Fugue:  A Fragrance by J. T. Townley

I.

A woman, blonde, blue-eyed, glides down a white-sand beach.  Waves crash.  Sea breeze tousles her long tresses.  Her translucent sarong flutters.  Her tiny white bikini covers very little.  Her thigh muscles ripple with each graceful step.

A man, chiseled, bronzed, pads toward her across the wet, white sand.  He wears a confused expression.  Breakers roar.  His unbuttoned white tailored shirt whips in the wind.  Close-up:  pecs, abs, face, abs, pecs.  From neck to navel, sweat droplets bead and run.

A jaguar, lithe, limber, races through the lush jungle beyond the beach.

Cue the strings.

The woman and man embrace in slow motion against a backdrop of tumultuous surf.  His fingers dance up her spine.  Her lips gnaw at his stubbly chin. “Passion.”  He holds her cheek in his hand.  She wraps an arm around his waist.  “Pleasure.”  He brushes her locks out of her eyes.  She paws his tight rump. “Destiny.”  They tumble into the sand in a passionate heap.

Sunlight refracts through sea spray.  Surf pounds the beach.  From the edge of the jungle, a jaguar preens and roars.

“Fugue.  The new fragrance.  For men.”

 

II.

A woman, chiseled, bronzed, pads across the wet, white sand.  Her unbuttoned white tailored shirt whips in the cold tropical wind.  It’s snowing.  Close-up: breasts, abs, face, abs, breasts.  From neck to navel, goosebumps.

A man, blonde, blue-eyed, plods down a white, snowy beach.  He wears a confused expression.  Waves crash soundlessly.  Cold wind tousles his long tresses.  His translucent sarong flutters.  His tiny white bikini covers very little.  His thigh muscles ripple with each plodding footfall.

A jaguar, loose-limbed, lissome, races up the snow-covered sand in a red Alfa Romeo Spider.  The top is down.  He sports Ray-Bans.

Cue the harps.

The woman and man embrace in slow motion against a backdrop of gathering storm.  Her fingers dance up his spine.  His lips gnaw at her stubbly chin. “Passion.”  She holds his cheek in her hand.  He wraps an arm around her waist.  “Pleasure.”  She brushes his locks out of his eyes.  He paws her tight rump. “Destiny.”  They tumble into the accumulating powder in a passionate, shivering heap.

Sunlight refracts through blowing snow.  Ice crystals form in the surf swell.  The jaguar spins donuts around them in his bright red convertible, roaring.

“The new fragrance for men:  Fugue.”

 

III.

A blonde, blue-eyed ski bunny glides down a snow-covered slope.  A thick crust of ice glistens on the surface of a mountain lake.  A cold wind tousles the long tresses trailing from her stocking cap.  Her white bikini covers very little.  Her thigh muscles ripple with each graceful turn.

A man, chiseled, bronzed, pads toward her across the wet, white slope carrying hot toddies.  He wears furry boots and a confused expression.  His unbuttoned white tailored ski jacket whips in the icy wind.  Close-up:  pecs, abs, face, abs, pecs.  From neck to navel, goosebumps.

A jaguar, svelte, supple, races up the snowy shore in a red Alfa Romeo Spider.  The top is down.  He sports a snow-leopard suit and Ray-Bans.

Cue the banjos.

The woman and man embrace in slow motion against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains.  His mittens dance up her spine.  Her chapped lips gnaw at his numb, stubbly chin.  “Passion.”  He holds her cheek in his mitten.  She wraps an arm, blue with cold, around his waist.  “Pleasure.”  He slides off her stocking cap, pawing at her sweaty, matted locks.  She pokes him in the tight rump with the handles of her ski poles.  “Destiny.”  She loses her balance, and they tumble into a heap of poles and skis and awkward, icy passion, hot toddies spilling in the snow.

Wind whips powder into stinging clouds.  Ice on the lake creaks and moans.  The jaguar in the snow-leopard suit adjusts his Ray-Bans, revving the engine of his bright red convertible and roaring.

“Men:  The new Fugue.  For fragrance.”

 

IV.

A blonde, blue-eyed farmer’s daughter splashes up out of a river.  Summer sun carries the secret scent of tilled loam.  Snow-capped mountains tower over the valley.  She wrings out her long tresses.  Her tiny, non-existent white bikini covers very little.  Her thigh muscles ripple as she lies back in the soft riverbank grass.

A man, chiseled, bronzed, pads toward her across a fallow field.  He wears a confused expression.  Cicadas hiss and rattle.  His unbuttoned tailored white overalls flap and sway in the warm wind.  From neck to navel, sweat droplets bead and run.

A jaguar, spry, lithesome, races through the cornfields on a red Alfa Romeo tractor.  The top is down.  He sports a straw hat and Ray-Bans.  In his paw, a .12-gauge shotgun.

Cue the fiddles.

The farmer’s daughter and man embrace in slow motion against a backdrop of cornfields, river, and snow-capped mountains.  Her spine dances down his fingers.  His stubbly lips gnaw at her chin.  “Passion.”  She holds his hand against her cheek.  He wraps a sweaty waist inside her arm.  “Pleasure.”  She brushes his eyes out of her locks.  He rumps her tight paws.  “Destiny.”  They tumble to the grass in a disheveled heap.

Sunlight refracts through dust clouds.  The cicada clatter swells.  The straw-hatted jaguar barrels toward the lovers at full throttle, adjusting his Ray-Bans, cocking his .12-gauge, and roaring.

“New.  The fragrance for men.  Fugue.”

 

V.

A woman, blue-eyed, blonde, glides down a bright, white street.  Cars crash.  Fetid subway wind tousles her long tresses.  Murky late-autumn sunlight casts a glare on mountains of snow-capped dumpster garbage.  Her translucent thigh muscles flutter.  Her tiny white bikini covers very little.  Her sarong ripples with each graceful step.

A man, bronzed, chiseled, pads toward her across the wet, white sidewalk.  He wears a confused expression.  Traffic roars.  New Yorkers, too.  His unbuttoned white tailored shirt whips in the fetid subway wind.  Close-up:  pecs, abs, face, abs, pecs.  From neck to navel, raindrops bead and run.

A jaguar, limber, lithe, races through the concrete jungle, blowing stoplights and cutting off cabbies, in a red Alfa Romeo Spider.  The top is down, despite the drizzling rain.  He sports Ray-Bans and can’t see where he’s going.

Cue the jangly electric guitars.

The woman and man embrace in slow motion against a backdrop of rush hour road rage.  His fingers dance up her spine.  Her lips gnaw at his stubbly chin. Drivers honk, bleat, and make obscene hand gestures, then someone throws a bottle, which explodes in a spray of jagged glass.  “Passion.”  He holds her cheek in his hand.  She wraps an arm around his waist.  Rats squeak and scurry, gazing at the lovers from their snow-capped mountains of dumpster garbage.  “Pleasure.” He brushes her locks out of her eyes.  She paws his tight rump.  A divorced secretary in a no-nonsense gray skirt and glowing white Reeboks shoves them accidentally-on-purpose and yells, “Get a room!”, face plastered with disgust and envy.  “Destiny.”  They tumble to the filthy, glass-shattered pavement in a passionate heap.

The trickle of rain turns to sleet.  The air feels cold and greasy.  The jaguar stands upright on the hood of his red Alfa Romeo Spider, Les Paul sunburst in his paws, a Marshall stack big as a bus behind him, strumming jangly power chords and roaring.

“Fugue for men.  The new fragrance.”

 

VI.

A woman, bronzed, chiseled, pads down a wet, white sidewalk.  Traffic roars.  Mimes, too.  Her unbuttoned white tailored shirt whips in the sweet spring wind.  Close-up:  breasts, abs, face, abs, breasts.  From neck to navel, sweat droplets bead and run.

A man, blonde, blue-eyed, glides down a bright, white street.  He wears a confused expression.  Buses hit delivery trucks hit cars hit motorcycles hit mopeds hit bicycles hit pedestrians.  The unfamiliar wail of Parisian sirens.  The wind off speeding emergency vehicles tousles his long tresses.  His translucent sarong flutters.  His tiny white bikini covers very little.  His thigh muscles ripple with each graceful step.

A jaguar, lissome, loose-limbed, races through the concrete jungle in a red Alfa Romeo Spider, spinning around the Arc de Triomphe and slaloming down the Champs Elysées, a smoldering Gauloise between his lips.  The top is down.  He sports Ray-Bans, a jaunty-angled beret, and a crooked smile.

Cue the accordions.

The woman and man embrace in slow motion against a backdrop of other women and men and women and women and men and men embracing in slow motion.  His spine dances up her fingers.  Her stubbly chin gnaws at his lips.  “Passion.”  She holds his cheek in her hand.  She wraps her waist inside his arm. “Pleasure.”  She brushes his locks out of his eyes.  Her tight rump slides beneath his paws.  “Destiny.”  They tumble into the tulips in a passionate heap, along with at least two other couples.

Sunlight refracts through Gauloise smoke.  The warm breeze carries the scent of daffodils, crêpes, and fresh espresso.  In his bright red convertible, the jaguar barrels down the steps of Sacré-Coeur, smashes through the Louvre, and drives straight up the Eiffel Tower, roaring, “Sous les pavés, la plage!”

“Fragrance:  The new Fugue.  For men.”

 

VII.

A woman, blonde, bronzed, glides down a giant golden dune.  Sunshine assaults her.  Hot, arid wind tousles her long tresses.  Her translucent kaftan flutters.  Her tiny white bikini covers very little.  Her thigh muscles ripple with each graceful step.

A man, chiseled, blue-eyed, pads toward her across the sandy void.  He wears a confused expression.  The wind howls through a bleached human skull.  A javelin sand boa constricts around a wayward goat.  The man’s unbuttoned white tailored shirt whips in the wind.  Close-up:  pecs, abs, face, abs, pecs.  From neck to navel, sweat droplets bead and run.

A jaguar, supple, svelte, races up and over the vast dunes in a red Alfa Romeo Spider.  The top is down, despite the blowing sand.  He sports Ray-Bans and a turban.  He sips sweet mint tea.

Cue the ouds.

The woman and man embrace against a backdrop of spitting camels, endless sand, and empty sky.  His fingers dance up her spine.  Her lips gnaw at his stubbly chin.  It’s 120 degrees, and there’s no shade.  “Passion.”  He holds her cheek in his leathery hand.  She wraps a sunburned arm around his waist.  The blue dome of sky stretches and shimmers.  “Pleasure.”  He brushes her locks out of her eyes.  She paws his tight rump.  On the horizon, an enormous sandstorm rages. “Destiny.”  They tumble down that golden dune in a flailing, passionate heap.

The roiling wall of sand blots out the sun.  The wind carries the scent of recent slaughter.  The jaguar presses a button, transforming his bright red convertible into a bright red coupe in which to weather the storm.  Sand and wind hammer the windshield.  He preens in the lighted vanity mirror, roaring.

“Fugue.  The new fragrance.  For men.”

 


J. T. Townley has published in Harvard Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Threepenny Review, and other magazines and journals.  His stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net award.  He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and an MPhil in English from Oxford University, and he teaches at the University of Virginia.  To learn more, visit jttownley.com.

Image Credit: Jakob Owens