My father liked setting the clock an hour fast so he could enjoy the fact it was really only 6.00am and not 7.00am which meant he could have an extra hour’s sleep each morning before he got up for work. In addition, the clock gained five minutes every day, so when I needed to catch a bus from my house I had to subtract the extra minutes from the time showing on the clock as well as take into account that it was more than an hour ahead. I thought nothing of this until the first time my boyfriend saw me calculating the correct time so we would know when to catch the bus. I caught his incredulous expression, although he commented only that this was a bit weird.
After my first dinner at his parents’ house I glanced at the clock and asked his mother what the right time was so I could calculate when I needed to go and catch my bus.
She stared at me with her head on one side, then looked at the clock and said, ‘As you can see, it’s twenty-seven minutes and three seconds past seven.’
I understood then what my boyfriend meant by weird.
The next time he visited me he found a huge moth on the kitchen wall. He carefully covered it with a tissue, took it outside, opened the tissue and watched the moth fly free into the night.
My father saw him and laughed, ‘Big game hunting, are we?’
‘No, little game hunting,’ my boyfriend replied, which made my father laugh as though this was the funniest thing he had ever heard. He bent down to stroke the cat.
Later, my boyfriend told me, ‘You can tell a lot about people from the way they treat animals.’
I didn’t tell him the stroking was a rare occurrence; that my father kicked the cat off the chairs if she tried to sleep there; that he shampooed her every week in the kitchen sink and whacked her if she squealed; that he vacuumed her every day so she wouldn’t shed hairs on the carpet. I didn’t mention the time her tail went up the suction pipe and that before the cat noticed I ran to the wall socket and switched it off, and that my father said, ‘You should have left it on to teach her a lesson.’
There was a lot of stuff I didn’t tell my boyfriend.
Soon after we got married we brought two skinny cats home from the animal shelter. It took very little time before they understood that they could sleep wherever they chose and that they were responsible for their own ablutions. When we brought a trembling dog home it took even less time for him to understand that he could sleep on our bed because that’s where he felt safe. We unpacked my parents’ wedding gift. A clock. It took a long time before I could believe what it told me.
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