Pinche Piano

Pinche decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. He drank three or four cups of bitter coffee and felt restless, especially for an overcast fall day. After reading several hundred pages of one of his favorite books, even those beloved words grew stale for him. Grabbing a jacket on the way out, he put it on as he crossed the old, narrow cement walkway to the street.

As Pinche passed his next-door neighbor’s house, Sam waved to him and laughed. Though it was just 4:45 in the afternoon, Sam already had a glass of ice and another small glass for his whiskey. “Hey, Pinche neighbor!” Ever since Pinche bought the old house on Elm Street, his neighbors took delight in saying his name, mainly because “Pinche” meant “damn” in Spanish. Pinche didn’t have the heart to tell them it often meant much worse. Them not knowing as they yelled his name always resulted in him laughing back. He hoped that dozens of white people were still saying his name without realizing it could be shocking to many people. Pinche’s grandfather got the blame for naming him; he cursed at least a thousand times the first month he discovered that Pinche’s mother became accidentally pregnant when she was only seventeen. When he found out that a priest was the father, he cursed even more and didn’t stop until Pinche was five years old. Pinche’s Mom decided to memorialize the cursing by choosing a potentially mild one as a name.

Pinche also always whistled as he walked. He didn’t know he was doing it unless a neighbor or passerby commented on it. From show tunes to rap to blues and rock, Pinche’s grasp of music was incredible. He studied piano for several years and could sing like an angel. One of his favorite things to do while walking was to whistle three-octave scales. His Mom told him to whistle as much as he wanted because God sent him to teach the birds how to sing.

Pinche turned at the next block and walked down Maple street, an older street with massive oak trees in many yards. As he neared the house directly behind his a street over, he noted that The Wilkerson’s house front door was open. A panel truck sat at the curb out front. Their light blue piano sat on a mover’s platform at the base of the porch steps. Almost no one knew that the piano once belonged to Liberace. Pinche was in on the secret because of his perfect pitch and skill with a piano. He knew that the Wilkersons were in Ohio visiting their son. Usually, Pinche jumped the back fence to check in on their cat Purrincess, which it turns out was probably the ugliest cat in North America. Its meow sounded like a loose cello string being dragged across an electric fence.

Pinche slowed as a man wearing a blue uniform exited the front door. He pulled the door closed behind him as he did. The man seemed surprised to see Pinche near the oak tree by the street. The uniformed man nodded and stopped at the piano.

“I can’t believe that the Wilkersons are selling that piano. They turned down a huge offer last year. They don’t play, of course. Such a waste for such a famous piano. An unplayed piano is like an empty heart.” Pinche chatted casually with everyone who would listen. It sometimes resulted in great conversation and sometimes with hurried looks of annoyance.

The piano mover sighed. “Yes, they got an offer they couldn’t ignore. Hey, could you help me shift this over the edge of the sidewalk?”

Pinche walked over and pushed the piano to the left while the piano man pushed toward the street. Surprisingly, the piano smoothly rolled. “The right equipment makes the job easier,” the piano mover said as if reading Pinche’s mind. They continued moving to the sidewalk. While they slowed, the piano man continued to push evenly. The base fluidly lowered to street level. The piano mover then drove it onto the waiting platform that was already lowered to street level.

“Thanks, you made this a lot easier if the piano had shifted.” While he spoke, he threw a protective blanket across the piano and threw soft straps across it. As he powered the lift up, Pinche asked him, “Who is the buyer? This is a fairly famous piano.”

“A buyer in New York. He’s wanted this piano for at least 20 years.” The piano mover continued to tighten and adjust the straps as he moved the piano inside the confines of the panel truck.

Pinche remained standing by the truck, watching the piano mover.

After a couple of minutes, the piano mover came back down to street level and then raised the platform and locked it vertically against the back of the truck.

“Listen, am I in trouble here?” The piano mover asked Pinche, suddenly revealing his nervousness.

“It depends,” Pinche said. “Is the piano going to someone who will play it? And did you lock the Wilkerson’s front door to prevent anyone else from paying a visit?”

“Yes to the door, and yes, indeed, he will. And the family here can take the $30,000 cashier’s check I left on the counter. Or they can file insurance for theft. Or both, if you know what I mean.” The piano mover took a moment to look Pinche in the eyes.

Pinche extended his right hand as the piano mover reluctantly shook it.

“It’s a deal.” Pinche nodded goodbye and turned to walk away.

The piano mover shook his head in a bit of surprise and confusion as Pinche walked away.

By the time Pinche reached the other end of Maple Street, and the piano mover opened the driver’s door of the truck, he could Pinche happily whistling “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” as his pace quickened.

Pinche felt a sudden case of forgetfulness overcoming him as Liberace filled the air.

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