David J. Schenck was tall and lean and strong. His black hair was cut short, and if you looked closely enough, you could see the beginnings of white specks popping out near his temples. He had a heavy, dark beard, with five o'clock shadow surfacing almost two hours after a clean shave. When he stretched his forearms, the muscles were long and sinewy; they were so well defined and prominent, you could actually see the peaks and valleys where one muscle ended and another began.
All this was a combination of genetics and his job in construction, and people who knew him knew he was very proud of both. When David built or renovated something, it was unsurpassed, according to his own expert opinion. And when he mentioned his last name, he took pride in letting people know it was pronounced "Scank" and not "Shenk" or "Shank." As awful as the name sounded to outsiders, he'd smile and raise his eyebrows as though he'd been born a Vanderbilt.
He rented a nice house on Union Street, in the little town of Hot Springs, New Jersey, and he'd been hoping to buy something soon. But all the money he made seemed to disappear on large payments for his black, extra-large, extended pickup truck (with custom gold lettering on both sides that read "David J. Schenck Custom Building"). He was good at making money but not so good at holding onto it.
His wife of fifteen years, Dena, could attest to that fact better than anyone. She had a good job of her own, too, but they always seemed to be struggling to find enough money to pay for her addiction to indoor tanning beds and her love of overproduced manicures and high-end hair product.
But if you asked Dena about the money situation, she wouldn't have complained much. It was David's apathy toward sex that drove her to the indoor tanning beds every night (her way to relax, so she claimed to anyone willing to listen). She was an extremely attractive woman, with warm brown hair, a shapely figure and a penchant for tight jeans.
She knew men noticed her but couldn't understand what was wrong with her husband. They'd been together fifteen years, had one child, and she could count the number of times they had sex each year on one hand. David didn't even complain when she suggested she start sleeping in the spare bedroom because he snored (and they'd only been married about five years by then). No matter what she did, he just didn't seem interested in her large breasts or her long, tanned legs. His idea of a fun evening at home consisted of eating a frozen TV dinner while watching great chefs prepare exotic foods on the cooking network.
David thought life was perfect until he came home one afternoon in the late spring and found Dena's letter: "Please take care of little David. I can't live like this any longer. I'm turning forty and I need more," was all it said. She'd run off with a co-worker (David found out later) and only took her clothing, hair products, and her brand new Nissan Pathfinder.
About a month after that, while in the process of filing for divorce, David placed an ad in the local newspaper for a part-time housekeeper. Though Dena had always let the dusting go until you could write your name on the tables and she never cleaned the toilet unless there was a reddish-brown film in the bowl, David soon discovered it was cheaper to pay someone to wash his dirty underwear and grimy sweat socks than it was to keep buying new pairs.
That's where I come into the picture. I answered the ad on a Friday morning in late June, and we agreed on an interview the next morning. I made it clear that I was in college and could work any hours David needed during the summer months, but come September, I'd have a full-time schedule, and he'd have to work around it.
He also mentioned that the house was slightly messy, and I told him not to worry about it. But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw that first morning I went there. You couldn't see the kitchen counter. It was covered with hard-crusted dishes and pots and pans with burn marks on the bottom. The sink was filled with dirty glasses and wet garbage that smelled like sour milk. On the dining room tabletop, there were newspapers and empty fast-food bags; half-filled soda cans and water bottles lined the end tables in the living room. When David led me toward the sofa, I had to push a pair of dirty sweat socks off to the side to sit down. He sat in a leather chair opposite me and spread his long, hairy legs as wide as they would go. He wore baggy cargo shorts and a plain white T-shirt.