The The Pianist...

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
When we let old talents fade into the past only a miracle
can bring it back to life.....

Submitted: December 12, 2011

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Submitted: December 12, 2011

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The Pianist.

 

 

Len Warren stared into the dying embers of the fire in the hearth. A habit that he had acquired since his wife Elsie had passed on, and a habit that was born of grief and despair. Taking the poker from the set of fire-dogs in the hearth, he nudged the larger log of the two.  It fell with a shower of sparks, but with nothing feeding it, Len knew

that soon it would become ashes and join the ever growing pile in the grate.

Elsie, his dearest wife had been gone some ten years now, and at fifty-seven years of age he had become not only a recluse, but had lost the will to live.  For him, there was no future, and now he only lived on the sweet memories of the past.

In five minutes it would be a quarter to nine.  Time to wind the clock, mount the stairs, and have a quick shower.  The routine that he had adhered to year after year had never failed to give him cold, lonely and sleepless nights.

He remembered Elsie as he wound the Westminster chime clock on the mantle.  “Six turns to the right for the left one Lovey, and eight turns to the right for the one on the right.”  Obeying her command,  Len began counting as her turned the brass key. “Four, five…”

The sudden knock on the door made his head turn.  “Who the Hell…?”

The knock came again, and this time with a sense of urgency.

“All right I`m ruddy well coming.”  he called.

Len went through the parlor door and into the passage to the front door. Lifting the Yale latch, he turned the handle and drew the door open. 

“Yes?” he asked.  The figure standing before him wore a woolen scarf around his neck and beneath the peak of his cloth cap was a pair of thick lens spectacles.

“Len, its me Arthur, don`t `yer remember your old mate after all these years?”

Len stared into the half hidden face of the bespectacled figure.  “Who?”

“Arthur you nit, Arthur from the Rose and Crown.”

Len scratched the back of his head, “Rose and Crown?”

“Yes the pub, you remember, you and Elsie were there every Friday, I hope you still play.”

“Play?”

“The piano, you tinkled the old ivories like a champion…could I come in Len, its fair freezing out here and…”

“Oh yeah, of course, come in…er…” Len eased the door open far enough for Arthur to squeeze past.  Now he remembered.  Twenty years back he played the piano every Friday night at the Rose and Crown. He could see the faded ivory keys of the old John Broad-wood piano, and remembered the upper E key carried a cigarette burn mark, and lower G key didn`t play at all.  In a flash he remembered Wally Turner standing at his side turning the page of the music every time he nodded his head.  The drunken roar of the crowd behind him as they sang “Nellie Deane” and the favourite, “Oh Danny Boy,” that he could play even now  in his sleep if needs be.

“Arthur, remember my Missus Doreen, nice place you got here.  She passed on in seventy-two, cancer, but my two boys are up there in Manchester doin` good for themselves, where`s Elsie?”

The question took Len by surprise. “Er..she died too, lung cancer…that bloody smoking, I told her but she would`t stop.  They tried to operate but she was too far gone and..”

Arthur eased himself into the spare armchair.  “I am sorry to hear that Len, but I`m sure she`ll settle down in Heaven, she gave us a pot of strawberry jam once, home made too, she was a grand lady, we all loved her.”

Len remembered the jam making.  Whenever a fruit came into full abundance Elsie was there with her two pounds of sugar, pulverizing the squishy mess in the basin and boiling it for hours on the gas stove. The pouring ceremony into the glass jar, and of course, the tasting the end product.

“Can I make you a cup of tea?”

“No, I don`t think so Len, I have a message for you and its pretty important.”

“Message?”

Arthur settled for a saggy chip left over from the pint of ale and chips that Len had for his supper. Munching the snack avariciously, he went for another. “Yes Len, its a message from God.”

Len`s mouth dropped open.  “God?”

“That’s right Len, God.”

“But…”

“No there aren`t any buts Len, He`s got problems and he needs you.”

“But…”

Arthur removed his spectacles and began wiping them with the scarf around his neck.

“What`s up Len, you do remember Him don`t you?’

Len lowered his head, “Of course, but…but I ain`t been to church since Elsie….”  Tears filled his eyes as he remember the sods of earth thudding against the top of Elsie`s oaken coffin on that awful day.  What was worse was the fact that he had cursed God for taking her from him and swore that he`d never ever go inside a church again.

The Westminster chime clock on the mantelpiece chimed nine.  Len remembered he should be in bed already and a moment of panic swept over him.

“Look, its getting pretty late Arthur and…”

 Arthur replaced his specs, adjusting the side arms  “Lord, you can say that again mate.” he said.  “It`s getting late for all of us, but there is no time like the present Len, and God has a very special task for you to perform.”

“Task?”

“It`s right up your alley Len.”

“Alley?”

“He wants you to play the piano for St. Marks, just up the road from here.”

The shock of hearing what the task was made Len stand up from his chair. “Play the..

I haven`t played the piano for almost fifteen years and besides St. Marks… isn`t that Catholic?”

Arthur turned to Len.  A glint of light reflecting from his spectacles seemed to light up his whole face. Bewildered, Len hid his eyes.  “Here, whats going on?”

Arthur smiled. “Denominations don`t count for much Len, as long as you follow God and recognize Him as you Father, what club you attend is of no consequence.”

“But I haven`t played for…for years and…”

“Father Rosario is the bloke to see, he`s as Italian as they come, but when it comes to miracles, he`s your man.”

Puzzled, Len was more than confused. “Won`t you stay for a cup of tea?”  he asked.

“I best be going Len, I still have a couple of calls to make.”

Closing the front door, Len paused as he set the latch.  “What a strange thing to happen.  Play the piano for the Catholic Church, you must be…”

The door of the front room had been kept ajar for almost ten years, mainly for a through draught of air, and also to keep the damp out.  Len`s cherished baby grand piano had stood in the front room since he was first married to Elsie.  His Mom had left it to him in her will, the only thing that she had worth anything at all.

In the semi darkness, he lifted the lid of the keyboard and played a single note.  It just happened to be G.

Len could never fathom out the compulsion he had to walk the mile and a half to St. Marks Church on the following morning.  It was just after Matins, and some of the small congregation still stood around in groups in the courtyard.

In flowing robes, Father Rosario noticed the stranger in his midst.  “Can I help you?”

he asked.

Len lost his tongue. “Er…er...I am looking for Father Rosario”  he said.

A smile lit the Fathers face.  “Then you have found him, how can I help you?”

Standing beneath a huge crucifix displaying Jesus on the cross, Len began his story.

“I had a night visitor, an old pal of mine…well not so old, but I haven`t seen him for a while, his name is Arthur Denton, and…”

At this Father Rosario raised his hand and interrupted the conversation.

“Did you say Arthur Denton?”

Yes, that’s right Father, he`s a little rotund and wears pretty thick spectacles, I have known him for…well years.”

A big question mark appeared on the good Fathers face.  “Are you quite sure it was last night?”

“Of course Father, I didn`t sleep much because of it.”

“And Arthur Denton visited you?”

“Yes, I`ve told you, he knock on my front door around nine last night.”

The Fathers eyes stared far beyond the Gothic arched windows of his Church and the Lynch Gate set in the driveway. Without moving his head he announced quite clearly.

“Arthur Denton is presently laying in our small graveyard twenty meters from here.  He died some five years back and is buried next to his wife Doreen who preceded him by a number of years.”

A wave of terror swept through Lens spine.  The only words that escaped his lips were, “Buried, dead and buried?”

The Father smiled.  “Yes I`m afraid so, unless you have been the victim of a horrible hoax, Arthur is presently residing with our Lord.”

Overwhelmed by the news, Len staggered against the nearest pew and sat down heavily.  “He said he had a message for me.” he whispered.

“A message?”

“Yes, he said it was a…a message from God.”

A smile lit the young priests face, “Well there you are then,  we get them all the time.”

“He said you needed someone to play your piano, because your lady had…”

“Good Lord, how could anyone possibly know?Mrs. Turner only passed away last Sunday, and we are left stranded without….”

Len felt his hands begin to perspire.  Who really had visited him last night?  He remembered Arthur eating the potato chip, and then another.  Could spirits actually eat food and travel around to see old buddies?  “So you don`t have a pianist then?”  he asked.

Father shook his head.  “No we do not have a pianist, and its Harvest Thanksgiving next Sunday, unless I hire one from up country, we are really in a hole.”

“Father, I`ve never actually played in a church, but you can give me a try and I do read music.  I`d be glad to help out especially since Arthur…”

“Where did you play then, at school concerts and things?”

Len hung his head and sighed.  “Well Father, mostly in a pub, we gathered on Friday nights at the Rose and Crown for a bit of a laugh and a sing along.”

Father Rosario flung his hands up in the air.  “Holy Mother of God,” he cried excitedly.  We have another miracle on our hands.

Again bewildered, Len tried to calm the young Priest.  “What`s so special about the Rose and Crown, I only played there on Fridays and some holiday times.”

“Just you come along with me Leonard, I`ll show you the miracle because its standing

beside the choir stalls waiting to be played.”

Fifteen steps into the hushed semi darkness of the small church and Len reeled with disbelief.

The same John-Broad-wood upright that he had played in the Rose and Crown was now looking resplendent in the cradled sanctity of St. Marks.

Now wearing an enormous smile, Len turned to Father Rosario and without opening its polished walnut lid, winked.  “Fag end burn on the upper E key, right?”

They opened the piano together and peered at the well-worn ivory keys.

“We did have it renovated after the sale.  Five pounds ten shillings if I am not mistaken, The Rose and Crown were having a revamp, you know, Hi-fi players and amplifiers.  Yes, you are quite correct, there is a nasty burn mark on the upper E key.

Len interjected, “And the lower G, that didn`t play at all.”  The light touch of Lens pinkie finger on the key proved that, like everything else in life, and with the help of the Lord, anything and everything can be restored.

“Start next Sunday Father?”

The young priests eyes twinkled with mirth.  “Yes Len, start on Sunday, and just one more thing.”

“Yes Father?”

“Promise me you won`t be playing  Knees-up Mother Brown.”

 

Geoffrey Kennell ©

 

 

End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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