In Scotland, sixteen-something-four there was Doris, a heavy-breasted maiden, ungodly, but natural red hair flowing like fire running free in the mountains along the Moray Firth, a measurable undulation against the North Sea. From the top of a smaller mount, George Kinnamore watched her, eyed her, wanted her for himself for the length of his memory. He saw her and her hair the first time when she was twelve and he thirteen. She was screaming at another boy, dead of the plague now, telling him to run along and drown himself. George found this wonderfully amusing.
When Doris got a little older, sixteen, she began to notice men, but never George. She noticed Brent Intyre because of his massive arms and brute strength. Word of his ability to shear a sheep in eleven seconds had reached beyond the Hebrides. But he was to marry the gypsy girl Laurel because his father thought she would give him strong sons and good sex. She noticed Sven Ardency because of his beautiful golden hair and eyes like the blue of the apparent sky. But Sven was leaving for the Clyde towards Glasgow to make his fortune as a sailmate. There were other men, nice-looking men, but none captured Doris's eye. They seemed dull, unspectacular, nothing about them that she could not readily imagine. And what would be the fun in that?
It was an evening after a dance, twenty-nine people in their finest suits and floral frocks, everyone wearing shoes. George had watched Doris be polite to every man who asked for her dance in the Highland Fling. Doris danced, her hair and body bounding until small wet red curls fitted around her beautiful jaw and she began to show visible signs of fatigue. She wanted to love, not dance. When the men were groping the women and the women groping the men, Doris found that she was alone; she began to walk home. Three and a half miles in the dark, but not so dark because it is never as dark as you think it should be in Scotland because that is Scotland, elevated closer to the moon than anywhere else in the world.
The moon was full that night, very close to blooming, and if there was a spell to cast, that night would have been the time to do it. Which is exactly what George had done. George wanted Doris, and people do all kinds of things for the things that they love: kill, wish, ask one god or another. George had no god. Missionaries ran from Scotland, decided to peddle their wares in the Netherlands and France. Some in Sweden. So George had sent a plea to whoever was listening, asking whoever could make it happen, that he be given something that would please young Doris, put her on her knees at his door. When he raised his head from what was a prayer, the answer came without ceremony. His shoulders down, his spirit depleted, he began to walk home, three and three-quarters of a mile. In Scotland's dark.
On the way, he heard a sweet ditty invented, hummed. A darling's familiar music that set his spirit to rise. Who was it but his Doris, Doris humming by the shore. He followed his heart to the edge of the deep slamming flow of the sea against the shale. Saw her silhouette.
"Hello, Doris," he said.
"How are you this evening, Mister George Kinnamore?"
"I am good, Doris," he said.
"So you say." She laughed. He would take her to please her. George thought about the boy she had told to drown himself. He would drown himself after, if she told him to. He put his arms around her waist and kneeled behind her, his face in the small of her back. His hands followed the outline of her body until they reached her small feet. He grabbed her ankles and followed the shape of her warm legs, lifting her dress. Doris smiled satisfactorily. She had found her man.
What happened in the early years of their wedded life was the best part of a honeymoon, though measurably better. George Kinnamore was the most envied man on seven islands; Doris enjoyed her life of tending the ermine and growing hybrid flowers in secret. They ventured together once every fortnight to the neighboring villages. They had arrived at the village Tweed, intending to spend the night and the following day. George had sent her out with all of his money, asking her to spend it all on herself, buy herself something pretty. She went in and out of the homes of the ladies who had something to sell. A fine lady named Nancy G. was selling sweetmeat and jam from her window. A lady named Karen was selling her dead husband's tools from an unhitched wagon. The horse had died as well. Doris looked into all the doorways, saw everything, found nothing she wanted to buy. She felt a pulling at her sleeve and turned around to catch the hand.
The round-shouldered lady was strangely old. Doris was stunned, like a young girl by the appearance of a witch in a folk yarn. The old lady leaned against her and told her everything she needed to know. Many good people were dying from the plague, some starving, and there were a great number of witches to be blamed. Seemed that the witches were being murdered by the score, others were ligaturing their men, making them so they couldn't love anymore, moving south, and taking all with them. That they were doing the devil on the side. The devil, the lady told Doris, sweet, truly loved Doris, had a fifteen-inch piece, he did, and it was cold and empty inside.
"He can only do it like the dogs," she said.
Now, Doris didn't know much but she knew what the collies were like when the girl one was in heat, and that the looking glass from George was seventeen inches long. That was as far as her mind was willing to let her go. She ran from the lady straight to George. Without a word.
Two days since Tweed had passed when George came home in the early morning. He stripped naked. Beneath the covers he put his arm around his naked Doris. She began to cry, trembling. George asked her softly to tell him the matter. She said she could not. He raged that he could do nothing for her tears if she could not tell him where they were from. Doris stopped crying. "I cannot," she said.
Months had passed with Doris and George sharing nothing more than a glance between one another. They did not touch. Slept with their clothes on. Doris became pale, took to looking like she was dying. There was nothing George could do.
One night after dinner he stood beside her, grabbed her hand and placed it on his penis to remind sweet Doris Kinnamore of his grand spissitude. Doris shriveled and vomited on his boots. That night, half-minded, she packed her belongings and was going to leave. But George demanded she admit that he had done nothing wrong. The devil had paid her a visit, she began to tell George, speaking as though he was not present. She swore there were butterflies down there, felt good like love, didn't know it was him down there. She had gone to the devil, let him cunnilingus her. George told her that he would not tell. Doris continued, spun on the rod in air, she had shouted in praise "God" to him, the devil, and George was there, had known all along, had heard her soft jollificatory moaning, but he made no response to her, did not wake her, was terrified himself. He could not hold her or spin her in the air. Could not make himself her god, but could make her love it. But innocent Doris knew not to hold back, thought it best to tell George the truth. George's spissitude seemed like a pinky to the devil's twenty-three.
So George agreed, she had gone to the devil, just as he, and there would be no more swiving for Doris Kinnamore or her husband George. They were both devil's folk. Two people of love, that have to love just as the ocean has to slap the shore. Slept in the same bed for twenty more years, clothes on, no touching. Not so much as a grazing palm or cold toe. Everything and one in their midst dying, the black death coming and going, peeking in their window every two or five years, seeing to make certain he could do no worse and moving on.
(Ann Hudson is a second-year M.F.A. candidate at Sarah Lawrence College. She received her B.A. in English from Texas Tech University, with a minor in painting.)