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Natasha needed new things to grow on, like the fertilizer she spread in her garden.
She and Curtis had an old place in a hip and trendy neighborhood, being hip and trendy themselves; Curtis needed a big house for his studio and to accommodate his band.
Natasha thought of herself as hip and trendy because she was married to Curtis and everyone in Seattle knew Curtis. Natasha had no special talent. She was a pretty ornament for Curtis and she liked to garden. That was about it.
Natasha wanted a new car. The station wagon was reliable but old. Half of the dashboard lights didn't work; radio knobs had fallen off. The car smelled of dogs and spilled soup.
They didn't need a new car. Curtis was proud this one was paid for.
But Natasha really wanted a car in which everything worked, with inside rear passenger doors un-chewed.
One hot day in the midst of Summer Curtis was on his way home from playing in Portland. Natasha's shift at the saloon ended at six. Natasha took her soda and laptop into her garden. Under a Rainier cherry tree, she looked at websites and online want ads and tried to cool down.
Curtis didn't come at seven, or ten. It was not unusual for Curtis to bend time as he would a note on his guitar. Natasha went to bed. Curtis had the collie Louise with him, and Natasha helped the old pitbull Brutus onto the bed with her.
Her cell phone rang at four AM.
"Honey?" Curtis' voice, with an edge of anxiety. "First, we are OK. Me and Louise."
Natasha sat up. "What happened?"
He rolled the car. The car was totaled and he was getting a ride home from a friend in Portland.
Natasha's heart curled back up into her chest, but stayed on guard like a wary cat. Louise was OK. Curtis was OK.
The car was not OK. They would have to buy a new one. Natasha went to sleep dreaming of new-car smell.
They settled on an American hybrid large enough--almost--for dogs and Curtis's rig. Used, but with GPS and Ipod interface and automatic seats.
Natasha loved it. She made excuses to drive it to the only store that sold the moisturizer she needed. She mourned when Curtis drove it away for a gig.
Summer cooled, chilled, and thawed into a damp Spring. Natasha pruned, weeded, mulched. The Rainier cherry coated itself in snowy blooms. One sultry morning Natasha looked at the house, critical of its peeling paint and 20 year-old shingles coated with moss. Natasha wanted a new roof.
Curtis was against it. He didn't think they would stay in this house anyway. He said they might move to Los Angeles. Or even New York. He was getting more notice from recording studios.
Summer was not fun. Curtis broke his ankle jumping off a stage. They had to put old Brutus down. The loss broke Natasha's heart.
To get away from Curtis's evil moods, Natasha spent time in the garden, looking at the roof.
One night in August they threw a party: grilled wieners, burgers, vegetables for the vegetarians. The band played acoustic on Natasha's lawn. Everyone loved the colored lights throughout the garden.
When Natasha went to bed she dreamed of a golden roof. In the dream Curtis called her name.
"Natasha, get up. There's a fire!"
The fire blackened the wall, singed the attic, melted the back porch. A breeze picked up a spark from the grill and nestled it snugly against the house.
Natasha, Curtis, Louise, and the equipment rented an apartment a few blocks away. The contractor said they would get a new kitchen, and a new roof.
Six months later the house was ready. The roof, silver tin, flashed in the sun. Natasha had chosen blood-deep maroon for the clapboards, thyme-shade for the trim.
The next Winter Natasha wandered barefoot on her silky flooring, wearing long wool sweaters. Curtis was busier than ever. His CD came out and he toured, traveling up and down the coast. Natasha made excuses not to go. She thought she got in his way like equipment someone put in the wrong place.
When Spring came Curtis wrote songs, rehearsed endlessly. Trees leafed out. Shrubs perfumed the garden.
Natasha thought she might be pregnant. She didn't wish for anything, keeping her desires under wraps, her lusts in check. The pink line formed on the test strip. She began to dream about names.
She didn't tell Curtis. Now she had a purpose. Here at last was a talent, like the garden.
A cool, misty Seattle day; cherry blooms sugared the lawn. Natasha came home from work early, especially exhausted.
In rehearsal the band littered chips and beers behind them like busy racoons. Stepping over a half-empty pizza box, Natasha entered her kitchen, thinking of hot tea and crackers.
Voices in the dining room, just out of sight. Curtis and one of the girls. Natasha was not the jealous sort. Girls hung around Curtis like glass balls on a Christmas tree. Leaning against a cupboard, she heard Curtis, earnest, serious.
"Being around here is a drag. I need flexibility. I need to get down to LA and live for a year. I don't think I want her with me. I just don't know how to tell her."
The girl murmured sympathy for his plight. Moving away, Natasha put the kettle on, gazed out to where she hung a swing in the cherry tree.
Natasha decided she wanted a new husband.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, December 30th, 2010


I wrote this tale in response to a house fire we recently experienced. Let it be known that I do NOT want a new husband.

- Jill Zeller

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