Jerry Zezima, a Newsday assistant editor who writes a nationally syndicated humor column for his hometown paper, The
With apologies to Nathaniel Hawthorne, who is dead and can't sue me, I live in the House of the Three Gables. When the vent in the main one, the Clark Gable, was gone with the wind after a recent storm, my wife, Sue, asked me to fix it, to which I replied, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
So we hired handyman extraordinaire Arnie Larsen, who happens to be our mailman. In addition to his day job at the U.S. Postal Service, Arnie is a carpenter who also does roofing, flooring and all kinds of other work.
"I can pretty much build a house except for major plumbing and electrical," said Arnie, who has even worked on a clamming boat.
"You're a man of many hats," I said, "although it would probably be difficult to wear them all at the same time."
"Especially in the mail truck," said Arnie, adding that he enjoys his job as a letter carrier and has worked hard in the 14 years he has been with the post office.
"Do the people on your route ask you to stop bringing them bills?" I wondered.
"All the time," he said. "They also want to know if it's cold enough for me or hot enough for me."
"So it's true that neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays you from the swift completion of your appointed rounds?" I asked.
"Yes," Arnie said. "Except if there's a blizzard like the one we got this year. It's tough to make it through three feet of snow."
"At least you didn't bring me any bills," I noted.
"Most people are very nice," Arnie said. "On really hot days, they'll bring me bottles of cold water. Or they'll leave one in the mailbox. Some of them tell me the neighborhood gossip, like who's having an affair and stuff like that. Then there are the women who shop online or order things from a catalog and don't want their husbands to know how much they bought, so they ask me to leave their packages next door. It doesn't matter because a lot of guys don't even open the mail."
"How about dogs?" I asked.
"They don't open the mail, either," Arnie said. "I like dogs, but I did get bitten once. I made friends with this cute Jack Russell terrier and petted him every day. One day he decided to see what I tasted like. It was only a nip, but I guess he didn't like the flavor because he left me alone after that. There was also this boxer that chased me. I had to hide in the bushes."
Arnie's adventures haven't been confined to his postal career.
"When I was a young man," recalled Arnie, who's 42, "I was on a home improvement job when the homeowner's wife came downstairs naked to do the laundry. I had to hide behind a wall. I sat on a Spackle bucket until she went back upstairs. I told my boss, and he laughed. The homeowner laughed, too. When it came time to collect my money, the boss said, 'You already got paid.' "
Another homeowner tried to help Arnie and fell through the ceiling.
"He came down in the kitchen," Arnie said.
"You won't get any help like that from me," I assured him. "I couldn't even fix the gable vent."
"I bet you could have," said Arnie, who climbed up to the roof and replaced the vent in no time. His work was so good and his fee was so reasonable that we may hire him to put a new floor in the living room.
"Don't worry about paying me right away," Arnie said. "I'll just leave a bill in the mailbox."