Short Stories

The Piano Boy

This one is based off of a true story regarding a friend of mine. We thought it’d be funny to write about 🙂

Warning though: this story is really, really bad and unedited. If you’re looking for high-quality, award-winning prose, run away now.  I just wanted to write this for fun and giggles in the small amount of time I had today.

The Piano Boy

The worn man rubbed his face and blinked away the dryness in his eyes. Work had been draining him lately and sitting for hours in front of a computer screen wasn’t helping the matter. Technology was never a factor of his composing career when he first started out, when did it become such an overwhelming presence?

He looked up at the calendar of orchestra instruments his daughter had given him for Christmas last year. A brass horn filled with candy corn illustrated the month of October. Half the days had already been crossed out with large, heavy red x’s.

The countdown had begun over six months ago. Retirement was looming ever closer; soon the bright, exquisite day would arrive when he could wake up, have a cup of coffee, take a nap and then- if he felt like it of course- write a few light, airy songs on pieces of composition paper. The computer would be long gone by then, replaced with a simple wooden desk, a piano and perhaps even a trombone (his choice childhood instrument).

A pounding of piano keys came from a neighboring apartment. That kid was at it again; he or she had been playing the instrument for a couple of weeks now. The composer first heard it when he was finishing a movie about some renegade space ship. The notes were patchy, the songs simplistic: hot cross buns and jingle bells rang throughout the dry afternoon air each day.

He smiled at the terrible sounds; the child was learning quickly. He took these moments to sit back, take a break and listen, mentally noting the mistakes the child made and commending his breakthroughs, which were growing more frequent. The composer imagined the child growing up to take his place one day; to become a creator of the next generation’s greatest songs, to move listeners to tears and raise them to laughter.

It was nice to witness the young pianist learning new keys each day, slowly becoming faster and more succinct. He chuckled on the day it became clear the child was now playing with both hands.

He decided that on the first day of his retirement, he’d go to the apartment where the sounds were coming from and greet the child. He imagined how it would play out; his or her mother would open the door and cock her head to the side in confusion.

“How can I help you?” she’d ask.

“My name is Frederick MacCullen, you may have heard of me.”

Her eyes would grow wide and she’d put a hand to her mouth. “The composer? The one who wrote the music to ‘Zombies’?”

He would nod and smile abashedly.

“I can’t believe it! What an honor,” she would exclaim and turn her head. “Caleb, come here, there’s someone you need to meet!”

The piano would stop and he’d hear a pattering of little bare feet on hard wood. A young boy no older than six or seven would emerge, his blonde hair falling just past his eyebrows and gap-toothed smile wide.

“Caleb, this is Mr. MacCullen, your favorite composer!”

Caleb would squeal and hide behind his mother, a mixture of surprise and excitement overwhelming him.

“Don’t be shy,” she’d chide. “Say hello.”

“Hi,” he would peek out and smile.

“Hello, Caleb, it’s an honor to meet you,” the composer would reply. “I’ve heard you practicing piano the past few months and you’ve become quite accomplished.”

“Thank you,” he’d whisper with a smile.

“To tell the truth, today’s the first day of my retirement,” the composer would kneel down to eye-level. “I’m a little sad about it, but hoping that maybe one day you’ll take my place. Will you do that for me?”

The boy would nod happily and the composer would ruffle his hair.

“Keep up the good work,” the composer would smile, nod his goodbye and walk away, his dark figure blocking a setting sun. The memory of the encounter would stick with the boy forever, perhaps even inspire him to take his own path.

The composer grew more and more excited about the encounter with each new cross on his calendar. In the week leading up to the big day he was already looking forward to it more than retirement itself.

So when the sun rose on his first morning of permanent vacation, the former composer raced to shower and dress. He spent nearly an hour scouring his closet for the best shirt and tie combination. One was much too formal; he may scare the child off. Perhaps a playful color? But then he wouldn’t be taken too seriously.

His wife had spent the time cooking a large, hearty breakfast of pancakes drenched in thick molasses, eggs fried sunny side up and crisp, oily bacon.

“Why the rush?” she asked as they were eating. “You have all day. Enjoy it.”

He nodded and gulped the rest of his coffee. “There’s something I need to do, I’ll be back in a bit.”

“Fred,” she called. “Don’t get your hopes up about that-”

Their front door had already thudded shut.

The composer straightened his tie (he’d chosen red with navy pinstripes) as he made his way toward the apartment that the piano boy seemed to be living in. He breathed in deeply as he arrived at their door, rang the doorbell and ran his fingers through his hair, just in case it had blown askew in the breeze.

Nobody answered. That couldn’t be, it was a Saturday morning. Where would the family have gone?

He rang again. Someone grumbled something from inside as heavy footsteps creaked toward the door. A gruff man in a dirty brown shirt and sweats emerged from the apartment. His small blue eyes stared vacantly from a bald, bulbous head that was splattered with sunspots. He held a half-empty Coors can in one chubby hand, while the other was rubbing a protruding belly.

“What you want?” he asked.

“I… I may have the wrong home…”

The man stared.

“Does a child live here?”

He shook his head no.

“Ah, then it must be the next apartment over,” the composer began making his way to the next door.

“No kids there, either,” the beer man replied. “Who you lookin’ for?”

“I’ve been hearing a child learning piano over the past few months. I’m a composer, or was at least- I retired yesterday. But I’d been so inspired by the child I felt compelled to come see him.”

“Uh, well,” the man chuckled and looked down as he shuffled his bare feet on the floor. “You may of been hearing me.”

The composer raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“I got a bad back, it got worse over the summer so I had to take some time off from work. I got so bored, I figured I’d take up an instrument.”

“You’re… the piano player?”

“Guess so.”

“But..”

“You look like you need a beer, come on in,” he opened his door wide for the composer, who shook his head in disbelief and quietly entered the piano boy’s home.

 

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