The Green Piano is a short story written by me. It is fiction, but very autobiographical 🙂 For now it is unedited. It will eventually be put in a collection of similar stories and released in a paperback book.
The Green Piano
It couldn’t have been much later than 9am when I stumbled into Lucy’s Bar on Beach Boulevard and Atlanta Avenue, for the habitual free biscuits and gravy they offer every Sunday. But it isn’t only the biscuits and gravy I come for. There is a green piano that sits ten feet off the far end of the bar which I play every Sunday before some asshole complains and makes them turn up some goddamn ball game. I, Darby Kane, usually respond with something uncouth and hilarious. Last Sunday the incident went something like this:
“Someone shut this kid up so we can listen to this ballgame please.”
“Why do you need to hear it when you can see it ya big baby,” the bartender said.
“Because I like to hear the ballgame as well, not just watch it, and the kids been playing four fucking hours” he replied.
“Yeah I got your balls right here you fatass.”
“What was that kid?”
“You heard me fatass,” I shot back. “And I ain’t a kid.”
“Sure ya are kid, now shut that thing up or I’ll goddamn do it for you.”
“How the hell are you going to ‘do it for me?’” I said in a low, mocking tone. “You going to unplug the piano?”
The bar erupted with harmonious laughter.
“No I’m gonna break your goddamn pretty little hands pussy,” he said and stood up from his stool he was sitting on at the bar and a couple of other dudes who held him back when he stood up to fight but didn’t have to in the end.
But this week the man is not here.
Just a few regulars who don’t mind my playing.
Either way, I will play and play and eat biscuits and gravy until I’m good and drunk, despite not having a dollar in my pocket or wallet. I rarely do on Sundays. That is why I come to Lucy’s. The biscuits and gravy are free and some Cougar usually buys me drink after drink once she hears me play a song or two on this here green piano.
This morning I start with a dark blues riff in B flat minor, darken up the place a bit until I switch melodies to a C major, and make the place a little brighter, not as forlorn. The bartender’s name is Nicole an she brings me an empty brandy glass to hold whatever tips I make, since that is my only form of payment, plus a Long Island Ice Tea every hour which I throw back in two gulps each time.
Now, just past 10am, in walks the jarhead.
He is 6’4, and weighs at least 220 lbs. Another adversary. A pain in my goddamn tracked up neck:
“Well well well what have we here?” he says as he saunters the desolate bar and stalks its few loyal patrons. “Why don’t you play me something Darb? Play me some of that junk n’ roll hahaha; oh! I’m sorry I meant rock n’ roll didn’t I? I was distracted by your noodly and disease infested arms and what looks like might be your neck too?” He gets right by my face and whispers his shit breath. “Or did you let the rats and insects give you hickies when you were sleeping in the dirt last night you dirty little scu—?”
I jump off the piano bench and the few men sitting at the bar rush over to break up what was about to be a bloody, teeth bashing brawl.
“Fuck you motherfucker!” I scream at the man while the entire bar gets in between us two raging drunks. “Don’t you get in my face with your asshole breath like you own this place! I’ll kill you!!”
“Come here you punk come here!” the jarhead screams as three men gently drag him outside and tell him to calm down that I’m just a kid and not worth it.
I just stand next to the green piano.
My fists clenched. Eyes scrunched.
I sit back down at the piano and play Clair De Lune, a soft melody by DeBussy. I work in other melodies by Chopin, Mozart, Satie. I play for three hours, grab my $16 in tips from the Brandy glass, then head through the door of Lucy’s and amble into the cold night.
I walk up Atlanta toward the numbered streets of downtown.
The palm trees claw at the full giant moon as the fleeting clouds dim the night for small periods of equanimity. The roar of a large motor rapes the quiet and dark locale and sends two bright lights to smother its placidity. I hide behind the next car that is parked on the side of the road and wait for the truck to pass. The roar gets louder, more ominous. I duck lower, so low I decide to slide under the car because I know it’s the jarhead. I can tell by the murderous bellow of his ugly black truck, camouflaged by the moonless night.
The truck slows to a frightening roll.
Now, more than one jarhead, more than one hick calls out like a couple of rabid monsters. I hide under the car and try not to breathe. Hey Darby boy, here boy. They whistle, howl, sing. As soon as the truck rolls away I crawl on my knees to the sidewalk and turn around on Atlanta and run the other way. When I reach Delaware Street I make a quick left and the street is dark. There are barely any street lights and the ones that do exist flicker in fits of luminous epilepsy.
But again, the sudden roar of the truck has me turn the other way, back down the dark street of Delaware where I scurry across Atlanta down a dead end street. There is a long dead dirt lot on the right as long as a football field, maybe two—I don’t know I’m not a jock—and a large gated community on the left. The long dirt lot looks like a muddy moat for one of Huntington’s nicest mobile home parks.
The truck growls as it crosses Atlanta and the hick hits the pedal to the floor. The exhaust sounds like something out of WWII. I cut across the width of the moat and hop the wall. I land in the mobile home park and zigzag through the private haven for mostly senior citizens and listen to the truck’s declamation.
For a moment it fades.
I know the park stretches all the way to the Waterfront Hilton, just a one minute walk to the sand. If I can make it that far, I can out run them in the dark and on the sand, maybe even do a little swimming to lose this dumb hick.
The sound of the jarhead’s black truck returns.
Lingers in the close distance as I stay off Huntington Street and Atlanta and keep running towards the sand. I slip through the mobile home park. The truck gets louder. It’s a fucked up race. Junky versus jarhead. I pass the entrance to the park. The black truck screams louder than ever.
Without its headlights on as it makes a hard left into the park, like a runaway tank as it tries its hardest to hit me and barely misses. I cut right onto Huntington Street, which leads to the beach but is also a wide open road where the black truck can barrel me over and end my life. As the roar of the truck momentarily fades to nothing, again, I slow down to catch my breath. But before I can totally relax, before I can totally catch my breath, two blobs, two silhouette run through the opening of the mobile home park and head straight for me. It’s the jarhead and his buddy. Both on foot. Both of them carry baseball bats
“Come here little man,” on of them screams as his crimson face glows like a dirty street lamp.
“Leave me alone,” I say and turn to run again, but my legs are like rubber and I can’t get my cadaverous feet moving, no matter how hard I try.
I crawl on my hands and knees, through the sand and towards the sea.
I get to the wet sand and crawl faster and faster, my face wet with tears and sweat, now the salty ocean, which drenches my face and stings my eyes and I am swimming.
The water is cold.
Then there are voices.
My face gets slapped like it would from a deprecate mother or father. Suddenly, my eyes look up at the ceiling. A fan spins faster than a jet propeller high in the air.
“Here he comes here he comes!”
“Come on buddy you can do it!”
“More water more water!!”
“Keep his head from hitting the ground ya idiot!”
“Fuck you man!”
Scuffling and more yelling.
“Don’t let his head hit the ground!”
I start to cough and finally come to.
There is a small crowd of people standing above me, Nicole being one of them. She has the saddest look but forces a smile from her wet and salty face. She holds an empty bucket of water in her left, tattooed hand:
“Are you okay Oh my God?” She says.
“You were playing and you just keeled over pretty much”
“Did I finish the song?”
“Actually…no…I don’t believe that you did Darby.”
I get up and light my last cigarette, sit down at the green piano, and finish my melody of songs.