My aunt is friends with an infinitely adaptable woman named Jane, who has worked fifteen or twenty different jobs and been married seven times. She is a gifted storyteller and tells fascinating tales about her ex-husbands, like the time she hit one over the head with a frying pan because he drunkenly crashed his car into a train, or the time she married a prison warden, or the time she surprised a cheating husband in the middle of a tryst and chased him and his girlfriend into the motel bathroom and stole their clothes.
I am not making these up.
I make a special effort to come to any family events that Jane is likely to attend, as she never fails to provide quality entertainment and it gives me an opportunity to record some of her anecdotes. On my last trip to the beach with her she told us about Harry, the husband she married twice. He was charming, handsome, the life of every party. “He was a great guy,” she told us. “Everyone liked him. But let me tell you, put a wedding band on him and he would’ve screwed that seagull over there. He just couldn’t help himself.”
One time she sent him across the street to pick up a pizza on Friday night, and he didn’t come home till Sunday afternoon. Another time Jane was woken up at 2:30 in the morning by a phone call from one of Harry’s “dumb as a brick” girlfriends, who was in tears because Harry had just broken up with her. “I was just listening to her and thinking, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,'” Jane told us. “Finally she shut up and I asked her, ‘Well, Brenda, what do you want me to do about it?””
“Is he there? Can I talk to him?” Brenda asked.
“Of course he’s not here!” Jane snapped. “It’s 2:30 in the morning! He’s out with some other floozie.”
Brenda then explained tearfully that she felt like Jane was “her only friend in the world,” at which point Jane hung up on her.
Harry was a pianist, and he used to slip his wedding ring into his pocket while he was playing so women wouldn’t know he was married. Then he would forget about it and Jane would find the ring when she was doing laundry, so she got into the habit of taking the rings down to the pawn shop every time she found one. Harry never wanted to admit he’d lost the ring, so he had to go buy a new one each time. She says she must have pawned ten or twelve of them and got to be on first-name terms with the people at the pawn shop, and he never could figure out how he misplaced them so often.
In later years, impressed by her growing collection of exes, Harry was the one who made up bumper stickers reading Honk if you’ve been married to Jane and sold them all over town. “My mother bought one and she didn’t even have a car,” Jane told us. “We still see them around town sometimes.”