A Broken Piano – Short Story or First Chapter?

It was the letters shoved beneath the lid of the piano that reminded me of John’s sudden disappearance. I must have gone months without noticing the yellowing corners of the envelopes, or the absence of music. There’s something to be said for routine predictability, but whatever it is has never been said of me. So, I don’t believe it should be surprising that it took months of gnawing nothingness for me to sit down before those black and white keys. Nor should I be expected to remember the last day he spoke to me, or what the words spoken were. I don’t expect you to remember the last words of a book you finished years ago.

I contemplated those keys and scattered my fingers across them. They bumbled and cursed. I kicked my foot, held down a note and felt it scatter wirelessly through the house. Of course, this was my first clue. Notes don’t scatter wirelessly. They hum, shrink, and maybe flicker a little bit. Much like John.

So, I opened the lid, and there they were. One hundred and thirty-three letters. I counted them later, while waiting for the police. They were all unaddressed. I opened one; how could I not? A sudden stash of unopened envelopes had to be a rare historical find. Unfortunately, it made little sense to me. It read rather like a shopping list of places. A collection of whereabouts to be bought and consumed later.

It was quite unlike John to keep letters in such a state, so I had gone to his room and knocked politely. Then firmly. Then barged in with irritation. Of course, he wasn’t there. He never seemed to be home when I wanted to speak to him. I left him a note after kicking over a pair of his boots. It was petty, but so is frustration. Ten days later I called the police.

The officer that arrived walked in with his thumbs tucked behind his belt and I took this to be a good sign. I brought him over to the piano. He mulled over it and muttered to himself a couple of times. It was quaintly professional until he reached in and, gloveless, grabbed one of the envelopes. Needless to say, my horror was the kind where silence runs down your throat and suffocates your stomach.

When I came to, more people had arrived and there was a man holding my wrist. I asked him who all these people were, and he said they were policemen and a detective. There had been a pause after that in which he looked into my eyes and pulled up my eyelids. My head was gently prodded and my heart rate measured.

“Have you been drinking enough?” The man had asked.

“Of what?” I replied to a bemused smile, before carefully standing myself up. This seemed to content the man, and he went off to confer with a policewoman.

The letters were now being removed from the piano and carefully placed into plastic bags. I noticed that it was a different officer overseeing the work and this contented me. My instincts about the previous man had been direly incorrect, but the authorities were now aware of it and had resolved the issue.

I wandered around the house for a while then, peering into different rooms to find various police men and women going through everything. I didn’t particularly mind it until I came to my bedroom and one of them was halfway under my bed. My outraged scream garnered the attention of everyone and I soon had six people in my bedroom. This was not something I noticed immediately as I’d thrown myself onto the legs sticking out from under my bed. We were quickly disentangled and I found myself staring at the policewomen I had seen earlier. She had a stern expression on her face and it was clear that she was about to lecture me, but she was interrupted by a soft ‘ahem’ that drew our attention.

A man emerged from behind her, and I realised his legs had been the ones I was wrestling. In his hands were a series of new, clean envelopes. The policewomen said she was Detective Suchandsuch, and that I had the right to remain silent, which I admit was rather peculiar. The cold metal on my wrists was stranger, and it wasn’t until I was being pushed through my front door that I knew I was being arrested.

John would be outraged, I knew. All these people searching through the house and then dragging me away. It was the sort of thing he’d call ‘an obscene breach of human rights’. Whenever he said that sort of thing I laughed; he was always certain that there was no other way the world could be. The world was, and is, more fragile than that. It’s more like that envelope filled piano. Hard as you may try, you will never make beautiful music with all that paper pushing in the way.

Right, detective?

 

 

 

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