An element of this new age of gender equality is the disquieting fact that men occasionally find themselves home alone.
Women are hitting the road in growing numbers, leaving their mates to fend for themselves in an environment that was once wifey’s exclusive domain.
I hate it.
The reason I hate it is that I was alone for two weeks while Cinelli was out of town, and I had to run the household. I felt as though I had suddenly been made chairman of General Motors.
When she left on her trip, which was a combination business and pleasure, her final instruction to me was a deceptively simple, “Stay out of trouble and don’t let anything die.”
I managed to stay out of trouble pretty much, except for spilling a martini in the clothes washer. I had set the martini on the edge of the washer while I started it, and the vibration shook it into the tank.
Now my socks and underwear bear the faint aroma of Stolichnaya vodka. I may have discovered a new male odor.
My most daring solo adventure was to go to the movies. I saw “Babe,” in which dumb animals talk, and “Waterworld,” which is pretty much the same, although with less plot, script and acting virtuosities.
Cinelli’s admonition not to let anything die included a forest of plants inside and out, two cats, three fish, a bird, the old dog Hoover and six chickens, led by evil, bad-tempered Brewster the Rooster.
If Brewster had been cast in “Babe,” he would have been the one killing sheep.
I lived mostly on nuts, canned lima beans, croutons and tuna. You mix them together in a bowl, add salsa and a dash of Worcestershire sauce and voila! Lima Bean Supreme. It probably isn’t for everyone, but I like it.
The kitchen is generally a place I avoid unless a voice comes in the middle of the night and says, Cook spaghetti. I do that only for company, using a recipe for a putanesca created by a lady named Stella who lived next to us in Oakland and seemed to have a lot of male visitors at odd hours.
Cinelli left frozen food for me to eat with instructions to defrost it in the microwave oven.
However, I broke a microwave once by punching in an incorrect combination of numbers. Its machinery became so confused it stopped in the middle of a run and never worked again. So I avoid microwaves.
But eating was not my most challenging job. Watering was. We have an acre of land, a large portion of which is composed of a garden my wife loves more than marriage. Much more.
I could probably get by letting the dog starve, but if I let her Sticky Monkey Plant die my life would be in danger.
She left a list of 12 hoses to turn off and on at various intervals according to the heat of the day, with sub-categories to each hose.
I went crazy trying to figure out when Hose No. 8 (Section 4) should be left on during days of both fog and heat, and whether the water from Hose No. 3 (Section 1) was drowning Area 2.
I finally just watered everything every day and prayed that nothing would die.
Feeding the chickens was something else. Roosters aren’t noted for either their warmth or their ability to reason. Even the dog Hoover, who hasn’t the brains God gave a porcupine, knows not to bite the hand that feeds him.
Brewster lacks even that limited perception. I walk into his pen with a container of mash and he is at me with wings outstretched and neck extended.
Cinelli says he is only trying to prevent me from mating with his hens. That would be the human male equivalent of pecking everyone who comes to the door and chasing him off the steps, just in case.
I spoke softly to Brewster and carried a big stick when I fed him and his brood, assuring him that I had no interest in his hens and warning that if he flew in my face he would never see the sun rise again over Hose No. 6 (Section 3), which is near his cage. We reached an uneasy truce.
When Cinelli got home she was pleased to see everything was still alive, but then began to sniff. “What’s that smell?” she said. I was afraid she was detecting the vodka in my underwear, but instead was smelling the rotting vegetables and fruit she had left me, which I hadn’t touched.
“You probably existed on your loathsome mixture,” she said, referring to the Lima Bean Supreme. “You could live on grubs and moths if you had to.”
I was happy to turn command of our household back to her and marvel at the way she is able to write, paint, cook, take pictures, tend the garden, feed the animals and care for me without any pain or confusion at all.
I spend my time mostly wandering through the yard. Once in awhile I sidle up close to Brewster’s cage and whisper, “I’m gonna get your hens, sucka!” He just glares.