The Countess Has a Brand New Song
I had just finished playing a chaconne which, of course, got me into the Countess Contilia’s pants. Sure, the lute players made money, played for the court but the guitar players performed in the nude for the court ladies – in private – for a small fee.
Countess Contilia wasn’t bad looking and I only had a little contempt for her.
“Come here, darling,” she said, “And bring your little guitar. I want to see your buttocks while you pluck the strings.” Then she stretched her chubby arms toward me and pursed her lips. Of course, being a money-grubbing derelict, I obliged. Some men dig ditches, some men kill people, I made love with my guitar for money.
While I kissed the Countess, I thought of Marisa back home in Spain. As the Countess fondled my rump, squeezing it, stroking it, I imagined Marisa’s beautiful dark eyes and soft red lips – delicate as a rose petal. I could tolerate the Countess’s pudgy hands and doughy belly as long as they transformed into Marisa’s in my mind.
The predicament? Why did Luciano Bartoli, the lute player, receive a commission of 500 pounds, 12 barrels of beer, residence in the court’s stable house, unlimited meals and all of the coiffure maintenance he required – while I was a pornographic showman – a whore fulfilling the secret lusty fantasies of stuffy court ladies? It didn’t seem fair – or right. I was a better composer and musician than Luciano. It was that bastard instrument, I tell you. The lute!
“When is the Count returning?” I asked, desperately trying to find a reason to leave.
“He’s lunching with the Duke of Tuscany on his private island. I don’t expect him back until this evening,” she smiled, her green eyes sparkling with lust. I tried to feign joy. “Oh well,” I said hopelessly, as I pondered how many times she would drag me back into the sack. If I were a lute player, I’d perform ballads for kings and queens, then go home to my own bed, drink Italian wine with one of my servants or lovers, or perhaps just alone. These countesses were horny – they craved sex like dogs love bones. This wasn’t why I studied at the conservatory. I wanted to discuss the delights of music – pontificate about the works of Gaspar Sanz. About why the Spanish guitar players were superior to the Italian ones. But she – she only wanted me in this position, in that position, leg up, foot down, arms crossed – and always naked, always with the blasted guitar. Disgusting.
As I sat, yet again, with the guitar between my naked legs, we heard a noise. The servants ran in, catching me cradling the guitar and kissing its neck as the Countess swooned.
“The Count is home!” shouted one of the maids.
“But he was…” started the Countess, rushing into her clothes.
“He’s had a fight with the Duke, my lady. He is angry and ranting! I think you should take care of this situation at once.” The Countess glanced at me. He’ll have me shot, beheaded, neutered – or worse. Bastard! Idiot! I thought. Couldn’t she even manage her schedule?
The servants gathered my clothes and my guitar and tossed them at me as they pushed me into the bedroom closet.
I could hear the Count shouting.
“The Duke is a damned fool! I will not be insulted by him!” he yelled.
“What happened, dearest?” asked the Countess, trying to calm the Count.
“The Duke said he would not serve Duck Confit for dinner,” he shouted, “as I had requested!” He has French tastes, even though he knows I abhor everything French, from Voltaire to frog’s legs!”
“You shouldn’t get yourself ruffled, dear. You know what the physician has said. It’s bad for your ailing heart,” she pleaded. “Perhaps you could have a bloodletting or a bath in warm pig’s blood – something to calm your spirits.”
I heard his stomping feet.
“No, no, no! I’ve told him time and again – I won’t eat French food, but he’s arrogant and selfish!”
His feet thudded through the Countess’s bedroom. I could hear his heavy breathing – as if he’d been attacked by a roaring lion, his chest now heaving and huffing.
“I hate all things French! French women, French perfume, French food, clothing – everything!” Stomping his foot along with each category, with more of a whimper than a shout now, he approached the closet.
I crouched, curled up naked, my head pressed against the contours of the guitar’s body. Nearly upside-down, I could see him through a crack in the door. He had bright red hair like a clown – he was handsome. His blue coat was adorned with gold buttons – tasteful. He was sharply dressed, I considered, even as I imagined the ways in which he might kill me.
Talking loudly, I watched his big thick lips – red like a rooster.
The knob turned. I put my head down, thinking if I couldn’t see him, perhaps he wouldn’t see me.
He swung the door open.
“And what have we here?”
The Countess didn’t reply, except for, “well…umm…well.”
Her face red with shame, she said, ”While you were away with the Duke, I took a diversion, to make the day pass.”
Staring at me with the eyes of a madman, the Count slammed his fist into his hand. He was made a fool of – the servants knew – her being caught was as embarrassing for him as it was for her.
“Get up,” he shouted.
I rose, trying to cover myself with the guitar.
“A guitar player. Not even a proper lute player!”
“Please let him go,” the Countess asked softly. I looked at her, then at him. He remained stern, annoyed.
“I could have you castrated, you know.”
I said nothing.
“You are nothing – a shit! Obviously not respectable, playing this ridiculous instrument.”
Insults hurling – the guitar again.
“Aside with the guitar,” he said.
I moved the guitar aside.
“Umm,” he said, looking my naked body up and down. “Can you play a Sarabande?”
“Yes,” I replied, reaching for my trousers.
“No, no,” he said, “I’d like you to play as you are. Play it for me sweetly,” he said looking at me with wide-open, anticipating eyes.
Damn those lute players, I thought.
©Mike Fiorito all rights reserved
Mike Fiorito is currently an Associate Editor for Mad Swirl Magazine.
His writings have appeared in Ovunque Siamo, Narratively, Mad Swirl, Pif Magazine, The Honest Ulsterman, Chagrin River Review, The New Engagement, and many other publications.