Ocean’s Orchid

Joe Banz

Wolfgang stuck his nose under his armpit and inhaled. Pulling his face away, black beetles fell from his nostrils, landing on the cement sidewalk with the sound of dropped coins, and scurried away into the damp grass.  He plucked several petals from a flower growing nearby and rolled them between his fingers.  Tucking his hand between two buttons of his white shirt, he rubbed the mass under his arms, which were already dripping with sweat.  He released a breath that he couldn’t remember holding, then pulled open the large door and walked toward the ballroom, which was already full of music and her dress.  

She was more beautiful than he had ever seen her before.  Brown curls rolled down over her shoulders, and her white porcelain face seemed to be made from the finest materials that would break at the lightest touch.  The entire floor was covered by her dress, which her mother had sewn with foam taken from the wave that had crushed her older brother’s fishing boat two years earlier.  After ten weeks of searching the ocean and never finding a body, they pronounced him dead, and stuck a bucket of water in the small coffin that was buried in a corner of the cemetery. The dress, which still seethed and churned, climbed up the legs of the furniture, and several tables and chairs, carelessly placed on the gown, whirled around dizzily every time the young girl twirled.  A cat, wrapped in one of the folds of the dress, slept without waking, sometimes pawing at the air where a fish swam through its dream.    

Wolfgang waved and moved toward the girl covered in white, through the room that smelt of salt.  The music, which was performed by four boys with open shirts from which brown tufts of corn sprouted from their red chests, moved through the room causing cups and plates to shiver.  Their voices were high, like those of birds, and were interrupted at times by the sound of wood planks being splintered by a ferocious wave.  Stepping onto her dress, Wolfgang walked in place as the foam brushed by his feet and he waited for her face to arrive.  Finally she was there, her brilliant green eyes before him, her pale skin waiting to crack.  He reached out his arm, his wet shirtsleeve clinging tightly to his skin, and took her hand.  Her arms were bare, and the skin was transparent.  He watched the blood drip through her vessels, pink and yellow, and then his own heart began to beat harder, shaking creases from his shirt.   The room spun and the colors smeared into one as Wolfgang held to the small hand which was extremely cold, but he did not notice until an hour later, when the world stopped moving, and he scraped the black, frost-bitten skin from his fingers.   

The music ended and the waves splashed against the voices, which fell gently to the ground.  Wolfgang walked out into the darkness and sat down on the old broken stairs.  Behind him the door of a shack shook in the wind.