The Housewives

by Kelly Lynn Thomas

A simple matter of revenge. Don’t assume that man hoodwinked us, pulled the wool over our eyes, etc. Our husbands wanted new carpets, but they’d never say so directly. It’s always, “The carpet’s showing its age, isn’t it, dear?” or “Can’t you do something about that stain, it’s awfully unsightly, the neighbors will think we’re dirty slobs.”

When we gave in and said, “Let’s get a new carpet,” the response was always, “But think of the expense, dear, we’re not made of money.”

Our husbands think we’re too naïve, too caught up in cleaning and children and soap operas to recognize the game they’re playing with us. Oh, they tell us we’re in charge of decorating, of furnishing their palaces in modern elegance and comfort, but they “approve” or don’t our carpet selections. We are not expected—nor do they want us to—make decisions on our own. They hover over us, look over our shoulders, ensure we don’t fuck it up.

And when they all came home to their new carpets, without even depressions left by the furniture that the carpet installation man had loaded up and driven off with, oh how they screamed at us! “How could this happen? What were you doing while this was going on? How idiotic are you?”

We simply shrug our shoulders.

We are women, after all, and our husbands, in the end, expected nothing better of us.

We’ll tell you what we were doing while our furniture marched out of the house in the arms of the carpet installation boy. After we bedded him—and make no mistake, in our own homes that power is ours—we pretended to fall asleep. An invitation. A dare. And while he carried out what he could carry, as quickly as he could carry it, we lay in bed, naked, swimming in the Egyptian cotton 300-thread count sheets our husbands had hinted were the only option (while complaining about the expense the whole time), imagining the looks of shock, confusion, rage, disbelief, that would move over our husband’s faces when they came home from their offices.

We took exquisite pleasure in our accurate predictions concerning their facial expressions. We didn’t show that pleasure on our own faces, in our own stances, but it shivered through us, better than the powerful orgasms we’d achieved by breaking our marriage vows, by sleeping around.

You didn’t think the carpet boy was the first, did you?

No, we stood there, stoic, poised, gave our husbands our best wounded animal look (something else we perfected in the bedroom, by sleeping around).

And our husbands—our lawyer, doctor, dentist, banker husbands—are too naïve, too idiotic, too wrapped up in their delusions about the lives they were all living, that they hardly ever recognize the game we’re playing with them until the time for apologies and amends has long since ticked away.

Sometimes, they never recognize it at all.

Kelly Lynn Thomas reads, writes, and sometimes sews. Her creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sugared Water, Heavy Feather Review, metazen, and others, and she received her MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University. She is hopelessly obsessed with Star Wars and can always be found with a large mug of tea. She also runs the very small Wild Age Press. Read more at http://kellylynnthomas.com.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The Housewives”?

    I got the idea for “The Housewives” from the Warren Zevon song “Mr. Bad Example,” in which the titular character takes advantage of “housewives by the score.” I love Warren Zevon, but I wanted to turn the tide and write a story in which the housewives take advantage of the men. I wanted to push back against the idea of the docile, tame woman who keeps the household running without complaint. Unlike most of my stories, this one came to me almost fully formed—I didn’t feel the need to mess around with the shape of the piece. Most of my revision happened on the micro level, honing word choice and the flow of sentences.
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