The old grand piano sat in lonely corner of the room. Dust covered the piano body, and insects crept in through the keys. For the house’s inhabitants, the grand piano was merely a dead wooden sound-making device mechanically operated. No one ever tried to infuse life into the piano by at least hitting keys intentionally. It stood at that same corner for years and years, just like an item of broken old furniture, completely discarded and forgotten.
Many times, the owners tried getting rid of the piano. They even established contact with the local piano storekeepers, asking them to purchase the piano at a price the piano store could never find a customer to pay. But they still insisted on selling the piano, claiming it was the most elegant piano in the entire world with a superb tone, texture, and quality. The owners contacted many such piano movers and piano stores who might buy the piano at the price they asked for. But unfortunately, no one accepted the offer.
“Those cheap bastards…,” was the simple comment of the piano owners.
A middle-aged man of around forty-four worked as a butler to the couples who owned the house. Although he was hired as a butler, later his duties expanded far and wide-ranging to include a gardener, janitor, and even massage guy. He needed money so he could never resist whatever the couple demanded. His name was Frank, and he had a son. His wife, whom he’s adored much, was deceased. He took and held all the pain within himself just to bring a smile upon his son’s face.
Frank loved his son. His son’s demands were almost final to him. He tried his best to obtain them to see a smile on his boy’s face. He could not afford a big, sophisticated piano, but he had brought home a plastic piano that was capable to make some sounds. He had to save up his money for a long time even to afford that plastic toy called Piano. He did his absolute best to give both the father’s and mother’s love to his son. He would rather stay alone than to bring a stepmother to his son, because he believed a stepmother could never replace a mother. A stepmother raised him, and he had to endure her harsh treatment. His experience never encouraged him to marry a second time, even though he missed the sweet pleasantries of conjugal life. He secretly longed for one, but his love for his son was far greater and bigger than his basic instinct.
His son had nurtured a liking for the toy piano since the day he had it. He spent a good amount of time hitting the black and white keys here and there. It sounded kind of beautiful, but Frank knew that his son still had to do a lot of work to improve on his skills. He was even afraid to think that he longed for the real piano in his master’s house.
He spent eight to ten hours of the daytime in his master’s place. The chores events kept him busy most of the time, but as time permitted he never failed to visit the music room to look at the piano, just to desire the piano, to let the thought of owning such a piano dwell in his thought process. Even such sensations gave him the utmost pleasure. He often envisioned his dear kid sitting at the piano and playing it. Oh, how he wanted to see his son perform in front of other people and be musically educated. He knew in his lifetime he could never be in a prosperous position to buy such a piano. Just to be close to it, he pretended to dust the already dusted piano.
One day he discussed the piano with his masters.
“Sir, there is something I need to discuss with you if you allow….” Frank poured his heart out hesitantly.
“What is it?” his master replied without looking at him. “Whatever you want to discuss, be reminded not to ask for a raise or a loan or some help or some money in advance.”
Before Frank could think of what to say next, his master barged in again. “So is your discussion related to any of those?” Without waiting for Frank’s answer, he again added, “I will pay you only for the time you work here... no more, no less. So, if you want to work then work as usual. Otherwise you are free to leave the house anytime you want.”
Frank was afraid he might never have the chance to speak.
“There is a myriad of mongrels like you loitering in the streets. But let me remind you, if you leave the house stealing something, then I will make the police chase after you, they will find out no matter where you hide…I’m sure you understand this all.”
Frank listened in complete silence then bowed his head. That is all he could do because that was all he had learned since he started working. All the masters were the same to him, unhelpful, ungrateful, and brutal.
He had never expected his master to treat him this way after working for him all this time. He felt disheartened and lost all the hope, whatever he had in mind. He maintained his silence for a longer time.
His master demanded sternly, “So is the matter dropped now?”
“No Sir... I’m still not finished,” Frank replied reluctantly.
“Then spit out what you want to say,” the master said in a low rumbling voice with a scowl all over his crooked face.
“I want the piano... my son loves to play on it,” he said all at once.
His master slowly turned his face toward Frank as if he were ready to leap over him. Squeezing both his thick and uneven eyebrows towards the center of his forehead, he again asked in a heavy bass voice, “Do you even know what a piano is, and do you know how much it costs?”
“I know, Sir, I can never afford it even if I work for twenty-four hours a day for twenty-four years.”
“So already knowing that, how even dared ask for the piano, you rascal?“ he blustered.
He looked at Frank, giving him a very sharp penetrating look as if to inject and brutally dissect him.
Frank maintained his distance and voice and replied as if apologetically, “You have been trying to sell the piano for a long time now, and I am trying to gain it. I can work for you for twelve hours a day for the rest of my life at the same pay if I can have the piano.”
His master kept quiet and stared at Frank as if he had asked both of his kidneys. Frank suspected his master could begin ranting anytime, so he said, “That is the only way I can pay for the piano. I can give my labor and sweat and in exchange let me have the grand piano.”
Suddenly his master’s voice lit up from one corner and spread all over the face. “What guarantee do I have that you do not stop coming to work after you have the piano in your possession?”
“Sir, you know where I live, and I have no place else to go and no one would let in a poor man like me. I cannot escape anywhere with the piano. I am grounded for the rest of my life with the piano,” Frank said, adding a little courage to his staggering voice.
“All right, take the piano, but to what you have said there will be no day off besides.”
“Okay so you agree…,” he said raising his voice.
And the very next day they arranged for the piano to be moved to Frank’s home. The following day Frank returned to work at the usual time. He went to the music room and though there was no piano there, he saw himself tied to the house for the rest of his life. “Perhaps a very necessary sacrifice.”
Bio: Nitin Mishra is originally from Nepal. Currently he resides in Apex, NC. He is a Software Developer by profession. Reading classical literature is his great source of entertainment. He’s immensely inspired by Russian Literature. He writes short stories and poetry. His novel, The Last Wind, is on Amazon.
Recently his poetry was published in the Village Square
With Emily on the Death Carriage