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Lee Goldberg has written episodes for the Monk television series, as well as many other programs. He is a two-time Edgar Award nominee and the author of the acclaimed Diagnosis Murder novels, based on the TV series for which he was a writer and executive producer.
Mr. Monk and the Termites
My name is Natalie Teeger. You’ve never heard of me, and that’s okay, because the fact is I’m nobody special. By that I mean I’m not famous. I haven’t done anything or accomplished something that you’d recognize me for. I’m just another anonymous shopper pushing her cart down the aisle at Wal-Mart.
Of course, I had bigger things planned for myself. When I was nine I dreamed of being one of Charlie’s Angels. It wasn’t because I wanted to fight crime or run around braless—I was looking forward to the day I’d fill out enough to wear one. Sadly, I’m still waiting. I admired the Angels because they were strong, independent, and had a sassy attitude. Most of all, I liked how those women took care of themselves.
In that way, I guess my dream came true, though not quite the way I expected. I’ve made a profession out of taking care of myself, my twelve-year-old daughter, Julie, and one other person: Adrian Monk.
You haven’t heard of me, but if you live in San Francisco and you watch the news or read the paper, you’ve probably heard of Monk, because he is famous. He’s a brilliant detective who solves murders that have baffled the police, which amazes me, since he is utterly incapable of handling the simplest aspects of day-to-day life. If that’s the price of genius, them I’m glad I’m not one.
Usually taking care of Monk is just a day job, but that changed the week termites were found in his apartment building. By Monk, of course. He spotted a pinprick-sized hole in a piece of siding and knew it was fresh. He knew because he keeps track of all the irregularities in the siding.
When I asked him why he does that, he looked at me quizzically and said, “Doesn’t everybody?”
That’s Monk for you.
Since Monk’s building was going to be tented and fumigated, his landlord told him he’d have to stay with friends or go to a hotel for a couple of days. That was a problem, because the only friends Monk has are Capt. Leland Stottlemeyer and Lt. Randy Disher of the San Francisco Police Department and me. But I’m not really his friend so much as I am his employee, and, considering how little he pays me to drive him around and run his errands, I’m barely that.
I went to Stottlemeyer first, since he used to be Monk’s partner on the force, and asked if he’d take him in. But Stottlemeyer said his wife would leave him if he brought Monk home. Stottlemeyer said he’d leave, too, if Monk showed up. I went to Disher next, but he lives in a one-bedroom apartment, so there wasn’t room for another person, though I have a feeling he would have found some room if it were me who needed a place to stay. Or any other woman under the age of thirty with a pulse.
So Monk and I started to look for a hotel. That wouldn’t be a big deal for most people, but Adrian Monk isn’t like most people. Look at how he dresses.
He wears his shirts buttoned up to the neck. They have to be 100 percent cotton, off-white, with exactly eight buttons, a size-sixteen neck and a thirty-two sleeve. All even numbers. Make a note of that; it’s important.
His pants are pleated and cuffed, with eight belt loops (most pants have seven, so his have to be specially tailored), a thirty-four waist, and thirty-four length, but after the pantlegs are cuffed, the inseam is thirty-two. His shoes, all twelve identical pairs, are brown and a size ten. More even numbers. It’s no accident or coincidence. This stuff really matters to him.
He’s obviously got an obsessive-compulsive disorder of some kind. I don’t know exactly what kind because I’m not a nurse, like his previous assistant, Sharona, who left him abruptly to remarry her ex-husband (who, I hear, wasn’t such a great guy, but after working with Monk for a short time, I understand why that wouldn’t really matter. If I had an ex-husband I could return to, I would).
I have no professional qualifications whatsoever. My last job before this one was bartending, but I’ve also worked as a waitress, yoga instructor, housesitter, and blackjack dealer, among other things. But I know from talking to Stottlemeyer that Monk wasn’t always so bad. Monk’s condition became a lot worse after his wife was murdered a few years ago.
I can truly sympathize with that. My husband, Mitch, a fighter pilot, was killed in Kosovo, and I went kind of nuts for a long time myself. Not Monk nuts, of course—normal nuts.
Maybe that’s why Monk and I get along better than anybody (particularly me) ever thought we would. Sure, he irritates me, but I know a lot of his peculiarities come from a deep and unrelenting heartbreak that nobody, and I mean nobody, should ever have to go through.
So I cut him a lot of slack, but even I have my limits.
Which brings me back to finding a hotel room for Monk. To begin with, we could look only at four-star hotels, because four is an even number, and a place with only two stars couldn’t possibly meet Monk’s standard of cleanliness. He wouldn’t put his dog in a two-star hotel—if he had a dog, which he doesn’t, and never would, because dogs are animals who lick themselves and drink out of toilets.
The first place we went to on that rainy Friday was the Belmont in Union Square, one of the finest hotels in San Francisco.
Monk insisted on visiting every vacant room the grand old Belmont had before deciding which one to occupy. He looked only at even-numbered rooms on even-numbered floors, of course. Although the rooms were identically furnished and laid out the same way on every floor, he found something wrong with each one. For instance, one room didn’t feel symmetrical enough. Another room was too symmetrical. One had no symmetry at all.
All the bathrooms were decorated with some expensive floral wallpaper from Italy. But if the strips of wallpaper didn’t line up just right, if the flowers and their stems didn’t match up exactly on either side of the cut, Monk declared the room uninhabitable.
By the tenth room, the hotel manager was guzzling little bottles of vodka from the minibar, and I was tempted to join him. Monk was on his knees, examining the wallpaper under the bathroom counter, wallpaper that nobody would ever see unless they were on their knees under the bathroom counter, and pointing out “a critical mismatch,” and that’s when I cracked. I couldn’t take it anymore and I did something I never would have done if I hadn’t been under extreme emotional and mental duress.
I told Monk he could stay with us.
I said it just to end my immediate suffering, not realizing in that instant of profound weakness the full, horrific ramifications of my actions. But before I could take it back, Monk immediately accepted my invitation, and the hotel manager nearly kissed me in gratitude.
“But I don’t want to hear any complaints about how my house is arranged or how dirty you think it is or how many ‘critical mismatches’ there are,” I said to Monk as we started down the stairs to the lobby.
“I’m sure it’s perfect,” Monk said.
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about, Mr. Monk. You’re starting already.”
He looked at me blankly. “All I said was that I’m sure it’s perfect. Most people would take that as the sincere compliment it was meant to be.”
“But most people don’t mean ‘perfect’ when they say ‘perfect.’”
“Of course they do,” Monk said.
“No, they mean pleasant, or nice, or comfortable. They don’t actually mean perfect in the sense that everything will be, well, perfect. You do.”
“Give me some credit.” Monk shook his head.
I gaped at him in disbelief.
“You wouldn’t stay in that hotel room we just saw because the floral pattern of the wallpaper didn’t match under the sink.”
“That’s different,” he said. “That was a safety issue.”
“How could that possibly be a safety issue?” I said.
“It reveals shoddy craftsmanship. If they were that haphazard with wallpaper, imagine what the rest of the construction work was like,” Monk said. “I bet a mild earthquake is all it would take to bring this entire building down.”
“The building is going to fall because the wallpaper doesn’t match up?”
“This place should be condemned.”
We reached the lobby and Monk stood still.
“What?” I said.
“We should warn the others,” Monk said.
“What others?” I asked.
“The hotel guests,” Monk said. “They should be informed of the situation.”
“That the wallpaper doesn’t match,” I said.
“It’s a safety issue,” he said. “I’ll call them later.”
I didn’t bother arguing with him. Frankly I was just relieved to get out of the hotel without stumbling over a dead body. I know that sounds ridiculous, but when you’re with Adrian Monk, corpses have a way of turning up all over the place. But, as I would soon find out, it was only a temporary reprieve.
* * * * * *
Monk lived in a Deco-style apartment building on Pine, a twilight zone of affordability that straddled the northernmost edge of the Western District, with its upper-middle-class families, and the southwest corner of Pacific Heights, with its old money, elaborately ornate Victorians and ...
I threw this book into the trash, and will never trust the author again. I'm a Monk fan, watched all the shows and bought all the DVDs. Read morePublished 19 days ago by DOROTHY
Miss the Monk show so thought I would try reading the books. I was not disappointed.Published 28 days ago by SRM47
I really enjoy the TV series Monk. This book lived up to the standards of the TV show. Already purchased the next book :-)Published 1 month ago by Shirley Korpusik
Somehow the books seem even funnier than the TV series was. (and no commercials)Published 2 months ago by janet m.sandell
Typically Monk humor. A fun read. Funny and a fast read. Would recommend for someone who enjoys the odd humor of Monk..Published 4 months ago by Elizabeth
I love that I found another way to enjoy Monk. When the series ended I still wanted more and here it is. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Robert C Vaughan
Just a rehash of the series with inconsistencies. Monk isn't allergic to cats. Too much sex talking and thinking. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Belletrenini
I really enjoyed Toby Shaloub's portrayal of Monk and to picture him in this book series makes the story live. Good writing and good enjoyable story.Published 8 months ago by Michael Burke
as amusing and fast moving as the tv series. a wonderful read.
I highly recommend this book to all It's a fast paced mystery done with just the right amount of humor.