The case of the missing piano

Patrick Bergin

For as long as I could remember the old upright piano had held pride of place in our parlour.

It stood there like a rich relative, casting disapproving glances at the motley furniture that shared the dark and dimly lit room. Across from the piano was an ancient horse-hair sofa, with sagging springs and battered cushions – the lone concession to comfort in the entire room. A gas fire was the only source of heating but this flickered only on a Sunday or a public holiday. Above the fire the mantelpiece jutted out, a haven for knick-knacks, ugly ornaments and home to the ornate clock that stood defiantly as a centre-piece. It always ran fast. A wooden upright chair of unknown vintage completed the sparse furnishings. All pieces, despite their age, shone with the patience of countless polishings. Dust was outlawed in this haven of cleanliness and seldom was a child allowed over the threshold.

One day I plucked up the nerve to turn the door handle and creep into this holies of holies. As I looked around imagine my shock when I discovered that the piano was no longer there! The piano stool stood alone but where the piano usually stood was an empty space, with only a faint outline showing on the threadbare carpet.

I ran to find my Mother. “Mum! Mum!” I shrieked,”The piano has been stolen!”

“Hush, child,” whispered my Mother. “Of course it hasn’t been stolen.”

But where is it”?” I gasped.

“We’ve lent it to some poor folk who have no furniture,” she replied mysteriously.

Oh, I thought, how strange. If they are that poor surely food or clothing would have been more useful. Still, the piano was safe.

A week later my Mother slid furtively into the local pawn shop, desperately praying to St. Jude that the neighbours would not see her entering such a place of shame. Dear God, her prayers continued, if you are going to have him gamble at least let him win something now and again.”

“Morning, Mrs B.” Sooley Cohen, the amiable pawnbroker mouthed through the wire grille, as my Mother fumbled uneasily for the pawn ticket and the five pound note necessary to reclaim the piano. “Thank you, Mrs B,” he said jovially, as the money disappeared into the drawers of the cash register and the pawn ticket into the garbage can. “See you soon, no doubt.”

No doubt indeed, thought my Mother bitterly, as she nervously left the store. Yes, no doubt I will see you again soon, and so will my piano.