Before She Met My Father

My mother’s first husband was a weasel, plain and simple. They got married in Kentucky; it was legal there at the time. But no priest would marry them, no photographer would take their picture. No hotel in town would rent them a room. They spent their wedding night in a tent on the riverbank, eating trout that Mama’s husband caught in the dark water.

A year they lived together like that, barely getting by. He fished, and she taught school. She wore longsleeved blouses to cover up the bite marks on her arms, but she could never get the musk smell out of her hair. The other teachers gossiped about her constantly. They made sure to show off the gifts their men bought them — silk scarves, shiny rings. Of course Mama never got anything from her husband, except scabs and tick bites and once, the long white ribcage of an eel.

He ran off in the end, of course. Slipped away one night, leaving her with nothing. He wasn’t much as a husband — Mama admits that now. But oh, she always says, his claws, his sable fur.

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