James hadn’t known when it might happen, but time finally rolled round its chariot and plucked a string. James put on his softest shirt, it was barely more than gossamer at the shoulders, and his white work pants stippled with black, umber, konigsblau. He put on his speckled work shoes. He left flecks of gold on his pillowcase. Everything in this room was familiar to his senses. He padded over to Eva’s side of the bed, and in the charcoal of air, he imagined an erasing pencil to highlight the wisps of her tumbled curls and the curve of her cheek, her moonlit brow. Used blue-tac to give the pillow its granular surface, and a kneaded eraser to differentiate the neck and jawlines. He kissed her softly.
He softly descended two staircases to get to his walkout studio, flipped on the switch, and edged in sideways, through the small vestibule filled with stretchers and frames, bolts of canvas, crates of gesso. Eva had placed a small box from Brooklyn with this week’s delivery of gold leaf above the keys.
He looked at the canvas. He continued studying it for thirty minutes, an hour. He heard birdsong; it was 5. He touched its topography. He set out X-acto blades like a surgeon. You’re coming up today, Eurydice, he said. I will pull you up.
He had been listening to old music, and was glad to discover last week @theoracle had uploaded Minimal Man’s Safari. He ripped only one song, and if he listened to it until the iPod exhausted, it would be two hours, and then he’d know civilization was far behind. He’d listen to Patrick Miller wail the words pull back the bolt that 22 times in a row, and his mind would see Sallie Gardner at a Gallop, thinking only of Yeats’ fascinating colt. Eurydice would find a quiet space, and tuck her hair behind her ear in a soft motion. He said to Eurydice: it’s time.
Patrick Miller removed his shoes, Eurydice removed her sandals, Dante Gabriel Rosetti tapped Ford Madox Ford on the shoulder. James picked up a Conte crayon and drew a lovely q on the floor where he would stand. For as long as he could remember, he would draw that chi — it was the Virgin’s veil, the oracle’s hood, shadowing a face he might draw with light. He removed his shoes and stepped on the veil.
The strips of tape, funerary wrappings, were hid below the lithosphere and mantel of the painting’s surface. These would be pulled, and Eurydice would wait below. He put on the music, and after it was exhausted James’s vision became singular as the blade itself. He pulled up a stool when his back became tired, and using a jeweler’s loupe he made each cut with precision, sometimes stopping where strips intersected, a fecund underworld web.
And over the course of the day he saw traces of Eurydice, smelled her linseed perfume, and did not eat any breakfast, any lunch, any dinner. Sometimes he would just stand and see the rhizomes of tape curling down from the canvas.
Eurydice at last put her foot on the lintel, and James covered his eyes with his hand and said darling, wait. There is one more thing. He put the stool aside, transferred the X-acto blades to their wooden tray, and slipped on his shoes. He stood at a distance near the door full of packages. As he opened his eyes, he watched the veil fall.
He ignored the hooves clamoring behind her, shots fired. He heard a voice sing James.
Music can hold enormous power in memories and experiences, transporting us instantly to an age, location, or person. What sonic joys, mysteries, disbelief, and clarity have you experienced? Identify songs of influence in your life and explore them like variations on a theme, melding syntax and song structure, recalling the seriousness or levity that accompanies. Whether it’s an account of when a specific song first entered your life, the process of learning to play a song, teaching someone a song, experiencing the same song in different places as it weaves through your life, unbelievable radio timing, sharing songs with those in need, tracking the passing down of songs, creative song analysis etc, I am interested in those ineffable moments and welcoming submissions of your own variations on a theme, as drawn from your life’s soundtrack. Please email submissions to email@example.com keep an eye out for others’ Variations.
**(“song” is a broad phrase: could be a pop song, a traditional tune, a symphony, commercial jingles, a hummed lullaby, 2nd grade recorder class horror stories, etc)**
Anne Elizabeth Weisgerber has recent fiction in SmokeLong Quarterly, New South, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Shotgun Honey, and she is a Best Small Fictions 2016 Finalist. Her nonfiction has appeared in New Jersey Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, Alternating Current, and she has won First Prize for Features Writing from the SPJ. She reads for Pithead Chapel, reviews for Change Seven Magazine, and is writing her first novel. Follow her @AEWeisgerber, or visit anneweisgerber.com