Raw Material


by Gregory Hischak
Excerpted from Farm Pulp

FarmMy ex-wife is the greatest woman in the world. I mean that. She's the greatest. One Great Ex. I like her husband too. He's a great guy. They're a great couple. And I really mean that. My ex-wife's husband and I, though understandably suspicious at first, quickly became comfortable together. Aside from being married to the same woman we found we had much in common. Common interests, common skills, similar wardrobes. Attributes that women like my ex-wife were attracted to.
So my ex-wife, her husband and I had a lot in common. We liked to do things. We hit the Car shows together. We were all crazy about car shows. Actually my ex-wife's husband and I were the ones crazy about car shows. My ex-wife didn't get quite so worked up over these things. We hit the Boat show and the RV Jamboree. We went to the Mums Fest and the In-Line Skating Workshop. My ex-wife's husband and I were mad about In-Line Skating and again my ex-wife, though quietly indulgent to all our mutual interests, remained unexcitable.
Wedding BellsAfter the three-nights-a-week Stenciling Workshop started up my ex-wife bowed out, leaving her husband and me to our excursions. Tight bonds of friendship had by now woven themselves between he and I. The two of us hit the Electronics Fair, the Skeet Shooting Championships, the Arrowhead Mound Mall Grand Opening, and the Warrior Man Workshop Weekend at the Community College. We watched the return of the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio and drove all the way to Erie for the Slovakian FolkFest. We were both crazy about Slovakian folk music though our mutual ancestry was Catholic Dutch.
All the things that at one time I assumed I would share with my wife, I was sharing with my ex-wife's husband and it was great. We shared a profound, almost religious interest in trains. Like me, my ex-wife's husband builds antique cars from kits. His collection of civil war belt buckles is surpassed in this part of the state only by mine. On the nights we didn't attend the Stenciling Workshops or Yoga intensive my ex-wife's husband and I sat at their kitchen table (formerly my ex-wife's and my kitchen table,) and poured over our U.S. wheat penny collection.
We never quite understood but nonetheless excepted my ex-wife's failure to work up any enthusiasm over wheat pennies. She was like that and she was great. Leaning against the pantry, she stared at us with what I thought was a look of bemusement, though my ex-wife's husband described it more as a blank stare.

One night, after a particularly riveting debate concerning corrupt 1906 S mintings I left their table for a glass of milk. I found a note stuck to the refrigerator from my ex-wife telling her husband she was leaving him. The same way she left me actually. The note had been up for about four days and so by the time we got around to tracking her down she was already remarried and living down the street.
The mutual disillusioning of marital bonds only strengthened the camaraderie between my ex-wife's husband (now my ex-wife's ex-husband), and myself. Attending the Taste-of-Hamilton, we bumped into our ex-wife and her new husband. A great guy whom we had already bumped into at the Taste-of-Zainesville, the Immaculate Heart Barbecue Days, the Zoo-athon and the Rock & Mineral Expo. My ex-wife's new husband invited both us exes' over to the house and we accepted. He was a great guy and she certainly was a great ex.
As it was only about four doors down from where my ex-wife's ex-husband and I were now sharing a duplex, we walked over to their house. My ex-wife's new husband opened the door holding a 1961 Lionel Train model Caboose that he had just painstakingly finished reconstructing before our arrival. Blowing the bright red paint dry, he apologized for not being able to attend the Model Train Convention with us the previous evening.
The Chair-Lift Maintenance class that he taught at the Community College fell on the same night. We assured him it was OK. After all, we had both taken his class and knew well how strenuous the program was. Besides, there was another Model Train Convention the following week in Columbus. We suggested making a long weekend of it, just the four of us. He thought that was a great idea. He was a great guy.

We bumped into my ex-wife and her husband all the time after that. The HomeShow, the Lawn & Garden Expo, the Crafts & Floral Show, the Cabbage Festival, the Glass-Blowing Workshop, the Bonsai Intensive, the LlamaRama, the Monet Show, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We saw each other at Rock City. Stood behind each other in the checkout at Wall Drug. Discovered we shared the same dentist and the same acupuncturist, the same florist and mechanic, hair dresser and tennis coach. We liked to browse at the very same LensCrafters. Our greeting Cards to each other were almost always identical. At our potlucks we had to be careful not to all arrive with the same thing.
Happy CoupleThough she's great, all these coincidences must have finally wore at my ex-wife. At the Bavaria-Fest Micro-Brew Competition she maliciously drained her husband's, ex-husband's and my 2nd place-winning keg of May Bock. We thought her behavior odd, even more so after arriving back at their house and finding her note stuck to the refrigerator.
My ex-wife's now two ex-husbands and I were on a bicycling tour of French Wineries when who should we bump into outside of Villandraut but my ex-wife and her brand new husband on their honeymoon. We helped them fix a flat and then rode together up to Rocamadour to see the Shrine of the Virgin. Everybody knew each other from the French classes at the Community College. My ex-wife's new husband was a great guy and invited us all over to their house when we got back to the states.

Two weeks later the three of us exs' arrived at my ex-wife's and new husband's house for dinner.
He taught Thai cooking at the Night School of the Community College and he had prepared a fabulous Tom Kha Gai. Excitedly the three of us took turns describing the Yam Pla Muk that we had dined on at the Thai Pavilion of the Knoxville World's Fair. Everything was delicious and everybody had seconds and thirds except for my ex-wife who, though she's the greatest, didn't seem all that hungry.
Her new husband asked us if we were attending the Armed Forces Day FireHouse Tour and smiling we showed him our three tickets and said we had two more.
We saw quite a bit of them after that. My ex-wife's new husband was really a great guy and shared many mutual interests with his wife's two exs' and I. All of us enjoyed flyfishing, gem hunting, hang gliding, papermaking, falconry, crossword puzzles, orchid propagation, antique farm implement collecting, Bridge, Match Box Cars, foreign flags and Polish Air Mail stamps from the 50's. While my ex-wife's new husband's Archies Comics collection was small, it contained every rare first-issue missing from our Archies libraries.
Fore!We all took up golf.
Our ex-wife, though really great, didn't take a great interest in golf. She preferred sitting behind the wheel of the cart while the rest of us practiced chips. My ex-wife's new husband asked an army chum of his to play as a fifth. He was a great guy and we all knew him from the ceramics class he taught at the Community College. We had been his star pupils and we all hit it off really well.
My ex-wife left her new husband for his golf playing army chum.
Though initially we were all taken aback, we forgave them because he was such a great guy and she was a great ex and it probably couldn't be helped.

The four of us bumped into the two of them at the Cerebral Palsy Walk-A-Thon. My ex-wife's new husband invited us back to their house afterwards which I thought was real nice of him and convenient as well. They lived in the same plat where the four of us were renovating a 19th century barn into a Teens-At-Risk Drop-In Center.
My ex-wife's three ex-husbands and I had a great time at my ex-wife's and new husband's house. We compared baseball cards, knot tricks and Raku, which we all collected. We played double tables of Bridge. As we had all gone to the same high school we sang the old school songs. All of us, excepting my ex-wife, had been on the baseball team together which had caused some confusion at the time as we were quite similar looking, about the same height, talked very similarly, had common interests, similar wardrobes, and all responded to the name Donald, which as it happens was all of our names.
My ex-wife's the greatest woman in the world. I mean that. She's a great ex, though over the years now I can't help but become aware of a pattern to her romantic interests. A repetitive cycle that I've always meant to question her about.
One day finding ourselves alone in her kitchen, I brought up the subject. My ex-wife was washing the dishes and staring out the window vacantly at her other four Donalds in the yard.
"You certainly seem to have a lot of Donalds in your life, Sylvie," I said.
Her eyes met mine for just a brief second before going back out the window. Eyes that seemed in that brief second sad and pleading and distant and maybe even a little embarrassed. I sat quietly for a while and then figuring that the subject of Donalds was not going to be expanded upon any more, got up and left my ex-wife to join my ex-wife's husband and ex-husbands out in the yard for Boccie.

Two gaggles of Donalds on either side of the lawn. Donalds selected from that bottomless spousal well of Donalds. Donalds like a favored style of casual shoe plucked from the $7.99 clearance bin. Donalds easy to slip on and off. Donalds collected like shoes that were endlessly uncomfortable, but endlessly uncomfortable in a familiar, easy to slip on and off way.
During the game Donald takes me aside and quietly whispers that Donald told him our ex-wife was seeing the fencing instructor at the Community College. It's the same guy all of us purchased our foils from. He's a Donald of course and I imagined Sylvie inside the kitchen right at that moment affixing her note to the refrigerator door with a ladybug-shaped magnet.
"I know Donald," I say reflexively.
"He's a great guy."

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