The Piano Man – A Short Story

… May became December
But, even in December, I remember
Her touch, her smile, and for a little while…

The pressure in his fingertips relaxed on the piano’s keys just as his voice began to ebb away. The lyric hit a spot in his body, somewhere he couldn’t place. Between his spine and his ribcage and just above his stomach, but it wasn’t quite there. He clenched his fist and imagined he could fit it right into the spot. “Are you going to finish playing that?” the voice called from behind him.
“How long have you been there?” He kept staring forward at the mahogany.
“Since you started. You’ve been stuck at that part for the past five minutes.”
He looked down and sighed before turning to face the voice. She stood in the archway of the room. All the chairs and stools were turned up on the tables and the brooms were resting against the bar. He had no idea how long he’d been alone in the bar. Even though the light was dim, he could still make out the heels and her dress, a reddish colour, with only one strap over her left shoulder. Her brunette hair was curled and fell to left side starting where the strap finished. “What do you want to hear,” he asked “a little San Francisco?”
He turned around and pushed his hands out, ready to play.
“I want to hear the end of that song,” she replied.
“How about some Moon River?”
“The end of that song.”
“Steppin’ Out?”
“That song.”

He let out a big breath. “I know. Some Lady is a Tramp.” He started playing the song. She walked over and just before he started to sing, she slammed her hand on the high notes. The discord made his hands recoil to his sides. “Why can’t you finish it?”
“I just can’t.”
“Why not?”
“You know what song it is. Don’t make me spell it out,” he became irritated.
“Why?” She became insistent.
He turned to look at her sharply. “Because it’s a lie,” he shouted. “It’s a fucking lie.”
She looked into his eyes and looked right through him. “You know it wasn’t how I wanted it to be.”
“And how did you want it to be?” he sarcastically asked, “Fields of flowers? Weekends away? Or just a quick feel in the back of the car?”
“I don’t know how I wanted it to be. Just not what we had.”
He turned back to the piano and blew out his cheeks, trying hard to vent the fist shaped spot in his body but it wouldn’t budge. “Look, I believe in the songs. That’s why I’m here all the time, playing this old thing. It’s my lot. I have to do it, no one else can.”
“I know,” she conceded, “I wouldn’t change you for the world. But do you really believe that the song is a lie?”
He looked down at the keys in silent admission. She lifted her hand and stroked his hair behind his ear. “Just play the end,” she whispered to him. A whisper that, no matter how hard he tried, he could never refuse. He put his hands back on the piano keys where they had stopped before. He breathed in and realised he couldn’t sing the higher notes and resigned himself to go with a lower register.

… She loves me.

He had to swallow after finishing the lyric. The fist-sized spot grew in intensity.

Once again it’s Paris
Paris on a Sunday
And the month is May.

He finished the song’s final flourish with little effort, relaxed his fingers once again by his sides and lowered his head. She reached over to his ear once again and whispered to him.
“Some lies are worth believing in.”
She gently kissed his cheek and began to walk away. He didn’t look, but he listened to hear how far away the sound of her heels were. They stopped briefly and he knew she was back at the archway. Finally the sound started again and faded into the distance. She had left. He heard a faint tap and looked at the piano keys. A single tear had escaped his eye and hit the middle C. The spot in his body had shrunk a little back to the original fist size. “So that’s how you leave,” he muttered, unsure if he was referring to her or to the spot. He put his hands back to the piano, began to quietly play and sung in his deepest, effortless voice.

… Some day, when I’m awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you
And the way you look tonight.

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3 comments

  1. TheCookieFairy · March 6, 2012

    Make way for the grammar control freak:

    piano’s keys
    I’d put a new paragraph at “Are you going to finish that?”
    I don’t think you need the ‘She became insistent.’ Obviously, she is.
    song’s, not songs’
    I don’t think you need to spell “unsure if he was referring to her or the spot.” Let the reader see the ambiguity for themselves.

    Other than that, pretty much perfect 🙂 And great work as usual.

    And btw, I LOVE this new design and the fact that you changed your url to seancleaver.net. Very neat. Very neat indeed.

  2. eddychambers · March 13, 2012

    Hey,

    I really enjoyed this short story, it was simple, clean and I could imagine every moment of it. Here are some lines that I found very attractive:
    “She slammed her hand on the high notes.”
    “He didn’t look, but he listened to hear how far away the sound of her heels were.”
    “A single tear had escaped his eye and hit the middle C.”

    Keep up the good work and I’m looking forward to read some more stories as they come along.
    Eddy

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