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|The Piano is a Percussion Instrument by Maude Larke
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THE PIANO IS A PERCUSSION INSTRUMENT
by Maude Larke
Harry came through the screen door and paused a moment, as he lifted the ax to hold it across his body. He felt like an anti-hero in a horror movie, and imagined the camera looking up at him from the floor. He strode slowly and heavily—stiffly, in fact, as he was no actor, and had a strange idea of how an actor would move in this kind of scene—through the hallway and into the back den, with its pine walls. He came to the upright piano, a 120-year-old Boston, and then realized he would have to set down his ax as he suddenly had the inspiration to start from the inside.
What Harry did not know is that a piano is like a pet that you get just because it is cute, and then find out what a chore it is what with feeding and grooming and veterinary bills (except that the necessity for regular tuning, being not visible and audible only when someone with an ear has the idea of hitting the keys, is far more regularly neglected).
Harry placed the ax in the corner, its head naturally down following gravity, pulled the upper front panel of the piano cabinet forward, by the bottom lip that served as a music stand, and then nestled it against his hip as he shifted his hands to the sides, to unhook its upper pins from their wells.
What Harry did not know is that even the most unassuming wallflower of a mini-spinet has the hidden still-waters-run-deep wallop of thirty-six thousand pounds of tension, from more than two hundred steel-and-bronze strings responding to its eighty-eight keys (in of one of two colors) strung tightly and tautly on its hidden-like-a-shoulder-holster cast-iron frame.
Harry leaned the panel against an easy chair, looked at the strings now left exposed, and chose his contact point. He picked up his ax and stepped up to the piano, like a batter stepping up to the plate. He slowly aimed the ax blade at the strings, just under the tuning pegs, just at the point at which they quit contact with the frame.
What Harry did not know was that all those scenes he had been forced to watch with Marge, which were left in the back of his mind—Liberace on “The Monkees,” “Masterpiece Theatre” with the Baron Dudevant and his wife George, the ballet boy and his striking father, that televised short-story about the man who leapt out of the window of his apartment and onto the inflated safety cushion, only to be followed by the grand piano that the cushion was meant to protect and which had slithered its gleaming varnished sides through the lifting straps—were obviously (at least to everyone else) faked, contrived, invented, and staged clever ploys to send seven hundred dots of light per microsecond to be sorted and interpreted from the small screen to the small brain.
“This’ll fix the bitch, for once,” Harry thought, stepping out of his film role and rapidly back into other scenes, those in his own world which inspired his revenge.
Harry brought the ax abruptly back to begin his swing.
What Harry did not know is that a mistreated piano explodes.
Maude Larke has come back to her own writing after working in the American, English and French university systems, analyzing others’ texts and films. She has also returned to the classical music world as an ardent amateur, after fifteen years of piano and voice in her youth. Winner of the 2011 PhatSalmon Poetry Prize and the 2012 Swale Life Poetry Competition, she has been published in Oberon, Naugatuck River Review, Cyclamens and Swords, Mslexia, Cliterature, and Short, Fast, and Deadly, among others.