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Front Porch Smoking

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Around this time, Mum was having a liaison with a divorced architect who was living four doors down. Dad caught them one lunch hour on top of one another on the lounge at our place. For weeks, the house went silent. No longer did I hear Dad’s battered old radio that took four huge batteries. Meals were so tense. There were no younger kids to distract things. It was just the three of us at the table, at 6.30 every night, half an hour before the ABC news. Then the two of them would sit after tea, as far apart as they possibly could and watch television while I disappeared into my room.

The divorced architect backed off and put his place up for sale. One night over corned silverside and mashed potatoes, I burst into tears. Dad walked away and got the dessert. ‘Here you go Maddy, have a coupla big scoops of Neapolitan to cheer you up.’ Then Mum stood up and said: ‘Well, are we going to talk about this?’ Dad stood there for a minute and replied: ‘I love you Fran but you’ve bloody well ruined everything.’ Mum disintegrated right then and there. With her arms outstretched, holding the back of the dining chair, she cried uncontrollably. Dad didn’t go to comfort her. Then she went into the kitchen and turned on his radio really loud. It was his favourite, a Dixieland jazz program. She came back and said: ‘Terry, I don’t know how many times I’ve been sick of that radio but I hate how it hasn’t been on since this all happened. It was about to stop. It really was.’
 

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