Nashville Memories: The Rich Man’s Wife

By Carter G. Baker.

The contractor had completed a lengthy job on the beautiful white house out on the Boulevard.  Bathrooms had been remodeled, the kitchen gleamed with new appliances and tile floor, and much repair work had been done on the upstairs gables. The owner, a wealthy businessman, had paid each Friday’s weekly draw on time without any questions, so the contractor had no worries as he drove up to the house that evening to submit his final bill of fifteen hundred dollars.

Just as the chimes rang, the front door was opened by the family’s houseman, who escorted the contractor back to the owner’s private office.  This sanctum sanctorum was large with dark paneled walls and an Oriental rug. Trophies, mounted critter heads, and a few books lined the walls. The upholstered furniture was all burgundy and the only illumination was a dark red shaded desk lamp centered on the huge mahogany desk.

The owner responded to the contractor’s greeting with a grunt and looked briefly at the proffered invoice. He opened a large checkbook and quickly wrote a check which he curtly handed to the contractor as he slammed shut the book. “The bill is for fifteen hundred and this check is only for one thousand,” said the contractor.

In an exasperated tone of voice, the owner quietly replied, “I told you that the bushes around this house cost five hundred dollars each – each – do you hear me?  And if any of them were damaged, you would pay! So, no, there is no more money. One of your idiot clumsy workers fell off the roof and destroyed that bush. You should have supervised him better.”

The contractor took a deep breath and, looking directly at the man behind the desk, said, “There’s a reason my man fell off the roof, sir. He was looking at your wife sunbathing in the nude in your backyard – something she did every day.” He didn’t mention her frequent nude walks through the house on her way to her sunning location. All the workers enjoyed those.

The owner’s face grew a dark red; it seemed to match the upholstery in that grim room. Without a word he opened the checkbook, wrote a check for five hundred dollars, and, handing it across the desk, said, “You know the way out.” 

“Thank you,” said the contractor as he turned and left. This time there was no houseman to escort him, and he only wanted to be gone quickly.

The next morning the checks were taken to the owner’s bank and turned into cashier’s checks in case the owner decided to stop payment on them. If he did now, it was too late. Sometimes the contractor wondered what was said between the owner and his young wife.  But he never heard, and he never saw them again.