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Tips for Living
Author:Renee Shafransky

Tips for Living by Renee Shafransky

Think not, is my eleventh commandment; and sleep when you can, is my twelfth.

—Herman Melville, Moby Dick

From the Pequod Courier

Tips for Living

by Nora Glasser

Reasons to Leave the House

Residents of Pequod (Formerly Known as Middle Class): You’ve seen your property taxes climb astronomically this year, right? Thank the superwealthy city folk who have “discovered” our town. They’re purchasing modest summer homes, renovating them into multi-million-dollar estates and driving property values sky-high. Developers offering deluxe waterside condos court more of the rich and fabulous. Meanwhile, you’re transferring debt from one credit card to another so you can keep the roof over your head. So why not Airbnb your home for a profit to old-fashioned summer renters? They’ll pay thousands for a decent city escape they can share with a dozen friends. You’ll only have to replace your furniture and plumbing when they depart. “Good idea,” you say, “but where will my family live in the interim?” How about those storage units out near the expressway? Lease one and put in an air bed. Set up a kitchen with a minifridge and microwave. Revive the chamber pot. Learn the time-tested skills of a homeless person. Think outside the box. Or live in one.

Chapter One

Helene Westing, the woman my ex-husband had an affair with and impregnated while we were married, joined my Pilates mat class a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Let me say that again. Helene Westing, the woman my ex-husband had an affair with and impregnated while we were married, joined my Pilates mat class a few weeks before Thanksgiving. I was there first, lying on my back. Just like with my husband.

Off-the-chart stress.

My Pilates teacher had been admiring my money socks—black with green dollar signs—when I heard the door open behind me. I bought the socks hoping to show money that it was welcome in my world, since money had made itself scarce after my divorce three years ago.

“Cool socks, Nora,” Kelly said, going from standing on her mat in front of the class to sitting on it cross-legged in one smooth move—doubly impressive because Kelly’s center of gravity had recently shifted. She was almost six months along and glowing with surging pregnancy hormones. Even her high, jet-black ponytail had developed a goddesslike sheen. It swung around gaily as she turned her head toward the door and chirped through the mike on her headset.

“Welcome! You must be the person who called yesterday. Helene, right?”

I tried to camouflage my gasp with a cough as Helene passed by close enough for me to smell her: L’Occitane Jasmin, a scent I used to wear. She stopped short and looked right at me for a second, then sniffed before smiling at Kelly and moving on.

“Sorry I’m late. I misjudged the drive time.”

If Helene was fazed, I couldn’t see it. She calmly laid out her mat and followed Kelly’s instructions on how to engage her core. But her presence really shook me; I could barely focus on the class. Torturous memories of Hugh’s betrayal came rushing back. The strand of blonde hair on my pillowcase. Blonde? The pair of maroon lace panties balled up under my bedroom dresser. Maroon. My stomach turning at the realization that this meant Hugh must be having an affair of such passion and abandon that he’d invited his golden-haired mistress into our bed and ravished her so thoroughly she’d forgotten to put on her underwear before she left.

I have to concede there were signs that Hugh had strayed before. There were certainly signs. I found a postcard of Olympia, the reclining nude by Manet, in our mailbox after Hugh returned from teaching a painting seminar in Philadelphia. On the back, no address or signature—just a phone number and two words: “Call me.” Hugh claimed he had no idea who sent the card. He threw it away. Still, I paid close attention. No noticeable change in his behavior. No trips to Philly. Nothing suspicious at all. I convinced myself he hadn’t crossed the line. But afterward I couldn’t stop noticing the young women who hung on his words at parties and openings and gazed at him with moon eyes. Like I did when I was twenty-five and went to see his painting show in Chelsea.

Hugh Walker: New York Portraits. That was the show’s title. Hugh was well on his way to art stardom then. I learned from his gallery bio that he was forty-three and from Virginia, and that he’d already shown his work at the Museum of Modern Art. The portraits were of his reflection in various store windows in the city’s richest and poorest neighborhoods—from Tribeca to East Harlem. They were done in oil and awash in different glazes, which gave them a hazy, luminous effect. They were brilliant, I thought.

The moment Hugh entered the gallery, I recognized him from his paintings. He was tall and rakish, wearing khakis and a white Oxford shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He flashed me a charming, crooked grin before walking over to the reception desk to talk to the staff, and I found myself wishing I’d put on a sexier pair of jeans that morning. Between his clothes, wavy dark hair and brown eyes, I thought he looked like Jack Kerouac in the Kerouac Wore Khakis Gap ad.

After he finished at the reception desk, he headed straight for me. My pulse rate spiked. He introduced himself in a honeyed Southern accent and offered his hand. I felt the flutter in my chest as soon as our skin touched.

“Hello. I’m Hugh Walker. And you are?”

“Nora Glasser.”

“May I ask what you think of the paintings, Nora Glasser?”

“I think they’re beautiful and complex. Ethereal and political at the same time,” I said. And then an irreverent urge took over. “But I have some not-so-great news.”


“They’re out of focus.”

Without missing a beat, Hugh’s expression turned somber. He nodded and frowned. “Yes. I’m afraid I was experimenting with a new process. I put Vaseline in my eyes when I painted them.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

He winked and cracked another irresistible smile. “So were you.”

I was practically melting from the heat we were generating.

Once we started sleeping together, Hugh began painting me. After The Nora Series showed in New York, his career skyrocketed. He called me his muse. “You’re my dark, beautiful Jewess,” he said. There was no one I’d rather spend time with. From then on, Hugh’s was the first and last voice I heard almost every day for more than a decade. We were the passionate couple. We were the couple who loved to debrief in bed at night, feet entwined. “You first,” he’d insist. “Tell me everything.” If I occasionally expressed worry about the women who flirted with him? Hugh reassured me. He even invoked Paul Newman’s famous quip on fidelity.