"Doorway for the Butterfly"
In the novel's preface, a street musician tells a passing woman an arcane tale about someone's great gift which is a curse and a blessing, about strings of human notes that reach out to the stars, about real music that cannot be heard by the common ear…
Billy MozZart, the offspring of a wealthy New York family and a direct descendant of the illustrious Mozart, is preparing to celebrate his thirty-third birthday. This is no ordinary celebration, if only because Billy's whole life is far from ordinary. Family legend has it that Mozart's genius was not lost with his death but is passed from generation to generation. From his Aunt Ellen, who has brought up the orphaned Billy, he learns that his ancestors had made rather unorthodox use of the Gift they'd inherited. To hear her tell it, if the Gift cannot be realized through music, it will metamorphose, mutate, and manifest itself in some other way. And in the process, Mozart's noble genius can turn into something very much its opposite. Thus the Russian branch of the family has given the world Lenin, while its German branch produced Hitler.
Billy's extraordinary life started when it was established that he had no singing voice, no ear for music, no musical talent to speak of. But Aunt Ellen won't have it. She doesn't want Billy's latent Gift to sidetrack him from the musical path, for she knows all too well what the consequences of such a transmutation can be-for the Gift's owner as well as those around him. So the aunt tries to steer the hidden talent in what she sees as the only right and proper direction. Alarmed by Billy's approaching puberty, she chooses an unexpected and somewhat harsh method to achieve her goal: sexual sublimation. Billy is outfitted with a sort of chastity belt, and in a little while the boy really does start to play the piano... But Billy has no idea what sort of music he plays, nor does he know what happens when he performs, though he harbors dark suspicions. At the improvised home concerts given for a chosen few, Billy invariably goes into a deep trance the moment he touches the keys; the trance leads to the loss of consciousness. But today, on his thirty-third birthday, his premonitions begin to come true. Coming to after a habitual fainting spell, Billy discovers the Fifth Avenue apartment he shares with his aunt in a shambles. Panicked, he runs outside and lands under the wheels of a speeding car.
Carlos, an illegal Mexican, leads a New York existence that he himself finds strange. It all started back on a deserted highway on the Texas border, where he beheld the White Woman. Carlos has never known such women before, has never seen such airy, smooth, sweet-smelling bodies… He keeps trying to find her in New York, but a scrawny Mexican can only watch the glamorous city women from a distance. One day he spots a female dummy in a garbage dump. It looks so much like Her that Carlos is compelled to hide the dummy in the trunk of his old wreck of a car. He doesn't know what's happening to him, doesn't know if the meeting on the road was a mirage; all he knows is that, having lost Her, he feels dispossessed, empty and helpless. Carlos is not religious, but his Texas vision, superimposed on the memories of his impoverished childhood, pushes him to commit perplexing acts unworthy of a macho. At the end of his rope, Carlos decides to leave New York, go back to Texas and find that highway. He speeds through Manhattan in the early-morning hours, hoping to beat the traffic. Driving down Fifth Avenue, he hears odd sounds coming from his trunk. Frightened, he glances back-and hits a pedestrian that has flung himself under the wheels.
As the two main characters find themselves in Central Park, it turns out that the sounds in the trunk weren't made by the dummy come to life: a drunken streetwalker had climbed in there by mistake… Carlos meets Billy's cousin who's come looking for him-Mathilde, a tall and fat woman with a taste for short men; while Billy discovers that his iron loincloth has come loose in the accident. Novel sensations and the anticipation of marvelous things to come overwhelm him, and Billy runs off in search of his Gift.
A string of apparent coincidences awaits Billy on his way. A cab driver who helps him out of trouble proves to be a kidnapper: Billy and a woman stranger are taken hostage by bank robbers. Pressed against the woman in the cramped cab and feeling a female body next to his for the first time, Billy senses that the Gift's hour has come…
Smitten by Mathilde's enormous bust, Carlos forgets everything and follows her. They end up in Billy's spacious apartment. Aunt Ellen appears; together, she and Carlos run to Billy's rescue, and find him-only to lose him again-on a peculiar subway train which keeps stubbornly returning to the same station… Carlos feels himself to be a part of something very significant. He senses that Billy is no ordinary man, that he possesses some great ability and that their meeting was no accident; and so he, Carlos, must stick by Billy, and then all the bizarre events of Carlos' life that have driven him mad with uncertainty, all his impossible dreams, will come true.
Attracted by the yummy smells drifting from a little Italian tavern, Billy wanders into a Mafia wedding. It gradually becomes clear that he was expected, that the bride used to work for his family, and that the groom's father, the notorious Don Montelli, knows about the Gift and has plans for it. Billy is informed that, as guest of honor, he is to take the groom's place on the wedding night, since all the members of the Mafia clan are eunuchs. The sublimation of sexual energy has taken the clan to the heights of power-power that may have supernatural origins…
The wedding ceremony continues in a church. Now that he has known woman, Billy feels his Gift coming to fruition. But unlike Don Montelli, Carlos and Aunt Ellen, who have unquestioned faith in his miraculous abilities, Billy himself is uncertain: what if his Gift is merely a silly hat trick? But when circumstances force him to use his newfound talents in action, the incredible happens… Billy realizes that his Gift is beyond his own grasp-and therefore beyond his control.
The Miracle Worker is frightened, dazed and confused. Disgusted with himself and the Gift that has the better of him, Billy goes home. But he won't be left alone. Aunt Ellen's biggest fear has come true: all the people that Billy has just fled from have gathered in his living room and brought the clay jar-the very jar from which, according to family lore, Billy's father, and his grandfather, and the great Mozart himself had once drunk. Billy must taste of the secret elixir and restore the connection between the present and the past…
Carlos, who felt himself to be the Miracle Worker's aide and companion, who hoped to take part in some essential mission that would explain and justify his whole existence-Carlos becomes a mere witness to Billy's senseless death at the hand of a pimp whose whore they once insulted… The miracles are done with; a new day begins. Carlos heaves a sigh, shrugs his shoulders and hurries back to the Bronx, hoping he's not late for work.
The novel is written in the style of hard realism with elements of neomysticism. Its dynamic plot qualifies it as both a work of suspense and a psychological thriller. The narrative links together two main themes: the mystery of the creative process and the price one is forced to pay for the attempt to touch the Source and know the unknowable. Billy's story echoes both the story of his genius forefather and the events that took place nearly two thousand years ago. The novel is a parable with many an allusion, which does nothing to preclude the reader from intently following its sudden and intriguing twists.