Washing, Matilda

''I'd like a volunteer to wash all the windows tomorrow,'' said my wife, interrupting a Friday night TV movie my son and I were watching. ''I've a date with a golf pro to help me with my backswing off the tee,'' I answered with a twinge of guilt.

''I'll be going fishing with Chris. We've been planning this all winter,'' added my son, slouching in his chair.

My wife placed a roll of paper towels atop the TV, then retreated. ''I'm staying overnight at your daughter's to help her hang her new drapes. I have confidence you boys will do a sparkling job. Start at the front of the house and work your way back toward the bedrooms.''

After my wife's departure I rose to turn off the TV. ''How shall we settle this?''

''Scrabble?''

''Scrabble it is. Winner goes golfing.''

''You mean fishing, Dad,'' my son corrected, vigorously shaking the letter tile bag.

About an hour later I stormed from the den. ''There's no such word as QADI!''

''Sorry, Dad. Check Webster's big 2nd. I know that was a pane-ful loss for you.''

''I'm shattered,'' I countered.

''Dad, Dad!'' cried my agitated son about eight the next morning. ''Where did you hide my fishing rod?''

''Huh . . . fishing rod? . . . It's under your bed. . . .''

''No, it isn't. Look, I'll make a deal with you. Return my rod and I'll wash a couple of windows before I leave.''

''I honestly don't know where it is,'' I said, getting up. ''Apparently your mother had preselected you for the job and has taken your rod with her to your sister's.''

''That's not fair, Dad,'' moaned my son.

''That's the way the glass shatters,'' I commiserated, getting into my golf attire. ''Tell you what. If you're not finished by the time I return, I'll lend a hand.''

''Dad, couldn't I use one of your golf clubs for a fish pole?''

''I don't think the PGA would approve of that,'' I said, ransacking my golf bag for my driver. ''That's strange. My driver seems to be missing.''

My son's face suddenly brightened. ''What were you saying about preselection?''

''It's becoming transparent your mother has carefully thought this out. I think we'd better get started on all that stained glass.''

My son unwrapped the roll of paper towels. ''How about some breakfast, Dad, and a quick game of you-know-what. Mom won't be home till noon.''

''Very well,'' I agreed, slotting two slices of bread into the toaster. ''But no more QADIs.''

''PTERIC! Never heard of it!'' my losing opponent challenged me after we had toasted an entire loaf of bread.

''It was in a crossword once,'' I replied, as the phone rang.

''Mom's on her way home, Dad,'' my daughter informed us.

''Oh, oh. I'm afraid your mother's confidence in us just went out the window. Thanks for the alert.''

''I'll hook up the hose and clean from the outside,'' my son offered, sprinting down the basement steps.

''We've got about ten minutes!'' I shouted after him.

''No, we haven't. Mom just pulled into the drive!''

''It appears you squabblers have been Scrabbling your time away instead of window washing,'' my disappointed spouse scolded.

''We couldn't decide on a work director,'' I said, beginning with the first of some twenty-six pane-ful jobs.

''Mom, what did you do with my fishing rod?''

''It's with your father's driver - behind the drapes in the master bedroom, leaning against the last windows you were to have washed,'' revealed my cagey wife. ''The sooner you boys reach that objective the sooner you can be on your way.''

I splashed some water on my third window. ''We're sorry we let you down. How can we make it up to you?''

''Try giving me twenty dollars,'' replied my wife, hand extended.

''What are you going to do with that, Mom?'' asked my son.

''Well,'' his mother smiled, ''since you boys will be doing a panes-taking job I'll have to do some. . . .''

I dropped my paper towel. ''Please don't say it!''

''. . . window shopping!''

''Mom, that's not punny!'' My son was genuinely outraged.

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