(Editor's Note: this story begins with Goat Fate.)
For six months I have been showering her with baubles, and Angel’s feet hardly touch the ground. I have taken leave from the university, from my TV show. Her eyes shine and I cannot get enough of her. Gliding in my arms in her new world, her body becomes other-worldly as she soars. She never says no.
But even as I soak her up I see the beginning of unrest; her eyes linger now on the cocky dancers with the gold chains and flashy Rolexes, the slicked back hair. Some are richer, many younger. Watching her sleep after another wild night I tell myself I will tire of her, I am sure to tire of her. We are out every night and I am spent. Wonder drugs keep me going but I should have met her twenty years ago.
When General Smrt, beribboned, makes an entrance at the beginning of Swan Lake and the crowd stills as he walks to his loge, her eyes glint.
“You will introduce me,” she brushes my cheek with a feathery touch, and I do, at intermission. The general, eyes narrowed, invites us to remain, share a few glasses of Veuve Cliquot. He will send us an invitation, he purrs, jaguar-like, teeth flashing.
That night she is insatiable, does not fall asleep till dawn. I open our Prague hotel window wide, lean into the driving rain, let it soak my hair; rivulets pour down my face. Below, delivery men are beginning their rounds, scurrying around puddles. Behind me Angel calls out, voice throaty with sleep, “Close that, come to bed,” but by the time I turn around, she is asleep. I can only stare.
An engraved invitation, requesting the honor of our presence at the General’s Ball, arrives the next day. “It might be a bore,” I say to her. “Perhaps we should fly to Cannes instead.”
“You don’t have to go,” she says. “You have been tired recently. I will go for a while on my own.” Her concern touches me.
“Together, my Angel. Always together.” She smiles and I prepare.
The General’s welcome is most cordial. He kisses her hand, asks me for permission to have a dance with her, which I grant, of course. As they move, locked together as one, across the dance floor, I see. As the General’s arm grasps her waist and holds her hand, wings, steel-grey, grow out of her shoulder blades. They spread, wide as arms, and she is not touching the ground anymore, but flies, tightly gripped by him. The General is rooted still, but she is flying.
He brings her back to me at the end of the dance, bows, thanks me for the honor. The wings, I see, have folded and remain folded when I dance with her. No one pays the slightest attention to them. Twice more the General requests a dance, twice more she flies, wings outspread. I am glad of my preparations.
When we return home, a few early chirps sound in our oak. She is the tired one, not I, but I persuade her to have a special last glass with me. The taste, I have made sure, is not affected by my additions; the dose ensures deep rest.
Eyes closed, head on chin, the wings, slightly open, move in tune with her breathing. I have sharpened the knives to factory perfection. The cartilage and feathers are as easy to cut as a cream filled éclair. She sighs in her sleep; I see the eyelids struggling to open but she does not wake as I cut. After the wings I move to the neck. I am ready and make very little mess. At the end the eyes open wide. I put the head on the table facing me. I want to see her, looking like the angel I first saw coming through the door of her father’s shop, as I sip my own special drink. Our flight together will be a long one.
published 26 August 2011