I was sitting in my office down on Cretin Avenue watching the snow flurries fly when she walked in. She had it going on, you betcha. Legs like a pair of Great Lakes sturgeons, eyes like the deep, dark pools my dad and I used to ice fish in. The kind of dame you'd scarf down a plate of lutefisk for, no questions asked.
"Mr. Desperate? I need your help."
Ja sure ya do, I thought, but all I said was, "Have a seat."
"Thank you." She looked around as she settled herself. "I, um, I never consulted anyone in --your line of work before."
Ha. Never heard that one before. "What can I do for you, Miss...?"
"It's Mrs. Mrs. Sylvia Carlson." She looked puzzled. "Or maybe it's Anderson. I'm not sure. The names all sound alike out here."
'Out here?' I decided to go with her first guess. "I take it you're not from these parts, Mrs. Carlson. Let me guess. East Coast?"
She almost smiled. "You're very shrewd, Mr. Cretin."
"Desperate," I corrected. "Cretin's the address. It's a major St. Paul thorofare," I added loyally.
"Mr. Desperate." She leaned forward. "Something very strange is going on. Last weekend my husband disappeared. He was gone when I woke up. I didn't see him for days. Then on Monday morning he came home, acting like nothing had happened.
"Pardon me for noticing, but you don't look like the kind of woman who would have trouble hanging on to her man."
"I don't. We're happily married." Another great line, I thought. "But then, well, some women were talking in the coffeeshop, and-- they said the same thing happened to them!"
"This was when, exactly?"
"Two weeks ago." She looked at her hands. She had one of those fancy French manicures. "And then," she said quietly, "it happened again."
"He took off again, huh."
"And not just my husband, Mr. Desperate. Everyone! Every man, anyway. In fact every male over the age of twelve just seemed to vanish! I went to the Costco to pick up a carton aof Vitamin Water and I had to lead it into the car all by myself." She looked pretty put out at that. "I almost broke a nail. It was horrible."
"Look, Mrs. Carlson Anderson--"
"And then Monday the same thing! He just shows up at the breakfast table again! "
"Hold it right there," I broke in. "Let me guess: he ate like a pig?"
"Yes! A pig and a horse combined!"
"Stank to high heaven? If you'd had a barn you would've told him to move into it?"
"Exactly." She cocked her pretty head and eyed me with those big deep pools. I swear if I'd looked into them long enough, well, I'm pretty sure I coulda landed me a walleye. A big one. "How did you know?"
I sighed, and pulled a bottle of Leinie's out of the drawer. "It's nothing new, ma'am. It happens every year." I knocked the cap off and took a pull. "Sorry, where are my manners. Drink?"
She eyed the bottle curiously. Like she'd never seen a local brew before. "No, thank you."
"Suit yourself. Look, lady, You don't need a private eye. You need a calendar."
"I always use my Daytimer."
"I mean from the DNR. Check the date, lady. What month is this?"
"Right. And what happens in November?"
I could tell she thought she smelled a trap. "Thanksgiving?" she said cautiously.
"Well, yeah, that too. But it's the season that's important."
"The season," she repeated. I could tell she was wondering if I mean sleigh bells and elves. I almost had to laugh.
"Lady," I said, "the season! Hunting season! You know, deer, guns, bang-bang? Any of this ringing a bell?"
She stared blankly at me. Now I had to laugh.
"Every year I get a case like yours," I said. "Some clueless dame from the Coast wondering where all the menfolk are. Like you never watched the Deerhunting Channel."
"Oh my God," she whispered. "There's a deer hunting channel?"
I waved that one off. "Welcome to the Midwest, lady. Next time you're walking around the Mall of America take a look around you. See all those men? Forty nine weeks out of the year they 're pretty much like your east Coast guys, except they're taller and they can fix things. But for three weekends in November they're transformed. Thousands of years of evolution might just as well never have happened. They want to kill their own food and nothing's going to stop them. Not a beautiful wife, not a cocktail party, nothing. If you're gonna make it here in the MiniApple you better get used to it."
Ever see an East Coast dame at a loss for words? Stop by my office next November and stick around a while. It's quite a sight.