One morning I was woken by the doorbell. By the time I got down there, Chris was there too, and we opened the door to see Bart standing there in a plain white T-shirt and very dark sunglasses.
“Want a piano?” he asked.
“What?” I shaded my eyes, wishing I had some sunglasses on, too.
“What kind of piano?” Christian said from behind me.
“Not sure. You remember Chris from Buffalo Tom?”
I rubbed my eyes. “Yeah, what about him?”
“His girlfriend, I think–or maybe it’s one of the other guys’, I’m not sure–anyway, they’re clearing out a house and there’s a piano and they don’t want it.”
That was as good an explanation as I was going to absorb before having some coffee, apparently. Later, in the van on the way over I gathered that Bart had come to wake us up about this because he couldn’t be expected to move a piano by himself in his car; both the van and either my or Chris’s help was needed. Also, his place was too small for a piano and he thought we should put it in our basement for rehearsals.
We pulled up to a house in Brighton to find the small square of lawn and most of the sidewalk had been turned into a yard sale.
“How much is the piano?” I asked as Christian paused as we went up the front walk to paw through a crate of old record albums on a card table.
Bart grinned. “No no, the question is how much are we not going to charge to haul it away for them.”
Bart bounded up the stairs and talked briefly to a girl I didn’t know, and then beckoned us into the house.
It was a grand old house much fallen into disrepair. But there was stained glass in the windows and the living room was dominated by a huge fireplace of glazed tile with ceramic lion heads.
The piano, I was relieved to note, was an upright and would easily fit in the van. I went and backed it up the driveway to get as close to the door as possible, and we got the piano out of the house and into the van with no trouble.
Then we stood staring at it in the back there, wondering how we were going to keep it from falling over while driving.
I’m sure our insurance company would have hated the answer we came up with, which was that I drove very very slowly back to our house, with Chris and Bart in the back with the piano, one on either side, trying not to get crushed by it falling on them.
Hey, it worked, didn’t it?
Then came the getting it into the living room, which was not that difficult.
And then came the contemplation of the basement stairs.
“Now I know why that company is called Deathwish Piano Movers,” Chris said, measuring the doorway with a tape measure and looking dubious.
“Let’s eat lunch before we try this,” Bart suggested.
It was actually two in the afternoon by then, as it had been nearly noon when he’d woken us up, to be truthful about it.
So we walked down to the Sunset Grill, because the weather was warm and breezy, and it seemed like a good idea. (No, as far as I know the place has no connection to the Don Henley song.) Christian had one of the hundred microbrews I’d never heard of and which would have been wasted on me.
“Hey, let me ask you something,” Bart said, as we munched on our food.
“Do you guys think I should bring Michelle on tour?”
“What about Tower?” I asked.
“She wants to quit.”
Chris shrugged. “Sure, why not? We all like her. She want to keep an eye on you or something?”
Bart laughed. “Hardly. But she’s tired of me having all the fun.”
“Sure, why not?” I echoed. “I guess she just has to be budgeted for. I have no problem with it, though. Talk to C. about it.”
“I don’t think she’d come for the whole time, but maybe a week or two,” Bart said. “I figured I’d ask you guys first before she brings it up again.”
Somehow the walk there, and eating, and the walk back, turned into two hours. When we got back we scared up Colin and called some friends to come over and help, and then Lars got home from work, and soon enough we were all trying to move this piano downstairs.
I’ll cut out the suspense. The entire operation was a failure, though there were several attempts, renewed each time some new people arrived. Two of the guys in Tidewater lived just down the street from us, and they came over. Eventually, Michelle joined in, and so did Reggie and Marilynne from Colin’s band, and the next thing you know some of the Buffalo Tom guys had come to see what we were up to, and eventually it was time to give up moving the thing, order a pile of pizzas, and just have a party.
Which was how I ended up with two slices of pizza and two Rolling Rocks in my stomach, sitting on one of Christian’s drum stools, playing the piano. (We’d had to leave the upholstered bench behind. Too high a chance of bedbugs.) It turned out I could actually fake my way through a couple of Beatles songs, which of course everyone knew the words to, and this eventually led to other instruments being dragged up into the living room from the basement, and then I was able to get up and walk away from the piano without anyone really minding.
Out on the front porch I could hear it perfectly well through the open windows. I got another beer and sat there on the front steps just listening and feeling mellow.
Someone sat down next to me. I didn’t have to look to know it was Ziggy.
“I didn’t know you could play the piano,” he said.
Yes, you did, I nearly answered, just to be argumentative. But maybe he really didn’t, and what I should have been saying was what the hell are you doing here, aren’t you supposed to be in LA? Except I didn’t want to seem like a dumb ass who had lost track of time. So instead, I said, “I didn’t know I could either.”
“Oh, come on, doesn’t everyone who goes to music school have to know it?”
I shrugged. “I had lessons as a kid. Didn’t actually have to play much for school though. One music theory class had us play our ear exercises on it. And I had one music composition class where it was all pianized.”
“Yeah, that’s a technical term.”
He chuckled. “You’re such a bullshitter.”
“I know.” I turned to look at him. “Takes one to know one.”
“Heh.” He clinked his beer bottle against mine.
We stared at each other for a long moment. I had the urge to lick my lips and forced myself to sit still. Everything had been so calm ever since San Francisco. The Seattle show had been blow-the-doors off good, and Portland had been a close second, and I hadn’t seen him since that morning we left that last hotel. It almost made me forget how twisted up he’d made me.
“Hey so if…” he started to say at the same time I said, “Don’t think I…”
“You first,” I said.
“No no, you,” he said. “What I was going to say wasn’t important anyway.”
“If it wasn’t important, then say it and get it over with.”
“Only if you promise you’ll say what you were going to say.”
I gave in and licked my lips. “Okay. Sure. No go ahead.”
“I was going to say let’s talk business for a moment. When are we starting rehearsals?”
“Next week. And I was totally going to ask you if you’ve been working on anything new.”
“I was. Well? Have you?”
“Actually, I have. A few little things.”
I nodded. “Good. That’s good.”
Just then another car came and wedged itself into our crowded driveway and Carynne got out.
We went inside with her and I ended up playing guitar, until a neighbor came over and said we were being too loud too late even for a Saturday night. (It’ll come as no shock to you that I hadn’t even known what day of the week it was.)
To also tell you the truth, Ziggy had been right. That wasn’t what I was going to say to him at all. I had been going to say something I’d regret, probably. I’d been about to bring up the whole “second chance” thing. I don’t know if that meant I was thinking about actually giving him one, or if we were just going to end up fighting about it more. Or if I was going to quash that feeling instead, and tell him it was time to concentrate on other things, and couldn’t he see how well things were going when we didn’t fight? Seeing him like that, unexpectedly, caught me off guard.
Since I didn’t say anything, we’ll never know what might have come out on the spur of the moment. When the neighbor broke up the party, everyone dispersed, and I realized Zig was already gone.
As I lay in bed that night, though, still slightly buzzed, all I could think about was how his lips would have been cold from touching the edge of the beer bottle if I’d kissed him, and how his tongue would be hot behind that.
Fine. I jotted it down to use in a song. “Infernal Medicine.” My obsessions had to be good for something.