By Jim Hagarty
It started out innocently enough. Someone from Vernon Directories Ltd., when he or she was preparing the 1985 City of Stratford Directory, felt sorry that I didn’t have a wife at the time. So, he or she or it – it might have been a computer – decided to give me one.
Therefore, when the hardcover, comprehensive directories appeared around town last year, Jas. J. Hagarty (that’s me) was listed as living happily ever after on Cobourg Street with his dear wife, Evelyn.
It took a few days for the remarks to die down in the newsroom where I worked. Comments such as, “What are you and Evelyn doing this weekend?” and “Will Evelyn be coming to the company party this year?”
And in time, I almost forgot I was married.
But strange things started happening. Evelyn began getting phone calls late at night from a husky-voiced man who hung up as soon as he heard my voice. An old boyfriend, I presumed.
And my dear devoted spouse got calls from other women, inviting her to dinnerware parties, gold parties and bridal showers. Then there were girls’ nights out, the status of women committee meetings and cooking classes. Before long, I began to feel left out. If she’d wanted to be free as an eagle, she never should have got married.
Christmas cards came addressed to Jim and Evelyn and other couples started asking us out. Neighbours invited her over for afternoon tea and soon, it began to occur to me that I might as well be living alone.
I knew things had gone too far when I started leaving the front porch light on for her at night before I went up to bed.
But the whole thing really got out of hand when plainclothes detectives visited me one day for a chat. Neighbours were concerned, they said, about Evelyn. They hadn’t seen her around in a while. Not in weeks, they said, months in some cases. Where was she, they wondered.
I tried to explain, in a good-natured way, how a misprint in a directory had led to the confusion. They weren’t buying it. What had I done with her, they wanted to know. Nothing, I said. I hadn’t touched her. “Aha,” they exclaimed. “So, you admit she exists?”
It all got extremely ugly after that and before it was over, the three of us took a trip to the basement and to the back yard to see if anyone might have been recently laid to rest against her will.
My name was cleared in the end and the phone calls from Evelyn’s friends and neighbours eventually stopped. I adjusted to single life again.
But when a note was left in my mailbox two weeks later asking me to call the directory company with information for the city’s 1987 directory (they publish every two years), I was ready.
“Evelyn’s packed up and left,” I told the woman on the phone. “We had a terrible squabble and she’s gone. Gone forever, she is, and between you and me, I’m darned glad to be rid of her. So, when you’re writing me up in next year’s directory, please leave her name out.”
“That’s fine,” the woman said. “But should I still go ahead and list the names of your four children?
“Or does Evelyn have them?”