Saturday, February 23, 2008


Wonder of wonders, I came across another short I wrote recently, late last spring, apparently. It's another don't-let-them-give-you-to-the-women story, and I am completely fogged on why I did it.

Getting to the point where I can hide my own Easter Eggs ...


The piano tuner ran through ascending chords, enjoying the resistance of the heavy ivory keys. His balding head was bent forward, his eyes closed as he listened. The notes rose to the darkened ceiling of the recital hall near Warsaw's Old Market Square, then dissipated like smoke.
They even seemed to smell like smoke, Maria thought.
Pipe tobacco, perhaps ... ?
The man turned and looked at her, one eyebrow raised.
She nodded. “Perfecto, Sebastian. As always.”
Sebastian smiled. He looked back at the instrument, took a clean handkerchief from his pocket, and lightly wiped the keyboard, from base keys to trebles, producing a soft, rising musical sigh. This piano could out-thunder Thor, its forte was indeed grand, but even as quiet as a mouse, it sounded superb. Ian’s personal tuner, who knew exactly how his boss wanted the instrument to sing, Sebastian always made it sound superb.
Of course, he had much with which to work. Any Bösendorfer Imperial Grand Piano could roar or whisper on command -- nine feet, six inches long, the best woods, the finest craftsmanship, perfect German construction, they were top of the line. But this one? It was Ian’s baby, and it had extras that made it even more grande than grand. Nine sub-base notes to low C; ninety-seven keys, twelve hundred and fifty-five pounds of magic in wood, strings, ivory and ebony, it had cost more than a quarter of a million dollars, and Ian considered it cheap at that price.
Ian did not fly second class.
It had his name inlaid in gold over the center of the keyboard; not so large as to be ostentatious, but big enough for him to see every time he sat down to play. So that an adoring fan using opera glasses could read it from the center of the hall:
Ian Thomas Laurance.
The lettering copied from his perfect, artistic handwriting.
The Bösendorfer was Maria’s baby, too. She made sure it traveled in safety, fussed and worried over it, assured that it was packed so lovingly well that it would survive a fall from a tall building inside its shipping crate. And since it was insured for more than half a million dollars, the shippers never dropped it. They wouldn’t dare.
Ian. The man who had hands bigger than Rachmaninov -- huge, magic hands that could span almost two octaves. He could play things nobody else could, because nobody else could reach two notes so far apart. He had written especial music to showcase his skills, a concert only he could pull off. At the end of the third movement, there were two chords, impossible things, wildly dissonant, one under each hand, and nobody on a stage could hit them together except Ian. He could palm basketballs.
And when he had put his hands on her ... ?
For the six months they shared a bed on the road, it had been a kind of magic. There she was, Maria Vasquez, a lowly travel manager who had come from the mean streets of Madrid. Little Maria, whose brother Pablito had been a bomb-maker for the Basques until he had blown himself and half a building up by accident. A woman who had never dared hoped to be with man like Ian. But -- there she had been, Ian’s lover, sleeping each night next to the greatest pianist alive, perhaps the greatest who had ever lived, a man who loved this instrument more than he could ever love any woman. Sometimes, after sex, still covered in sweat and each other’s juices, he would talk about the piano as if it were a woman: How she sounded today; how her voice was; how her action under his fingers felt ...
Well. That was done. Over.
She should have quit once he had ended it. She could have gotten another job easily, people on the concert scene knew her, knew how well she took care of Ian and his instruments, somebody would have jumped at the chance to hire her. She knew that. But -- she had been weak. She kept hoping he would invite her back to his bed. She loved him. She thought he would see that, would respond to it.
She had been wrong.
She had shown up at his hotel room that evening as usual, and a naked woman had answered the door. A tall, redhead, maybe twenty-two or three, sleek, fit, smelling of musk.
Ian had stood behind the woman, also naked, and grinning.
Sorry, Maria, he had said. It’s time for me to learn a ... new piece ...
So fucking clever, Ian. Talented, rich, supremely self-confident. Nonchalantly sure that she wouldn’t quit. Life was his oyster, full of pearls, he was golden and invulnerable. He expected her to stay and reflect his glory -- and she had stayed.
Sebastian packed up his kit and went to find a pub and have a beer, Maria sat alone in the hall, perched on the piano’s bench, and stroked the keyboard cover softly. She loved this piano, but not like Ian did.
She sighed, and stood. She had plenty of time. Pablito had, before he had died, taught her things a young Spanish woman did not ordinarily learn. About circuits and wires and detonators.
Tonight, when Ian hit those two impossible chords, a circuit would be completed. Nobody else could do it, only Ian.
It wouldn’t be a big explosion. Nobody would be hurt. Just enough forte to turn the inside of the Bösendorfer into a smoking ruin. It would die under his hands -- he would kill it.
She wanted to be sure she found a place to stand where she could see his face. Where he could look up and see her face, and know.
Yes, indeed.


Dave Huss said...

Ironically, one of the first things that I did with my new fiance was to take her to our local state park firearm range and teach her how to defend her self with a firearm. Not that it was a consideration that she would need to use this knowledge against me, mind you, but later I thought that if she ever has cause to do me harm, she has the talent to do the job and maybe it will be quick. Eighteen years together and counting, must be doing something right,,,,,, still........

Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

Steve-- I'm starting to see Diane in a whole different light...

Steve Perry said...

Fiction, kiddo, All women are terrifying to men ...

Ximena said...

Hey, have you found the "Coffee-cup story" for me yet?

Steve Perry said...

The coffee cup story ...

I thought I had a copy of it somewhere, but apparently not -- I have one copy of the 'zine it's in, but that's it.

It's been a long time since I wrote that one, back in the typewriter days, and if I still have the ms, it's out buried somewhere I haven't been able to unearth yet.

"An Eye for Detail," (as Jesse Peel); ASIMOV's, Vol. 2,
No. 5, Sept.- Oct. 1978. Maybe I can find another copy of the issue ...