All of our worldly goods have been stacked out on our patio for more than a month now. It looks as if they'll be stacked out there for the rest of our lives. The way this came about is, we hired an interior decorator. We wanted, just once before we died, to have a house that looked as though it was occupied by tasteful grown-ups, rather than ourselves. Currently the only real quality furnishings we have in our home belong to our son and can be converted into robots.

The interior decorator is a very nice man who informed us in a very nice way that we would need an entirely new interior before he could even start decorating it. So we're having "work" done on our house. When you have "work" done on your house, the first thing that happens is, workmen come in pickup trucks and put all your worldly goods out on your patio, and then they go away. They tell you they will come back on "Thursday," but of course they do not. Sometimes they never come back at all. There is nothing you can do about this. You can read the United States Constitution from top to bottom with a fine-toothed comb, or whatever phrase I am searching for here, and you will find a lot of worthless information in there about how to elect the vice president in time of war, but you will find nothing about getting workmen to come back to your house. There should be some kind of amendment. My suggested wording would be:

"Article VXXBFLM: If workmen put all your worldly goods out on your patio, then at some point these workmen shall have to (a) come around and do some actual work, or (b) put your worldly goods back in your home, or at very least (c) do something about the insects nesting in the settee. Congress shall have the power to enforce this law by means of electrical shocks."

I have a good question for the scientific research community to try to answer: Where do workmen go? Did you ever ask yourself that? Every day, all over the country, all over the world, thousands of workmen pile millions of worldly goods onto patios, then off they drive, and Nobody Ever Sees Them Again. They do not go to other jobs. There are no "other jobs." If there were, then somewhere, sometime, some homeowner would get his house worked on, and it would be on the front page of The New York Times:

"Workmen Work on Home"

Huge crowds of worshipful homeowners would come and marvel at this home, similar to the way the religious faithful sometimes flock to rural communities when somebody has discovered a bale of peat moss shaped like the Lord.

At least they didn't shut off our plumbing. This had to be an oversight. "Always shut off the plumbing, even if you are merely supposed to install a window screen!" is a rule constantly shrieked by the instructors at Workman School. Any minute now our workmen will return, thoroughly ashamed of themselves, to render our home uninhabitable. "Sorry!" they'll say. "We forgot! See you Thursday!" And then, before we can grab them, they will actually dematerialize, as they return through the Workman Space-Time Warp to the Parallel Workman Universe.

Here is how bad things have gotten: Last weekend I attempted to do some home repairs myself. I got in my car and drove to the Homeowner Hell store. You probably have a Homeowner Hell in your community: It is a store the size of Indonesia featuring billions of homeowner objects such as "toggle bolts," every single one of which has been painstakingly packaged in a plastic "blister pack" that you cannot open even with advanced laser technology. The only way to open a blister pack is with a special razor knife, which is sold only at Homeowner Hell, inside a blister pack. It is a comical sight indeed, to see thousands of homeowners on a Saturday afternoon peering through the plastic at tiny random pieces of metal, totally uncomprehending, like fish examining a nuclear submarine. The workmen watch this via a special cable TV hookup from the Parallel Workmen Universe, and they laugh until they spill 7-Eleven coffee on their T-shirts. It is their favorite show.

The only good thing is, I might be able to make some money out of this. In the past several weeks I have taken a number (56) of thoughtful solitary walks through the vast emptiness that used to be our living room, and I have come up with a concept for a successful new business franchise, which would be called: The Painfully Honest Home Contracting Company. The essence of this concept is that homeowners have long since given up expecting to get anything actually done, and have reached the point where they will pay a lot of money just to be told the truth. The Painfully Honest Home Contracting Company would run large Yellow Pages advertisements like this:

"Fair Prices!

Skilled Workmen!

'We Never Show Up' "

What do you think? I think a lot of homeowners would gladly pay for this kind of dependability. If you're interested in starting a franchise in your area, send me some money in a box, and I'll send you the complete Starter Package, which you should receive on Thursday.