Another Western Constellation
A Flash Fiction or A Working Out of Ideas
She came inside my shop they way rum tastes: sweet but with a kick. She was beautiful sure, but it was how she held herself that woke me from half-slumber from behind the counter.
“Hello – I mean welcome in. Can I get you anything? Iced coffee maybe? It- It’s hot out...” I managed.
“Can anyone play the piano?” She asked turning to look at me. Her hair was buzzed on one side, the side I couldn’t see before.
“I mean on open mic night sure but –”
“But it’s just you and me.”
“Then... Then I don’t see – go for it.” I stumbled.
She sat, fingers to the keys, dark hair a curtain over her face. She wasn’t a virtuoso, she didn’t play anything fancy, but what she played felt just right.
At least I thought so.
The last notes hit the shop like the last drops from a showerhead on ceramic tile, when you realize that now the water’s gone you’re suddenly cold.
“Play me another?” I asked without even thinking.
“Sure thing babe.”
And that’s how Petrea arrived in town.
I hummed to myself that night. First time in a while. I scrubbed that shop twice over, until the espresso machine glimmered like sunrise.
Above my inheritance on main street the family apartment felt more silent than usual. The ceiling above my bed wasn’t any more interesting than the night before, but her songs kept me company. Bouncing around from my short-term memory into the long one and winding up somewhere in my dreams eventually.
One more ghost, at least I wanted this one around.
In the morning I woke to the sound of keys slamming hammers into strings to make perfect delicate harmonies. At first I thought I might still be dreaming. But people don’t miss a note and curse in a dream.
I clattered downstairs and there she was, at the keys like she belonged there. Like she hadn’t left. Like she hadn’t broken into my shop before six o’clock a.m.
And all I said was: “who are you?”
“Does it matter?” she grinned, hands still busy making music “You should lock your door.”
“...yes I should, but I lost the key”
“or list your hours”
“yes...but they change”
“or turn your open/closed sign to the proper side”
“yes I could do that”
“Petrea” she said after ending her song and closing the piano lid “since it seems to matter to you.” She smiled at me, at my pajamas, and bewildered face. Eventually she lifted a single eyebrow, asking.
“Oh, um. Baldur. That’s me.”
“That’s perfect babe, I’ll hide my mistletoe for now. Now make a girl some coffee?”
“That’s what you do here yeah?” Petrea lilted.
“No – I mean, yes.” I replied as I stepped behind the counter and began fulfilling her request without really thinking about it. “I meant what’s this about mistletoe? It’s June.”
She looked at me quizzically “the story? The myth about Baldur?”
“He’s a god right?”
“Mistletoe killed him.”
“Cause his mother was afraid of everything.”
“Oh” I said handing her the drink and pointing vaguely in the direction of cream and sugar. She drank it black.
“Thanks babe, go change. I can hold down the fort.”
I nodded and smiled confusedly, and without a word I left the shop in her hands. Petrea waved me out. They say don’t trust strangers, but I’m glad I did.