Flames raged in my cheek, the bone probably broken again. My reflection is already ugly and twisted from when he broke it once before. Daddy raised his hand again. Instinctively, I shrunk away and tried to shield my face from the blow. It never came.
Daddy was gone. I was gone. A pair of slatted swinging wooden doors hung before me. Why did they even hang these skimpy doors? Anyone could just walk through when the saloon was closed, help themselves. Probably just to hide the saloon girls from the street… The thoughts were in my head, but they weren’t my own. A pair of large hands with wispy black hairs growing from the backs reached out and rested themselves on the tops of the doors. I could feel the aged wood under their callused grip.
“Yo, Vance,” I heard a man’s voice behind me say, “Where you going?”
I knew the question was intended for me, but I ignored it. I swung the doors open and stepped into the saloon. My boots echoed on the floor. The room was empty save for a bar with no stools and an ancient piano standing alone on the other wall. Stairs curved up on my right and around to the rooms above that had probably once paid for operation. This’ll be perfect for the shoot.
My imagination added the chink, chink of spurs to my footsteps as I strode slowly over to the piano. I took a few quiet moments to admire it in all its venerable glory. It was covered with dust. I took a deep breath and blew the keys off, choking on the cloud that erupted from them.
I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t mine to do, but I had to touch them, to feel the wizened ebony and ivory delights, to hear the history of their musical voice. I force my hand out and ran my fingers up the keys in an arpeggio. “What the hell?” A burly voice, strangely familiar, mouthed the words as I heard them form inside my head.
The piano had been sitting too many years, unprotected from time and from the elements. There was no magic of bygone melody, no cheerful tinkle of notes, not even the tinny, feltless-hammered honky-tonk tones I expected. The tired and rotten keys simply crumbled under the thick fingers that didn’t belong to me.
We stood in complete shock for a while, Vance and I… I ruined by the destruction I had wrought on such a precious and amazing relic, and he in numbed disbelief that his hand had somehow moved by itself. Somewhere in the distance, my honky-tonk sounds began to play, the sounds that had once spilled onto the ears of inebriated gamblers, flirtatious girls in feathered attire, and a funny looking little man in a vest whose fingers once danced with the keys I had just broken. Then it all faded away…
Daddy was gone. I hurt in so many places I couldn’t tell where the pain came from. I sat myself up quietly and and hugged my knees to my chest, careful not to allow any sounds to accompany my tears and my trembling lips. All I did was skip my piano lesson.
© 2011 Anne Schilde