Kathryn Scanlan

Victorian Wedding Portrait

He was no milksop.

His intentions seemed very good, but they often balked when harnessed. (When he asks if you would like more cheese, it is only that he wants not to appear a glutton, and you will recoil at your portion!) He could speak intelligently about a number of subjects if he found your company, but most often he wandered the field alone. Do not set your sweet balmy morning upon his mantle. Nothing to be done: he would always be easier with men than with women. Recall the story of the poor girl-child playmate, reviled, ridiculed. Disfigured by a pot of ink.

By the time his bride arrived he had memorized his cloak and dagger act. His soft swift assurance swooned her, but only an hour. No fool she, and no half-lidded maneuverings escaped.

She, too, loved power and its intoxication.

She developed a dappled scarlet rash and used it as a passport. When at last it seemed as if no more good could come, she collapsed into a sweat and the doctor was called. He diagnosed an acute consumption of nerve. She played at it until the last drop had been wrung, then pulled on her boots for a romp.

On he went, scaling the summits and slaying the beasts that blocked his way. His diligence became a mania, then a specter. Taller grew the stacks of paper; vaster the horizon of his daily riding-out. Creature comforts made him itch. He tried his best regarding the flannel pyjamas, the bedside jar of flowers, and damply conciliatory jokes—it was the right thing to do. But alas! In this life, to what do we pin our badges?

The efficiency of their machine astonished and delighted passers-by and the dogs at the hearth. No respite for it, but they applied oil to the joints religiously. It was passed from one generation to next in a velvet-lined case: a timepiece, an instrument, a weapon, a relic.

Kathryn Scanlan's work has appeared in NOON and Wigleaf, and this month will be included in The Collagist and elimae.

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