Night of the new moon, the extra darkness shivering with expectation, anticipation. Zelda was sitting in her workroom, pinning butterflies to a board. It had been a good afternoon. If only it could have rained. The pins slid easily through the soft bodies, the wings already spread. In the apartment below hers, a pianist worked on a concerto, letting the notes float up through the floorboards. She gathered the echoes in her hands, sprinkled them over the butterflies, like fine dust. He propositioned her once, in the lobby. She refused, claiming preoccupation with her collection. As if it mattered.
Between pinning butterflies on boards, she dissected beetles, looking for essences, probing for questions without answers, impossible solutions. She kept careful records on a wall, charts filled with details, lines and arrows indicating connections, possibilities, trains of thoughts. The floating notes became a persistent presence in her ramifications. Sometimes she wanted to let him know, tell him everything. At other times she simply listened so as not to forget, regardless of whether it rained or not.
When he came to an allegretto, she went downstairs to tell him about the butterflies. He took her in and folded her into his concerto, played her like a delicate instrument, a violin, perhaps, as an accompaniment to his piano. She hummed the main theme over and over, the way the notes had taught her, the way his hands moved, a delicate balance. As delicate as her butterflies, she thought, as precious as her beetles. She shut off her mind and lost herself in the concerto, played his piano as he played her violin, from faster to faster, higher to higher.
Later, much later, she told him about the rain, how she collected it in her hands, distilled it in her workroom to find out what she wanted to know, stored it in vials. She gave him one of the vials, to show him. He played her another part of his concerto, and she hummed along. It was always a matter of hands, of hitting the right note, finding the right nuance. They were getting better all the time, composing each other, getting into the proper tempo, the appropriate rhythm.
Once he went with her, to see the butterflies. She showed him her dissections, her charts, but she knew he was distracted. He wanted to play her, as he played his piano. She wanted to be played, wanted to play him. It was irrelevant that it didn’t rain, it was still the new moon, and darkness was darkness, one of the movements in his composition, she an integral part. She knew he needed her to find the best notes, the passages of emotion, just as she needed him to collect the butterflies, distill the rain.
It was she who insisted on sweeping up all the discarded notes in his apartment, the left over echoes, the phrases he might still use. It was she who helped him integrate her into his adagios and allegros, taught him to know the violin. He, in turn, kept her humming along, responded to her unspoken questions, held her when she listened to the rain. Her part in the concerto was as important to him as it was to her, and they made sure they never let each other forget. It could even have been the full moon, although it took some waiting for that, the darkness of the new moon being what it was.
And then the build-up to the finale, the slow sweet climb, she could feel it in her skin, in his, the piano holding off, the violin. He led the way up the slope, she a willing follower reaching for the sky. The new moon darkness shuddered, wild with stars, the piano and the violin merging for the final movements, grasping at delirious notes. Butterflies and beetles lost their significance, the distillates but a fleeting thought in the charged night. The climb became the only thing that mattered in the primordial configuration.
The finale came as a sudden revelation, staccato notes tumbling over precipices into chasms of resolution, fulfillment. His body shivered into hers, through hers, his hands more and more frantic on the keys, frantic on the strings. Hers fluttered feverishly all over his concerto, his masterpiece, as if they were her butterflies. The final notes crescendoed through the culmination of their mutual composition, their bodies melted in the heat of the dark night, their minds clung to the fiery sky, drunk with satiation. And then, after the ultimate completion, after the last note, finally, the rain.
Peter Baltensperger is a Canadian writer of Swiss origin and the author of ten books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. His latest book, Inside from the Outside: A Journey in Sudden Fiction, is being published by iUniverse Publishing in 2013. His work has appeared in print and on-line in several hundred publications around the world. Most recently, he has been published in such publications as The Big Book of Bizarro, Danse Macabre, The Medulla Review, Apocrypha and Abstractions, and Black Heart Magazine, among others. He makes his home in London, Canada with his wife Viki and their three cats.