her Dish-Dream, her Steamo, her Toast-Cheer—all that doggone stuff. I thought she was ribbing me at first, but now I don’t know. I think it’s gone to her head.” “Send the stuff back,” AÍ suggested. Ed scratched his chin. “No—she’d be the same as before, bored with housework. And then she’d want to go back to the agency and Dinwiddie’d find that I lied to him about the way she is at home, and I wouldn’t get the Happy Puppy account and—” he just shook his head and left, his shoulders drooping.

WHEN he got home, he found a whole lot of plates, cups, knives, forks and spoons spread out on a cloth right in the middle of the front room. He was still too shocked to say anything and just looked stupidly at Connie.

“A new idea from Modern Homemaking,” she said brightly. “Too many families get bored eating every day the same old way. Why not have an indoor picnic?” She clasped her hands. “I think it’s a wonderful idea.” Ed sighed. “Oh, wonderful,” he said. He sat down and tried to balance a plate on his knees. It fell off and Ed looked up at Connie pleadingly. “Couldn’t we just eat up on the table, the way we always do and pretend we’re having a picnic?”

Connie pouted. “You don’t want us to have any fun at all.”

Ed couldn’t stand the look on her face. “Oh, all right,” he said weakly.

“By the way,” Connie continued placidly, “Mr. Dinwiddie phoned again today. I asked him for dinner Friday night.”

Ed choked again.

“1 have it all planned,” Connie said. “But first, we’ve got some work to do around here.”

Ed didn’t realize what the work would involve. If he had, he might have put up a fight.

Mr. Dinwiddie arrived at the apartment on Friday. The minute he stepped in at the door, he jackknifed right over a couch placed across the entrance. He hit the floor like a paratrooper without his chute.

“Gosh, Mr. Dinwiddie,” said Ed, picking him up, “1 didn’t think—” “Neither did I,” said the old gentleman. “I didn’t think to request, a floor plan. I see now that I should have.” “It’s one of Connie’s dramatic surprises,” Ed explained, in a shaky voice. “That’s how I got mv black eye.”

“Her what?"

“She read this article in Domestic ; Digest,” Ed went on. “It said place your furniture in positions of dramatic surprise.”

”1 see,” said Mr. Dinwiddie.

“Welcome, Mr. Dinwiddie!” cried Connie, coming in from the kitchen. “Over here—over here to the seat of honor!”

Mr. Dinwiddie looked at the chair she indicated. It had been placed on a flimsy-looking coffee table. He started to protest, but Connie wasn’t to be stopped.

“Make a throne for your honored guests, the article said!” she sang. “Help him up, Ed!”

“Oh, I’ll just sit down here on the—” Mr. Dinwiddie started to say, but it was too late. His words were lost in two separate crashes, a splintering noise and his own shout of terror.

“Gosh,” Ed said. “I thought that coffee table was stronger than that.”

“Get this chair frame off my neck!” Mr. Dinwiddie sputtered, rising from the wreckage. “If this is some fool joke of yours, Ed—”

“It’s no joke,” Ed said, seriously.

“I told you Connie was nuts on this domestic stuff. That’s how she is, all the time. You just can’t get her i interested in anything else.”

“Well, someone ought to,” Mr. Dinwiddie puffed. “She ought to get out—and get a job.”

“Here, Mr. Dinwiddie,” said Ed, hastily, looking fearfully toward the kitchen to see if Connie had heard, “just sit over here on the couch.” He tun ed on the radio to its highest pite h.

Connie came in, passed the cocktails, and then, for a stretch of five minutes or so, nothing happened. The radio was going so loudly that nobody could hear anything that was said. Ed just kept smiling nervously. When they adjourned to the dining nook, though, it began all over again.

“H’m,” said Mr. Dinwiddie, tasting a forkful of green stuf!’. “What’s this, Connie? Don’t seem to recognize this vegetable.”

“Radish tops,” Connie said.

Ed covered his mouth with his hand. “Radish tops?”

“Right out of Woman’s Home Magazine,” Connie said proudly. “Most people throw radish tops away, not realizing how full of vitamins they are. Minerals, too.”

Mr. Dinwiddie looked polite. Ed looked miserable.

“You’ll never guess what’s in the casserole,” Connie went on blithely. “Grapefruit rind sauté. Kitchen Helper gave me the idea. I’m dying to try it.”

“I’m dying,” Ed mumbled.

If he had known what was coming next, he might have wished that were true. The little cookielike objects that Connie brought in were innocent-looking. Ed bit into one and broke off a small piece of front tooth. “Connie,” he said, slowly, “Connie, these things j look like — ” he sighed — “puppy j biscuits."

She reached over and patted his ! hand. “They are puppy biscuits.”

Mr. Dinwiddie, who had just put one j in his mouth, gave a violent start. His j eyes rolled and his face turned red.

“Happy Puppy Puppy Biscuits,” Connie was saying, “contain the same j vitamins and minerals you find in three steaks, eighteen eggs, two quarts of milk—”

Mr. Dinwiddie turned green. He began gesturing wildly toward his mouth. “Gwog,” he said.

“Boss!” Ed cried. “Here, let me—” He began pounding the old man on the back.

“(Iwog shtuk throe,” Mr. Dinwiddie said. He was now purple.

“Connie!” screamed Ed. “Do something!”

“—three helpings of mashed potatoes, a green salad, four potatoes, five slices of whole germ bread—” Connie was reciting calmly. She was still at it when Ed bustled the yellow Mr. Dinwiddie out the door and down to the doctor’s office in the apartment below.

MR. DINWIDDIE didn’t even say good night after the doctor had extracted the puppy biscuit from his throat. He just kept muttering to himself, got in a cab and went home. Ed stood on the curb and watched him drive away. He knew what was going to happen. He knew all about the little note, curt and formal, that would be on his desk next morning. The sack.

“Well, that’s what I get,” Ed thought to himself. “If I’d just let her go to work in the first place, all this wouldn’t have happened.” For a second or two, he was tempted to go back upstairs and tell Connie that she could go and get her job back. But then he started thinking about it some more and he got mad. By the time he reached his brother’s house, he was boiling.

“I won’t give in!” he roared at AÍ, walking up and down the front room. “Woman’s place is in the home and that’s where Connie’s going to stay!” “Yes,” said Al, “but the question is, where will you stay?”

Ed mopped his forehead. “I can’t stand much more.”

That was when Al gave him the solution. “Why don’t you give her some of her own medicine?” he asked, innocently. Then he outlined his plan. By the time he finished, Ed was grinning like a crazy man.

“I’ll do it!” he said, slapping AÍ on the back. “I’ll do it tomorrow!”

The next day, Ed didn’t bother going to work. He figured it wasn’t any use — he knew that letter would be waiting for him—and besides, he had something else to do. So, instead of going to the agency, he went to a couple of stores, bought a couple of things and headed for home.

“What’s the bundle?” Connie enquired as he came in.

Ed was so excited he hardly noticed her. “Wait and see,” he said and streaked into the bedroom. He was out again in two seconds. “Hey! What have you got my tux laid out for?” And then he noticed Connie tor the first time. “And why are you wearing that job?”

Connie looked terrific. She was wearing one of those long red dinner dreases made out of cloth that looks like metal. It went beautifully with her blond hair, which she had piled on top of her head. She was wearing her diamond earrings, too.

“How come?” Ed asked again.

“This article I read today,” Connie said, “told how a husband and wife ought, to dine formally at home every once in a while. Go in and put on your dinner clothes, darling.”

“I see,” said Ed. “Well, well.” He nodded agreeably and went back into the bedroom.

This is where the worm turned—or so Ed thought. At any rate, it was finally Connie’s turn to be shocked. When she saw Ed coming out of the room, he could see she almost jumped out of that red dress. Ed had changed clothes, all right.

He was wearing a pair of red swimming trunks.

He marched in like an Olympic diver, strutted up and down before Connie, flexing his muscles and then he climbed right up on the mantel. He stood there, posing, arms outstretched. “SwimFast Trunks. the he-man’s swim togs,” he shouted, “give you FREEDOM !”

With that, he did a swan dive all the way across the room, right onto the couch. The crash knocked over a lamp and broke two vases on a nearby table.

“Ed!” cried Connie. “What’s got into you?”

“Whee!” Ed yelled, climbing back on the mantel. “It’s Swim-Fast Trunks for me, every time!”

He did a forward somersault and landed on his feet in the middle of the rug. The shock brought down another lamp.

“Look at the FREEDOM!” Ed yelled, standing on his head. “Wowee!” He ran into the bedroom and came out with a golf club and a ball. “Wear ’em for any sport!”

He put down the ball, took a full swing and knocked it through the front window.

“It’s the he-man’s life for me!” Ed thundered, rushing back into the bedroom. He returned a second later, smoking a huge calabash pipe.

Connie found her voice at last. “Ed ! Stop this nonsense this minute! And watch that pipe—you’ll get cinders on the carpet! What are you smoking it for anyhow? You know I hate pipes!”

Ed looked at her blankly. “How could anybody,” he asked, in a soothing, drawling voice, “not like the swelly-old, smelly-old taste-tantalizin’ aroma of Old Smokestack?” He shook his head and smiled. “It’s a real MAN’S SMOKE—the honest - to -goodness way to smokin’ enjoyment, pardner !”

“Stop it!” Connie demanded. “Stop it this minute!” “Stop what?” Ed asked, innocently. “Stop acting like some idiotic advertisement in a man’s magazine! Put out that filthy pipe! Take off those trunks!”

Ed began to grin. “Okay, honey,” he said. “I’ll stop—if you’ll stop. I’ll stop, if you’ll stop talking about your doggone Dish-Dream and your Toastthing and your Carpet - Ballet — and stop wearing that crazy costume and stop giving me puppy biscuits and radish tops and stop moving the furniture around and—”

Connie shook her head. “Don’t be silly. 1 love my new appliances and I love my recipes and—”

“Phooey!” Ed shouted, standing up. “Why don’t you get interested in something else? Why don’t you go to the movies in the afternoons, or to a concert, or the library, or get a job, or—”

Connie stood up and faced him. “Or what?”

“Or—” Ed’s words vanished into thin air. A strange, licked look spread over his face. “Well,” he said, clearing his throat nervously, “1 didn’t exactly mean—”

“As a matter of fact,” Connie said, “I think getting a job would be a perfectly wonderful idea, darling. I’d never have thought of it myself.”

Ed began to say something, then stopped. The look on his face gave way to a smile. “Okay, honey. I know when I’ve had enough.”

“But,” Connie said, “I’m not going to take my old job back.”

Ed jumped three feet. “What?” He rushed over and knelt before her, his arms around her waist. “But, Connie, honey—you’ve got to! You’ve got to get out of this house!”

Connie shook her head. “No, indeed. I wouldn’t leave my new electrical appliances and magazines for anything.”

THE DOORBELL rang. In a daze, Ed walked over and jerked it open. Mr. Dinwiddie stood there, also in a daze, rubbing his head. He was holding the golf ball in his hand. “This came out your window,” he said, in a queer, strained voice. “It might have killed me.” Then he caught sight of Ed’s swimming trunks. “Going swimming?”

“Yes,” said Ed. “1 mean no.” He took his employer by the arm. “Come in, Mr. Dinwiddie.”

Mr. Dinwiddie came in, all right— just as he had the night before. He spilled over that couch, fell in a heap and lay there in a position of dramatic surprise.

Ed scrambled over, almost tearful. “Mr. Dinwiddie, sir, are you—”

“I’ll never be the same,” said Mr. Dinwiddie, struggling painfully to his

feet.

“Mr. Dinwiddie,” said Ed, helping the old man into a chair, “I want to apologize for—”

Rubbing his hip, Mr. Dinwiddie brushed Ed aside and made his way carefully to a chair. “You should apologize,” he said, when hewassafely seated. “I am a patient man, Ed. But 1 don’t mind saying that my patience has never been tried as much as you’ve tried it in the past twenty-four hours. You trip me with couches. You break my neck, almost, with a coffee table and a rickety chair. You choke me with puppy biscuits. And then—” his voice almost broke—“you hit me with golf balls.”

Ed lowered his voice. “1 know,” he said, gloomily. “Go ahead, tell me. I’m fired.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Dinwiddie. “You’re fired. You are no longer a junior account executive at the Dinwiddie Advertising Agency.”

Ed gulped and looked at Connie.

“In fact,” Mr. Dinwiddie continued, “you are now a senior account executive.”

Ed’s eyes almost popped out.

Mr. Dinwiddie got up and began waving his arms. “Happy Puppy Puppy Biscuits—the only puppy biscuits fit for human consumption!” he shouted. “It’s terrific! Young man, you’ve discovered the advertising idea of the century!”

Ed felt faint.

“Furthermore,” Mr. Dinwiddie proclaimed, “Connie, here, will do the illustrations!”

Ed began to smile.

Connie raised her hand. “Oh, no. No, she won’t.”

Ed stopped smiling. “But, Connie!” He stretched out his hands to her, imploringly. “You said you wanted your old job back!”

“I did—and you tried to keep me from it, didn’t you?”

Ed nodded shamefacedly.

“I wanted to show you,” Connie went on, “that woman’s place isn’t necessarily in the home.” She turned to Mr. Dinwiddie. “1 can’t come back, Mr. D. It’s sweet of you to offer, though.”

Ed wanted to die. He saw the Happy Puppy account springing right out of his hands. “But why not, for Heaven’s

sake?”

“You remember all those magazines you gave me to keep me from being bored?” Connie asked.

Ed wondered what the quickest way of suicide was. “Yes,” he swallowed.

“Well,” said Connie, slowly, “one of them was The American Mother.” She smiled at the beaming Mr. Dinwiddie. “I guess I’ll have to do those drawings here at home.”

Ed hasn’t stopped grinning yet. ★