zingmagazine10 autumn 1999







about zing


alexis vaillant
love for sale
lutwidge finch a novel: chapter 5
evil camouflage


"D'you think I'm pretty?" Doris asked.

Mister MacIntyre took the question seriously, or perhaps took it as an excuse to regard her body with even increased objectivity, more detachment than good manners had permitted during their just-completed tryst. He hung over her and with a sensuality greater than that of touch examined the limbs, shorter and thicker than those favored by society, of a hardworking girl who carried buckets of water upstairs and trays of dirty tea-things down, hips that would one day deliver children, and the breasts that would one day feed them.

"Pretty," he repeated. "You don't need to be pretty, Doris. You are young. Your mere being is the most powerful attractant." Indeed he could feel, perhaps as much in response to his own words as to her body, his manhood swelling. "You are healthy. You are alive."

"Then you don't think I'm pretty," she said.

"I think you are very pretty," he protested.

But the moment had passed. She wriggled from under him and climbed out of the high bed. Why did servant girl's beds always seem so ungainly? he wondered. Because there was no draped quilt, no dust ruffle, no carpet, even, to mediate the descent from warm mattress to cold floor. He gazed sadly at his fading, throbbing lust. Unslakeable thirst.

"They are bringing that gentleman's bags up from the station," she reported, peering out the tiny dormer window afforded this attic eyrie. Still naked, her body unconsciously assumed the "contrapusto" slouch, one hip up, one down, of a Michelangelo sculpture. Mister MacIntyre resumed his calm appreciation of her form, the curve of the haunch, the cleft of the anus, the taut muscles of the thighs.

"Shouldn't you be there to receive his things?" he asked.

"Oh, now that you have had your way with me you want to be leaving. Typical."

"Not at all," he said. Though there was his own work to consider. An afternoon without its page was insubstantial, a coin with only one face. He sat up and swung his legs around. "I cannot see my window from outside," he mused, as much to himself as aloud.

"Course not," her reply came, as still she spied on the lawn. "That room is haunted."

"Haunted?" Mister MacIntyre asked. "My room?


"I'm sure I don't know. Some young lady did herself in there. Many years ago." Doris turned and picked up her underclothes. "Saw her lover, she did. Through that window. With another. Then slit her throat."

In surprisingly short time she was a housemaid again, dressed in white and gray. Mister MacIntyre, still naked on the bed, was a barren heath blasted by winds of passion which gave him no warning nor over which he had any control.

"That is disgusting," she said.

"It is a compliment, actually. At my age. Will you come see me tonight?"

"Maybe I will and maybe I won't. Come on, now. Get dressed. I have to make the bed."

As he did, noting, amused, that he was more modest, turning his back as he hauled on his trousers (But you have more to be modest about, MacIntyre, he told himself), he asked, "And does that lady haunt the place still?"

"I wouldn't know. I don't do that floor, do I? That is Alice's kingdom. Hurry." She gave him a playful tap. "I do need to be down receiving that gentleman's baggage. My baby brother should be back too."