Psychopomp Magazine Summer 2015 - Page 8

8 | Psychopomp Magazine

III. The wolf costume did not win him

The wolf, stolen from a department store in a fit of inspiration, came close. It was bejeweled, with a gaping mouth, real teeth, pelt cape, and tail, and though my sisters praised its strong femininity, my mother forbade it. Ghastly, she said.

But the morning the suitors’ faces froze to the snowy ground I saved them from within the wolf. Those greedy girls, Baby Grace included, had been looking in the snow, for favors from Charlie, and their greed got so that the breath coming from their bodies froze them as they groveled on the ground. Coming upon them was like coming upon a more hapless version of myself—I pulled each head up, breathing warmly from the wolf, melting their faces, and thinking how many carcasses must Charlie Habsburg own. How many carcasses and costumes would I own, once I wed him.

I wanted to win Charlie fair.

After that, Mom did not converse with me so much, but she also did not forbid the wolf costume outright, for it had proved more useful than Baby Grace’s lipstick and airs.

That winter was nothing if not repetition. Describing the snow would be like explaining my trousseau. Neither possessed absolution. Yet each evening, I donned the wolf costume and chiffon, and went calling on Charlie.

No one in Charlie’s family had married out for one-hundred years or more, and consequently, Charlie’s mother was his grandmother, aunt, and cousin. She was also his father’s sister, and perhaps his own. In a word, his mother was everything.

She took a shine to me.

I never saw her stand, and of a winter evening she was fond of keeping company with Charlie and me, speaking often, and fondling her birds. She ate digestive biscuits with her tea, never partook of the state carcasses Charlie and I had grown to relish, persuaded us to play pinochle with her, and often regaled us with memories. Charlie’s mother said all we suitors must get on, for if Charlie should wed one of us, and that one should die, the next in line must keep her promises. Charlie’s mother said snow falling on snow was that promise.