into the fire…

If house sharing was the frying pan, marriage was the fire, and I carelessly fed my life to the flames.

Both Husband #1 & I were barely in our twenties when we set up house. He wasn’t averse to sharing household tasks but was shy of public knowledge. I was bemused one night cleaning up after dinner when he reacted to a knock at the door which I went to answer, by directing me to wait. As I hovered, he stepped away from the sink, dried his hands, walked to the living room, turned on the TV and settled on the couch. Only then was I free to open the door.

TV was central to Husband #1’s existence. Back in the 1980’s there were two channels – ABC plus a local commercial station, and VCR. Enthralled, he would sit for hours, gazing at the screen. On one occasion, I’d had enough. Awoken from solitary sleep in the early hours by noise seeping through the floor to the bedroom, my exasperation with the habit of his absence in favour of the idiot-box got the better of me. I stomped downstairs, eliciting no reaction though he was awake, engrossed. So rapt, he didn’t blink as in a single movement I pulled the TV out from the wall with one hand and cut the power cord to it with the scissors in the other. That got his attention.

I should have heeded the signs. Husband #1 had little affinity with cats. My black half-grown kitten Ziggy’s first meeting with him commenced with bitten fingers. Ziggy continued to taunt Husband #1 by hanging off and rattling screen doors and window screens, then running away if Husband #1 responded, until the little cat’s life ended by snakebite. The night he died, the insect screen on the window rattled emptily.

After we were married Husband #1 conceded a cat, so long as it was a kitten, black and male. That wasn’t quite Baddy, the cat I returned with from the vet’s. She was a 6 month old grey tabby who’d been whiling away her days in a carrier on the vet’s counter, waiting for a home. She and Husband #1 disliked each other on sight. She too hung off and rattled screen doors then ran away if Husband #1 answered.

Husband #1’s prize possession was his water-bed. It soon became Baddy’s. She loved to claw it, chase the waves then lay in the middle claiming it as her own.

Given I hadn’t fulfilled Husband #1’s initial cat criteria, when I encountered a black male kitten on the counter at the vet’s, he came home with me. Husband #1 named him Jack, and of course he was the favourite. Baddy tolerated Jack but kept her distance. Jack however loved everyone, including Baddy. He had a fondness for Husband #1’s smelly work boots; a boy thing they bonded over. This made it all the worse when Husband #1 discovered Jack had a proclivity for a sheepskin Husband #1 insisted on using as a floor rug, up until he discovered Jack’s use for it. After that we had to guard our sheepskin Ugg boots as well.

Husband #1 loved food: his and mine. To keep him from annexing my dinner I would usually garnish it with chili sauce which he hated. One evening we had a friend visiting and were eating a casual dinner of barbequed chops while watching a video on the TV in the living room. I’d finished my dinner and put my plate on the floor as my seat was away from the coffee table, to go to the bathroom. Returning, I noticed Husband #1 had taken advantage of my absence to appropriate my plate and gnaw the chop bone. Unsurprising as there had been no chili sauce on it. Intriguing though was our friend quietly shaking with laughter. As Husband #1 replaced the well-chewed bone on my plate, our friend managed a glance at Baddy who was positioned near the door washing her face, and remarked enjoy that? the cat didn’t leave you much aye mate.

FireThe first act was short.

Exit stage left.

Oh For A Muse of Fire…
…Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.
Henry V, William Shakespeare

23 thoughts on “into the fire…

  1. Divorces are rarely pleasant but I hope this one happened soon and was amicable since he didn’t seem to have much of himself invested in it.Did he take Jack though?
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx


    1. Astute observation. I think neither of us had much invested, because we just thought the Marriage would take care of itself. The wind up was simple and quick. In the ‘settlement’ both cats came with me, and we had a rottweiler who stayed on with Husband #1 – nearly broke my heart to leave the dog…


  2. “If house sharing was the frying pan, marriage was the fire, and I carelessly fed my life to the flames.”
    This line just blows me away Ella. My mind keeps circling back to it, rolling the words around and around. If you were careless, I think I was willful…married my ex three months after meeting him.


    1. I’m in good company then 🙂 Husband #1 & I were both still in our teens when we met. We were engaged after 6 months and married by 10, the day after my 20th birthday. Husband # 1 was still 19. Looking back now I shake my head at how thoughtless I was.


  3. Oh Ella, I am just loving this history of your earlier life! Better than any book I’ve read lately- should be part of a book – Life, as it happens – taking and learning from it with the humour and understanding that comes with experience.


    1. Thank you 🙂 It’s been fun remembering and writing… I’d quite forgotten how young I was, and like the wedding photos, I’d chucked that time out of my memory albums! Maybe, one day the stories will come together into something… then I’ll be fending off law suits 😉


    1. Thank you. Funny how something, in this case a short story I wrote a couple of years ago, triggers a waterfall of memories.
      I have no doubt the rattling window screen was Ziggy saying goodbye, and who joined me again, a couple of years later as Baddy Cat. They had too many common traits including tormenting hubby#1 for it not to be so.


    1. I love hearing peoples stories and journeys also, as you shared in your Rome, Home and Meatballs. I had quite forgotten my own.
      Husband #1 was not happy. There was lots of shouting. He repaired it the next day. But, it made for a good story as his habit was well known amongst family and friends. And it didn’t change.


  4. you are a great storyteller elladee … I have been waiting until my brain could bear reading again after the experiences of the week … this is terrific … but I am sure you wonder how on earth you married #1! excellent work with the scissors and good thing you had Baddy to give you a laugh!


    1. Thank you 🙂 I’ve enjoyed amusing myself with the past, and it got me writing, as my muses had abandoned me up until that point… I think they had given up on me, and took themselves off on holidays 😉
      For better or for worse… there is more to come.
      Hopefully a few days of good weather, the beach and Eddy’s company have put you right 🙂


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