Two men are seated third row center of an empty concert hall.
Martin sips cold coffee, wondering why they always look like the evil stepsisters of cellists. Where are the women of the publicity photos, he laments, the ones who drape themselves, pouting, over their instruments? He takes bite of cold pastrami on rye.
Eric hands Martin the next CV. This one has a bit more promise, he says. Julliard. One of Helmerson's protégés. Rostropovich Prize, 1996. Featured by half the chamber orchestras of Europe while she was still in braces.
Martin sigh and nods, reminds himself to tell the girl to get him tuna fish next time.
Ready when you are, Eric shouts into the void.
She peers out from the wings. Maybe they're not as ferocious as everyone says. She tugs at her top, wishing she had worn the white blouse instead. Her mother insisted on this clingy black purchase, quoting from one of her cable shows that plunging necklines are slimming. She decides the blond man looks nicer than the fat one eating the sandwich. She'll play to the blond one.
She places her hands on either side of her Gagliano's waist and lifts it to her face. She presses her lips to its left F hole and whispers, I love you. Into the right she whispers, I need you.
She strides over to what seems like an impossibly small wooden chair center stage. She lowers herself onto it, testing its sturdiness before positioning the cello between her legs. She resists the urge to tug at the back of her top again by poising her bow over the D string.
Isn't that a Gagliano? Eric says.
Hands like hams, Martin thinks.
Haydn's Cello Concerto in D Major, she says.
Now there's a surprise, Martin hisses to Eric.
Eric signals for her to begin.
She closes her eyes.
She is marooned on an island off the coast of Costa Rica. There are no other survivors – not even her mother – of the ill-fated cruise ship that finally hired her as first-and-only cello for its Vegas-style Broadway revue. She alone has drifted to safety atop her faithful Gagliano.
She manages nicely on bananas, coconuts, and dates.
In fact, the rigors of island life have quickly melted away those extra pounds. Her hair is now sun-bleached, her skin bronzed, her stomach taut, her breasts and buttocks perky. Her work uniform – a black clingy top with matching black trousers – has long since fallen away in tattered ribbons.
She makes for her favorite waterfall.
It's on the remotest part of the island, in a hidden cleft of volcanic rock surrounded by rare orchids with callas cascading all around. First she must cross a beach where thousands of vermilion ghost crabs scuttle drunkenly with the ebb and flow of tides. Then she must traverse a glade of plane trees, keeping an eye out for wild boars that stun unsuspecting prey with their overwhelming stench before tearing into the flesh with long yellowed fangs. Next she must swing Tarzan-style over a clicking river of army ants that leaves only a swath of bare earth behind. Finally she hears the hush of rainwater on rock. She parts the palm fronds and there it is.
The gentle spray, when she steps beneath it, is the same temperature as her body. She relaxes under its insistent pulse. The most delicious moment of her day: eyes closed, head bowed, arms crossed over her breasts. Hugging. Waiting.
She knows the stranger is watching – the island's only other inhabitant – deciding when to emerge from the ferns. She nods, eyes closed, in anticipation of his arrival. She hears the pop of each button, the unzip of his trousers well before she feels his smooth chest nestling into her shoulder blades, his bronze arms (covered in coarse blond hair) wrapping around hers, his heavy penis resting along the crease of her buttocks.
I love you, he whispers into her left ear. She smiles. I need you, he whispers into her right. She nods.
The unmistakable odor of maleness atomizing with the scents of stone and fern and rainwater. The vibration of as yet undisclosed childhood secrets in his chest. The trace of his fingertips along the vee of her hips. Ah, the probe of those fingertips! A silent and excruciating sign language telling folktales, amusing anecdotes, and childhood secrets until, finally, with a great shudder, a pair of scarlet macaws take flight from the underbrush, screaming.
Her bow skates across the bridge.
The two men wince.
She tries in vain to pick up where she left off.
Thank you, Martin interrupts.
She blinks once, twice.
We'll be in touch, he says.
She stands. She exits.
Well? Eric asks, cocking his eyebrow.
Another pig, Martin says, shaking his head. Don't you think?
Right, Eric says. Pig. Pig playing a pig with a pig.
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