Tuned in, but not turned on

I can’t tell you how excited I was when my wife told me she was getting a piano.

“A huge all-encompassing, room-filling piano? Here? No way!”

That’s when she assured me it was just a medium-sized piano. The dimensions were exactly the same as this home sports bar with a built-in flat-screen TV and Red Sox logo mirror that I had been eyeballing online.

“That would be a much better use of the space,” I suggested. “Something the whole family could enjoy – except those that don’t drink a lot yet, like the grandkids of course.”

I expected her to say: “You know, you’re right.” But she didn’t.

“Where’s this piano supposed to go anyway?”

“In our bedroom,” she said.

“In our bedroom? I can’t sleep in the same room as a piano. No way!”

“You didn’t have any trouble sleeping through an entire evening of the piano concerto at the Arlington that I paid fifty bucks a ticket for.”

“I wasn’t sleeping. I was absorbing the music.”

“You were snoring.”

“That was humming.”

“Uh huh. Anyway, it’s not just for me; Leila and I are both going to take lessons.”

“Lessons! You mean you don’t even know how to play the thing?”

“I know how to play. I just need some refreshing, that’s all.”

“If we had that sports bar, I could make you something refreshing every night. Plus, we could play ‘lonely bartender and the sexy patron’ on a rainy night in Santa Barbara. You can be the bartender.”

“Who’s the sexy patron?”

Before I could explain that would be me, she returned to the subject of the piano and told me it had been her mother’s and the one she played when she was a kid. I knew I was doomed – it had sentimental value. Maybe I could use that sentimental value thing on the sports bar… “It’s something that could get passed down generation to generation – like art.”

“Give it up. The odds of us getting a sports bar are the same as you winning the lottery – without a ticket,” she said.

So much for compromise. And what the heck, a piano might class up the place. I could put a display of my books on top of it. Then when company came they would say: “Wow. Cool books. Can I buy some of those?”

“When does the piano arrive,” I asked, a bit more excited now.

“As soon as you bring it in. It’s in that truck in the driveway.”

“Bring it in? Me? No way!”

Fortunately, help arrived. “Be careful of your backs,” I said to Carl, Phil, Stewart and Patrick. “I’ll be watching for traffic.”

“We’re in the driveway. There is no traffic.”

“Oh yeah.” I grabbed a corner and lifted. It came off the ground about an inch. I put it back down. “Beer break?”

Somehow we managed to wrestle the thing into the house, down the hallway, and into the bedroom. I have to admit, it did look pretty cool. And what the heck, maybe a little bluesy piano playing in the background could help my writing efforts.

Fast-forward one month…

“Does she play the scales over and over like that all the time?” Christy asked.

“Yes,” I said, in the key of G.

“How long does she practice?”

“Long-er than would seem hu-man-ly pos-si-ble,” I said. My voice starting at middle C and rising to a crescendo at the word ‘seem’ and returning to middle C on the last syllable of the word ‘possible.’

“How long have you been talking like that?” Christy asked.

“Can’t real-ly saayyy… Long-er than a daayyy.”

“Nice baritone,”


Suddenly, the music stopped for a minute. It was that same phenomenon that you experience if you live near the freeway and there is a lull at 3 am. I was momentarily disoriented.

Then my wife turned on the metronome. “Click clack click clack click clack…”

I headed back to my office to write.

“What are you working on?” Christy asked, her own voice rising and falling a bit.

“A time-travel murder story,” I said. “About a guy who goes back to early eighteenth century Italy and kills Bartolomeo Cristofori, the guy that built the first piano.”

My wife started in with the scales again.

“Can’t wait to read it,” Christy said.