Catalogue of Husbands

The catalogue of husbands has arrived and is as thick as a brick. Mum clears all the bits of homework and unopened letters off the dining room table and plonks it down.

‘We get a reduction if we order today,’ says mum in the voice she usually uses in front of other people. She only has a few twenty pound notes left in the bundle she found tucked into the arm of nana’s old chair.

I chew the end of a red pen and stare at the catalogue.

‘I’ve got to go for something different Lily. Men aren’t always what they seem. Just nice. Normal, you know?’

Mum flicks through the catalogue. There is one man on each page. As the pages turn, faces run into each other like a cartoon character who has swallowed a potion.

‘Let’s go to the no frills section,’ says mum, going to the back end of the catalogue.

‘But we haven’t made any rules yet mum, you said always have rules.’

Mum looks up at the ceiling, then talks while I use my best handwriting in a notebook.

‘No beards. Kind face. Likes animals. And children. Quiet.’

I wait, but mum doesn’t add any more. She turns each page. We laugh and tut and shake our heads.

While mum goes to the toilet, I open my notebook and add ‘smiles, knows how to play games, makes nice dinners, kind to mums, doesn’t drink, works away a lot.’ I snap it shut as mum comes down the stairs.

There is now a shortlist of quiet, beard-free men. Mum likes Ben who loves birdwatching and has a Labrador. I fold over the page at Mike, who travels away for work and has spider arms that look too weak to punch.

‘But mum, Mike has kind eyes.’

Mum looks at Mike for a long time. She reads and re-reads that Mike likes to live a quiet life and believes a mother shouldn’t have to go to work.

‘Yes. He’ll do. Says here he can fix washing machines.’

Mum ticks a box on the form and puts it into the envelope. She says that it is best to go for a scientific approach because something strange happens when she meets men in real life, like they can smell something in her that makes them be fake-kind until it’s too late. 

When she's out of the room, I bend my head down to my armpit and sniff.


  1. I loved this story - sad, funny, potent, and lingers in the memory after reading.


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