Skullthorpe. Wednesday, 15 August 2001. Version 2.1
The sound – thin as wet string, hiss soft-scratch: a fibre needle tracks. Brass bugle horn translates the fine point of vibration from groove to gyration. An old wind-up gramophone plays Astor Piazolla. The walnut box and the bright horn glow, flash or stutter with the light from the leaping fire.
Worn by repetitive fingers the pick-up head is brighter than the smoke tarnished arm.
Clutching, two bodies, in a formal rictus. Sudden choreography. Separated by ridged arms, holding a hollow space between dancing breasts: a hot empty womb.
Tango sweeps their bodies through calligraphy of formal passion.
The dancers: one dressed as an espanic cowboy the other floating in a formal gown of undyed parachute silk.
He: crude Mexican silver – fired red and orange, flashes from string tie, boot points, belt and spurs.
She: gold hoops swing from ears and a jewelled dragonfly sparkles, as the dance presents it to the fire, in a wealth of dark hair caught at the neck.
Figured boots and bright black patent leather pumps puff dust from a ragged carpet figured in gold, black and burgundy.
The fire, caved in massive fieldstone, contained by twisted dragons of wrought iron, red with the profligate flaring death of trees is the only light.
Intently they tango, a concentrated commitment to the music. Eyes, fixed over each other shoulders, unfocused, unseeing, attention fixed on the electric space between breast and breast.
On side-tables rots a feast. The wine: crusty scum-flecked with fly ash. Cheese, a ham, and bread: dry, curl and grey. A rat basks in the heat and gnaws.
The curtains swirl and the ash drifts from the hearth: time zero-points on now, and now, and now.
Firelight flashes on silver and gold, stalks the shadowed oak furniture: cobwebbed, dry and split with heat.
The record completes its spiral – click scratch, click scratch, click scratch.
The dancers freeze, gravity ignored, in space and time they cease.
Out of the shadows an old man shuffles. His features: carved wax, lips cracked, eyes black, dry and hot as a sick dogs nose. Formally Edwardian: dressed in the manner of an English butler, with fingers fine as bird bones, he delicately lifts the pickup from the music’s final circle, swinging it across to the records rim. He cranks the handle and withdraws
Clasping, with purpose, each other – the tango.
Sweat sparkles on brow and lip.
Eyes never meet. The fire supplies light. The fire supplies heat. The rat basks. The rat gnaws. The butler waits.
They dance and dance and dance.