During the interval, the flute player pulls up his tux and sits on the last step outside the opera house. ‘Hells vengeance boils in my heart’ he whistles. Across the road, the fountain glitters in the sunlight. Above him the golden dome of the opera house gleams in the evening sunshine. A rose seller drops a perfect pink bloom on the steps and the flute player breathes in the fumes of a bus as it shunts past. The ground rumbles beneath his feet.
A woman in pink-spangled slingbacks skitters from the doors, spilling her wine. A pair of chattering girls pose and twitch in red suede platforms and gold-heeled stilettos. A man in shiny zip-up boots flicks ash and steps on the pink rose kicking it so it tumbles down the steps and lands by the flute player’s feet. He picks it up, saving it from the tyres of a dark blue Ferrari. He thinks he sees a crack in the pavement that wasn’t there before.
The sun burns the back of his neck and the wind blows the fountain spray into a shimmery mist. He sniffs the perfect rose. It smells of cigarette ash and spilled Chardonnay. If the world were a different place, the flute player thinks, we’d keep this shimmery mist and I’d fall in love with a rich Italian woman with laughing eyes and warm breasts who loved me back and she’d follow me to Milan and Moscow and Carnegie Hall and there’d be none of this traffic and rumbling and cracking of pavements and crazy shoes.
The fountain shudders and a spidery green frog springs from the glittering spray, hops into the road, huddling by the kerb. The flute player cups his hands, scoops up the frog, looks into its mossy green eyes and slips it in his pocket. As he turns to go back inside the opera house, he whistles ‘Papageno’s Aria’ and winks at a woman in plain black shoes with laughing eyes and the sun on her breast. She stares at his pocket.
“What now?” She asks.
“The second act,” he holds out the pink rose, “and after that I’ll find a stream in Regent's Park. Tomorrow we go to Milan then Moscow and Carnegie Hall.”