RAGE OF THE BUTTERFLY
Rely - Just
thinking about the next time he would see her made him numb with lust.
Music does not influence
real life, of this Mark was certain as he crouched uncomfortably in his
seat beneath the opera lights. The last person on Earth who cared for
his wife's taste in music, he had come with her and her friends only because
a fight was inevitable if he refused. He crossed his arms and grumbled
to himself while she filled the seat next to him and "their"
friends engaged in conversation to his displeasure. The curtain rose.
The audience donned their glasses and Mark prepared to go to sleep as
the performers took their places. He was soon senseless and dreaming of
He sat unresponsive until the middle of the production when a thunderclap
erupted from the timpani in the orchestra pit and Mark jumped irritably.
It was the beginning of a number, the drums pounded and he wondered why
anyone would want to listen to such a morose bunch of noise. There was
a male character making his way across the stage dressed in black, and
a pale something in the center which Mark decided was a female character
crouched and motionless in a cocoon-like shape.
The man, a baritone testified his anger in incomprehensible Italian as
he paced and shook his fists at whatever thought infuriated him. Soon
he realized he had awakened the woman with his caterwauling who now emitted
a single prolonged note as she arose at a snail's pace. He sang more submissively
now, circling her as she began to repeat his fury- leading verse in this
bizarre duet. As her part became steadily louder and higher his became
more frantic, terrified of what would happen when she was fully alert
and enraged. Mark was curious himself but his eyes had closed again before
the number was finished. He dreamt of the woman he was seeing behind his
wife's back, a guiltless little trollop good for what ailed him (a lack
of sex without conversation). She was a moaner, not a talker. Just thinking
about the next time he would see her made him numb with lust.
The production was over, the house lights were back on and his wife woke
him. The group got up to leave but between the performance hall and the
lobby they stopped to share impressions with every other buff in the place.
Mark glared at the exit. Surrounded by his wife's friends deep in discussion,
one of them turned to him and asked what he thought of the program. "Well,"
he said, "I didn't care for that 'hell hath no fury like a woman
The group was suddenly quiet, eight pair of eyes focused on him. "The
number." he said, pulling at his collar. "'Rage of the Moth'
or whatever." No one knew what he was talking about. "We'd better
be going." started the conversation again and the crowd thinned as
people embraced and Mark thumbed through a bulletin with mild confusion.
"You were asleep the entire time, dear." his wife whispered
when they were finally alone and she led him to the door.
Mark reclined in the driver's seat, staring through bloodshot veins at
the passing multicolored lights. Until now he had never viewed the world
from any musical perspective and he wanted it to go away. His wife would
have never gotten him to drive in the first place if she knew how to use
When they came home he went immediately to the fridge for a beer. (Most
of these annoying excursions seemed to be one long wait for a bottle.)
He unloaded himself on the couch to watch the screen thinking of where
he'd rather be, leaving the wife to worry about anything that remained
to be done today.
The apartment was modest and unadorned except for her feminine junk. She
walked to the bedroom, the mattress the nearest unoccupied place to sit
down. They did not as a rule prepare for bed at the same time; Mark would
crash in the middle of the afternoon or wait until three AM. She didn't
seem to mind, just smiled at his laxity while he made silent comments
She saw the world as an endless procession of engagements, pretentious
enough to see herself as the queen of her domain but oblivious to her
husband's secret activities. Mark tapped his fingers and waited for her
He spent the night on the couch, not turning his head until the door latched
and he was finally alone. He exhaled loudly, releasing the empty bottle
from his hand. He had watched the sky fade to an overcast white at the
window, the color of his wife's repugnant hide. But the deadweight he
married was gone now and he didn't even have to move from his spot to
dial the number of his loyal slut.
Her name was Mona, although he only called her uncreative pet names. He
didn't even know her last name, one of many details skipped on the night
they became acquainted. She had been swooning from powder all night and
was waiting for his call. When she appeared at the door she was wearing
an unflattering halter on her bony frame and a purse hung leisurely from
the crook of her elbow.
She tore into him, her right hand still holding a cigarette as she wrapped
her spidery limbs around him like a black widow seizing her prey. Her
leg came up instinctively, the hem of her miniskirt too short for a woman
of her experience. Mark's wife spent close to an hour preparing herself
each morning but Mona had probably not even changed clothes since yesterday.
They went right to business, Mark starving for the only time of day he
actually felt less than miserable. Even Mona was put off by his desire
to go directly to the bedroom. The first couple of times they had at least
played with a bottle in the kitchen or started on the couch. To her this
was him being attentive. In her world these things made her feel like
But now he only hungered for one thing and the day she couldn't provide
it she would be history. She pushed against him in mock protest, but it
wouldn't have mattered if it were real as he forced her into the bedchamber,
pulling the grey shirt over his head. They had sloppy, careless sex devoid
of any beauty or meaning. Their clothes ended up all over the room, a
high-heeled shoe knocking a lamp on its side. The bed was a shambles.
He would have to take great time and attention in concealing the evidence,
but right now he lacked even the stamina to adulterate well. The top half
of his body was off the bed with his head senseless on the floor and his
arms limp. This swoon, this stupor was the only ten minutes of the day
he ceased to be chasing something or hiding something. There was no smile
to show his contentment, only a russet face that would lead him to complain
of a headache and cure it with alcohol. Mona slid off the bed as if she
had somewhere to go and Mark lurched upright in puzzlement. She was unsatisfied,
or at least the drug had worn off. She put her clothes on hastily and
went for the door.
"What!" he shouted with the volume of an infant wailing to be
fed. "You went too fast." she said, shouldering her purse. "You
don't make me feel like a woman." "At least you could give me
that much. You don't love me." "You know I do!" Mark whined,
prepared to say anything. "I'm just an easy lay to satisfy you."
She was gone before another thought elapsed and on her way to her car.
Mark fell backward onto the bed, exasperated. He put a hand to the sweating
veins of his forehead. He couldn't think, he only knew he had to have
more and his only chance (if any) was getting away. He'd tell her whatever
she wanted to hear to have her again. He dressed in a flash and ran out
the door to catch her. He didn't even think to close it on the way out.
He rocketed down the hall and the stairs like a killer after his next
victim. He broke the handle on the outer door when he slammed it into
the cement wall of the parking garage. He ran much like he made love,
fast and reckless. The only sign of his mistress was a screech of tires
at the gate. He rushed to the curb where his sleepless, oversexed body
finally ran out of steam. The pupils of his eyes rolled back and he fell
into a slump, his skin dark as a beet.
The moment Mark awoke he winced from the pain in his skull and tottered
slowly to his feet. It was still the middle of the workday, the cars looked
about the same. If it had been more than an hour someone would have noticed
him and knelt to help (people around here cared about that sort of thing).
As he pulled himself up from the concrete, a sound came out of him that
was more like an attempt to hit a note than a groan. People make all sorts
of noises at the extreme of the human range when they are just waking
and there is no one around. They also see things differently, and now
Mark looked at the world as if through an aquarium. He staggered in ape-fashion
the way he had come, a line from some wordless song mumbling incoherently
from his lips until he made it to the door.
He pulled himself up the stairs to the third floor. He was more alert
when he reached the hallway, where he stopped and saw that the door to
the apartment was now closed.
"Damn do-gooders." he muttered, hoping a neighbor had closed
it out of courtesy. Then he heard a noise from within like the slamming
of a cabinet door. He clenched his fists, praying to fight a burglar.
His wife never came home at this hour, it wasn't possible. He stepped
inside, cursing under his breath. He could still smell Mona's perfume.
The percussive sound struck again, seemingly from nowhere. Mark's heart
was racing like a steam engine beneath his ribs. The place was deathly
quiet except for that noise which he waited to hear again so he could
locate the source. He stepped from one room to another like a walking
corpse, that same unintelligible tune being whispered from his mouth as
his eyes panned frantically. In the kitchen he saw his wife's handbag
sitting on the table. The queen was here. A rolling tympanic thump resounded
in his brain and shook his entire body. The sound was coming from his
head, and it began a steady rhythm he remembered all too well from that
opera number with the butterfly. The mallets pounded his skull as if he
were right there in the pit. He held a double handful of his hair in desperation
as he moved slowly toward the bedroom. He didn't know if he was trying
to block the music or figure out what to do when he saw her. Everything
he spotted that Mona had left out of place brought a new revelation and
Why was this insane ballad haunting him? He knew what was coming, but
he had never seen the finale so he didn't know what terrifying end had
met the poor baritone who disturbed the cocoon. The score grew louder,
faster and more intense as any hope of covering what he had done disappeared
but the exact moment of the discovery remained an unfathomable unknown.
He followed the rolling stanzas up and down about to be sick from it.
Mark leaned against the side of the hallway pulling his arms inward, unable
to walk in a straight line. He was scared out of his mind.
"L-l-eave m-me the h-hell alone..." he pleaded desperately to
the unseen orchestra. He finally made it to the bedroom. Even the light
was wrong because the lamp was on its side. His wife stood with her wide
back to him, her frilled business clothes pristine as always. He made
his way silently forward, looking for any dead giveaway he would not be
able to explain.
The chords rolled, the female part of the duet almost upon him. The music
made it impossible for him to think or do anything but stand behind her
and pray. He couldn't comprehend the silence surrounding her, his face
that of a man about to be beaten. She turned around, and Mark found himself
unable to read by her statement whether she knew or not, his eyes watering
from fear and fatigue. She returned the lamp to its upright position,
then approached the bed to make it. She complained without looking him
in the face that he could clean up after himself every once in a while.
She could have known everything or still been oblivious for all he could
tell with the racket in his brain.
He stood motionless, watching her tuck and fold each sheet with maddening
attention. The notes were calming down and he wondered if they might fade
altogether before he had to endure the climax. Watching those careful
hands he imagined for the first time that she could really hurt him, that
he was no longer in control of the relationship and perhaps he never was.
she pulled back the undersheet, a cymbal crashed and Mark's eyes
bulged watching her lift Mona's red thong from the bed with a hand
that had never touched such a thing in her life. The size and style
of this ridiculous piece of clothing made it a revelation as clear
as a stain of blood upon his soul.
She turned to face him. He could not bear to watch her hold it nor could
he think to escape with the notes so high he clamped a hand over each
ear to make it stop. The wail he imagined from her open mouth as she approached
him was deafening. She was suddenly a huge and hideous beast moving in
for the kill and what she would do when she got her hands on him he was
unable to fill the blank.
This was a woman you do not scorn, you do not cross. She wielded more
power than a hundred harlots. As he watched her near she had never been
more terrifying, and until now she had never been more beautiful. Until
now he had never been truly ashamed he had deceived her. He had not truly
seen how perfect she was and the depth of his crime. The realization pummeled
him into submission like a refrain ever higher, ever shriller. She had
not even reached him or knew exactly how she would rebuke him when he
collapsed onto the carpet, wailing and clutching at his ears for the music
to spare him.
© Len Rely 2001
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