Upon Your Marriage to a Redcap
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Listen to your mother, but think before you follow her advice. Interspecies marriages are hard to maintain, and never survive without compromise. No one can outrun a redcap, nothing can stop her once she’s sighted prey. You’re brilliant; she loves you. If she chooses to kill you, you won’t be the exception.
This is such an awful thought, she won’t be able to voice it. It is such an awful thought, you must never forget it.
Those first months will be the loneliest of your life, wandering the chambers of a beautiful stone castle out of your childhood dreams. You’ll miss your family, who are five hours and an ocean away from you. You’ll miss having real internet.
Stick to what you hold true. Your wife is strong and handsome, and when you consider what the men in your MBA program were like, it ought to be enough that she loves you.
She loves you so much.
Don’t call her a dwarf, an elf, or a fairy. She doesn’t think it’s flattering, and she won’t see the humor in being insulted. Call her a knave, a knight, and pretend you don’t know the difference. She’ll frown and there will be bewilderment in her voice, and you’ll remind yourself (every day of your marriage) that she isn’t used to normal people.
“I am a monster,” she’ll say, “And I have no sovereign.”
“You have me,” you will tell her, “and all I see is that shining plate armor,” and a craggy face and shy eyes under a burnished helm.
When she gifts you a gelding taller than she is, better suited to a joust than an amble, kiss her, name the horse Bulldozer, then write your parents and your aunt Hatty a thank you letter for those riding lessons all those years ago.
You won’t discover her hunting grounds until she’s satisfied you won’t get lost on your own land. The horse will notice before you do, pin his ears and dance so wildly that you’ll wonder if there are panthers here after all. But nothing will jump out at you until you dismount, and then you’ll notice the stench, so strong you have to tie him to a tree and investigate yourself.
Your sisters are a journalist and a historian; you know about impartiality and ethnocentrism, you know about culture shock. Wait until she’s settled down at the dinner table before you start screaming at her, like your mother did, like your grandmother, like you always smugly insisted you wouldn’t. Like setting a bear trap, say, “I found the corpses today.”
Her eyes will go wide, she’ll fill her mouth with buttermilk biscuits like it might save her. Say, “You told me the cable guy must’ve got lost.”
She won’t try to condescend to you or act like you’re crazy. That’s part of why you’ll stay with her. She’ll say, “You knew this was my life, love,” and part of you will do the math, is always doing the math. Is this reasonable? What are you supposed to expect, really, in a marriage? Upon whose death do you part?
Say, “That’s bullshit. I said I didn’t mind that you kill people, not that you can just leave your leftovers on the lawn. It took nearly an hour to settle the horse.” Sigh, look at the corner of the wall that’s too high for one to re-mortar alone, think: either you fix this or you leave.
“Well, I guess it’s stupid to keep getting meat from the store.”
Use every part of her prey. It’s the least you can do. Boil their bones to make a broth, and it will give your wife the strength to raise a castle.
Don’t be afraid to cry in front of her. Don’t let it get into your head that she is a monster. When you miss your home, lean your weight into her and take off her armor. Let her hold you until you are warm again.
Remember why you fell in love with her. Remember that she is strong and that she is loyal and that there is so much of her that is tender, even if it’s under bristles worse than a stinging nettle. Tell yourself that she’s only so harsh because it’s kept her alive, and then kiss her chest because it can be fun, too.
Don’t let her near your sisters unless she has killed first.
Don’t tell your mom you take this precaution.
When you find out you’re pregnant, everything will change. You’ve wanted it so long, but when it becomes real, when you have someone else to protect, it will feel different. The way people have spoken about you, pity more than judgment–it’s her funeral, girls make stupid choices sometimes–you’ll realize that’s all over now, you can’t take it back. People won’t be scared for you anymore. They’ll see you standing, pregnant, with your wife, resplendent and unrepentant, and they’ll think you’re consigning your baby to a childhood in a broken home.
They won’t see your wife’s giddiness, that she’ll protect your family with her life and feed you with her hands. They’ll see a baby naked on the floor, crying and streaked with blood as your wife changes his diaper. You can’t do this alone.
Call your Dad. He keeps strange hours, and he’s always had your back. Say (not too insistent, not too naïve, not at all unsure) that you love her, that you believe she’s a good wife. Surprise yourself by laughing when your dad asks, all cop training, “Do you feel safe around this creature?”
Think: yes, like you had felt safe when the family dog snapped at Cousin Jimmy, like you could walk across the highway blindfolded and no one could touch you.
When people ask why you married her, laugh, gleam, say you don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to marry a woman with stamina and an ancient stronghold. Then smile, glitter, say it’s not that at all.
Remember that you loved pulled pork growing up. Make your grandma’s old barbecue sauce so that you don’t gag thinking of what you’re eating.
If you don’t use what she kills, it will rot in the fields.
Pray every day on your knees. She won’t understand this, but it will make you feel better. Remember the old martyrs. Remember that your devotion needs no justification.
Don’t wonder if your children will be like her. When your son asks for a hat like his mother’s, felt the wool yourself and kiss his cheeks. Your wife won’t be able to go home for Christmas with you, can’t leave her domain, so stand tall and take your children yourself. Call her every night and let them talk to their mama; juggle three passports and glare at anyone who looks sympathetic in the airport; teach them about baseball and hot dogs; when the pastor at your parents’ church asks about your son’s cap, say, “They wear them in his mother’s culture. I made it.” Don’t ever let your children think there might be something wrong with them.
Invest yourself in your home, your family, your love for each other. Learn the best drapes to cut the cold, learn masonry enough to hold the walls together, learn to be terrifying as yourself and not as the redcap’s wife. When she says how you’ve changed from your wedding day, be proud and not ashamed.
When your children run from the table and ask, “But are we eating people?,” she will want to lie or apologize. Hold firm.
Remember your mother, put another helping of potatoes on everyone’s plate, say, “There are plenty of children as would be grateful for some people to eat, so don’t go complaining.”
Hold their gaze until they sit down, and then spoon some gravy over their biscuits.
Learn not to make assumptions. Don’t be surprised when she digs a hole six feet deep in the churchyard and plants a tree with a tire swing. When your daughter burns her fingers climbing the sconces, find the poultice your wife made and text your mom a picture of her wrapping your baby’s hands in gauze. When your son says he wants to be a painter, slam your fist on the table and say there’s no reason he can’t do that and keep up the family business, too.
Spend an hour a day on your hair, be the most beautiful wife you can be. Love her. Throw dinner parties. Buy a hundred-dollar blow dryer.
When she asks why you married her, say, “You know that,” and “I love you.” And when that’s not good enough, think about it, crack your neck, say, “You’re the only one who’s made me think, I’d rather see where my life goes with her than if I were just on my own.”
If she ever raises a hand to you, take her cap while she sleeps and set the dryer on high.1 Comment
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About the Author
Tori Curtis lives in beautiful, scenic upstate New York with her unsinkable wife and their dog. When she's not writing, she enjoys ignoring recipes and giving friends bad advice. You can find her @tcurtfish on twitter or at toricurtiswrites.com.