Unfortunately, by the time Judy’s novel came out, the stresses in our marriage were growing, and Judy and I were clearly finally heading toward a (hopefully civilized) divorce.
Before we reached that point, though, we still had a few good years. It looked as though, at whatever cost to our conflicting principles, we were able to function as married people and parents, and so we do what couples like us always did at that period in American life. We began thinking about buying a house.
So we spent quite a few weekends roaming around, mostly Southern Connecticut, northern New Jersey, western Long Island and so on. Judy picked the ads out of the newspaper listings, but there wasn’t much — at a price we could afford.
But Inga Pratt saved us. We had been spending occasional weekends at the giant house Fletcher and Inga Pratt owned, and called the Ipsy-Wipsy Institute, on the Jersey shore. When Judy mentioned that we’d been house-hunting she said, “I know of some places. Want to go for a ride?”
It took Inga a little while, but she came through. She drove us to 386 West Front Street in the part of Middletown Township called River Plaza (though it always had a Red Bank mailing address), and there it was. Thirteen rooms. On an acre of land, with twelve or fifteen great trees. Surrounded on two sides by a pretty good-looking river, with a beautiful broad porch on those sides so you could sit and watch the river. Or play ping-pong, or have parties or whatever, because that was one fine porch. We could even afford it, because it was astonishingly cheap — though that didn’t matter much because I was a veteran and thus entitled to, among many other things, mortgage guarantees.
True, it did have a few little problems and quirks — problems like it was eighty or ninety years old and was going to represent a steady drain of payments for repairs and maintenance, quirks like it had nine bedrooms and each one had a lock on the door, this I think because of the fact that in World War II it had been a whorehouse for the GIs in Fort Monmouth.
We bought it, and began moving in.
I have to say that, in spite of probable sooner or later marital discords and what were a few newly worrying financial concerns, I loved the house. I had a great sun-drenched, third-floor room, overlooking the trees, lawn and river, for an office, with one just like it that wound up as Cyril’s.
Red Bank was a useful little town, too. It was across the river, but the bridge was right at the foot of our property, so it was about a ten- minute walk to the railroad or bus stations, about fifteen or twenty to Red Bank’s stores, rather decent public library, movie theaters and, say, McDonalds. There was no reason we couldn’t live quite happily there.
Well, one reason. Judy no longer wanted to be married, at least to me, and then time came when she wanted me to move out. The children? Oh, they would stay with her.
I didn’t know then, and don’t know now. what the precipitating thing was that moved her to that point. I don’t think she had taken up with Walter Miller yet, and if there was any other significant man, I didn’t know it. But, of course, the signs were beginning to multiply. We had simply stopped getting along very well.
Should I have refused to leave? I don’t know. Anyway, I didn’t. I left.
The next year or so of Judy’s life, I can’t write about very well because I was little involved
As for me, it wasn’t all bad. I took an apartment around the East 14th Street neighborhood in New York and lived my life. This included meeting, and a few years later, marrying, my fourth wife, Carol Metcalf Ulf Stanton, who at the time we met was married to my good friend L. Jerome Stanton. I’ll tell you all about them, but this isn’t their story or, for that matter, mine.
It’s Judy’s, and in Judy’s life the next significant thing that happened that I know of was that one day she offered to move out of the house and sell it to me.
To be continued.
Judith Merril, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9