playerpiano

There was a tinkling in the parlor, the cat had run across the keys of the old player piano. It had stood there against the wall for so many decades that you could still see the yellow daisies on the wallpaper hidden behind it. It smelled like ancient timber and rust and great-grandma’s Pall Malls. It remained here untouched since she died of cancer in ’77, sitting dusty underneath her collection of ceramic elephants. She loved those elephants.

Great grandpa bought it for her in 1923. He worked at the Baldwin plant outside of Canton where he and three dozen other men built all types of pianos. He was responsible for the high-tension steel wires within their intricate metal frames, plucking them for hours, listening for their pitch, assessing their tones. He loved pianos, his father was a pianist in Belgium before the Great War. He once said that each time he finished an instrument he imagined he could hear his père playing Louis Moreau Gottschalk in a state of near ecstasy. Though he couldn’t play one, he told himself his wife would. So he and the guys built her a special one that he purchased at a discount.

He brought it home to their beautiful little bungalow. He added intricate inlays to the polished oak wood of the case and found all of her favorite rolls at Lincoln’s Music Shoppe. The piano was a dream come true. He had it installed while she was at her sister’s house one weekend in February. As he waited for her, he sat at the keyboard and ran his hands over them, flitting his fingers over the black and whites; embodying his father’s lust without his father’s heat. When she came home she danced with surprise.

She plunked out a C# on the board, it was to his ears pitch perfect. His joy at her joy was overwhelming…until he told her about its construction and let slip that the keys were made of fine ivory. She never touched it again after that.

The Baldwin factory closed a few years before he died. It was boarded up and left to slowly decline amidst the fumarole of local industry. Now, its parking lot is used for the softball field next to the library. They were nice enough to call it Baldwin Field, but the kids have no idea why.