I started to slide the last cereal box into the cupboard, then hesitated. I was stymied. ''Should I file Honey Nut Cheerios under 'H' or 'C'?''
My wife closed her eyes and sighed. ''Are you sure you can't mow the lawn?''
''Not in this rain. Trust me, you're going to love having the cereal boxes alphabetized. Next, I'll put the soup cupboard in order.''
Terry snapped a padlock on the cabinet doors. ''If you're looking for a hobby, run the vacuum cleaner.''
''Nope. I'm trying to be useful.'' I moved the Cheerios next to the Cinnamon Toast Crunch. ''Hey, why don't we buy only cereal with 'Crunch' in the name? It'll be great.''
''Oh, there's going to be some crunching, all right.''
Terry legged it for the living room. First, I heard an awful whump. Then an awful grump. ''Who moved the couch?''
''Do you like it? You said you wanted a new look.''
''What I'm looking at is the carpet. Nose-first.'' She clambered to her feet and pushed the couch back to where it was before. ''I meant new blinds and lamps. Not a couch in the middle of the floor.''
''Just trying to help.''
She grabbed her purse and raincoat. ''I'm going to the store.''
''What are you going to get?''
''A few minutes of peace.''
I reached for my coat. ''I'll go with you.''
''No. You. Can't. You're still banned from that incident in February.''
I shrugged. ''I thought rearranging their shelves by color in the order of the rainbow would make it feel like spring despite all the snow.''
''How did lining up the red bottles of laundry detergent next to the red nail polish, next to the red apples, next to the red pillows, next to the spaghetti sauce help?''
''See, the spaghetti sauce was leading into the orange products. They threw me out before I could finish.''
Terry rolled her eyes. ''Stay out of trouble.''
I watched her car splash down the driveway and swish onto the road. She sure must have had a bad week at work to look that distraught. I pulled out the laptop to look up projects designed to wash away the rainy-day doldrums.
Adjust the tint on the TV so that all the people are green, and insist we're watching a show about the Smurfs' cousins, the Smints? Nope. She didn't get it when I tried it a couple years ago.
Rearrange the keys on the laptop to spell out secret messages? Can't. I need two 'R's' to spell her name.
Then I found it. The perfect rainy-day project. I had to hurry, but I was ready when Terry came home.
''Guess what I did for you!'' I greeted her.
''I can hardly wait. No, I can. Give me two minutes.''
Moments later, I heard a shriek from the bathroom.
''Hooray,'' I yelled. ''You found the dining room table. Wait till you see where I hid the waffle iron. It's an indoor treasure hunt. You'll love it.''
Three minutes later, a huge grin spread across Terry's face. It was the most cheerful I'd seen her since all the bad weather began.
''But are you sure mowing in the rain won't hurt the lawnmower?'' I asked.
''It will hurt if you don't.'' She smiled and closed the door.
---- Cole's latest novel, ''Bash and the Chicken Coop Caper,'' releases Thursday from B&H Kids. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.