We hadn’t been home for five minutes before he was knocking at our door, shoulders hunched against the cold.
He asked if I’d look at something for him, and I knew he’d bought a new piano for his 12-year-old daughter.
He’s been talking about it for a couple weeks now, frustrated by the sound of his old Craigslist find; how he’s been caught between two brands but wants a keyboard, something lighter.
My coat was still on and my boots too and so I followed him across the grass, played a few chords on the new Roland keyboard, told him yes, it was good. The keys feel weighted and the tone is right and she likes it.
The old one, badly in need of a tuning and maybe even some replaced strings or hammers inside, is pushed back against the wall, ready to be discarded. He is pleased.
I tried not to breath, the air heavy with smoke, dogs jumping up against my knees to greet me. She smells of smoke when she comes over, and I wonder about her lungs.
Her favorite piece of music sits out on the piano and I know she’s been playing it again.
He asked me to find her an easy Mozart piece, and now she plays it to the exclusion of her regular practice pieces. I might confiscate it next week if she still hasn’t practiced, but it’s hard to blame her. He’s ecstatic when she plays Mozart.
She doesn’t say so but I know she plays for him.
I tell her there are no more Mozart pieces she can play, they’re all too hard, but if she focuses on learning the new notes she’ll get better and we’ll find another one.
We laughed when I got home, at how we know our house is watched even when we’re gone. It’s odd, but it’s also nice; no one could try to break in without him noticing. We leave the living room curtains open when we leave, to let him see in, just in case there’s a problem.
Mostly, it’s unspoken, this understanding that he’ll keep an eye on our place. But when the paper failed to stop delivery for a week-long vacation he sent his daughter over to collect them, so we wouldn’t have a “please rob me” sign out on our front porch.
And we’d be happy to return the favor, except that he never leaves for more than a few hours.
He pays me to teach her piano but acts like I’m giving him a gift and last week, when she hadn’t practiced much, he growled frustration.
And I wonder which came first, her begging for a piano or him seeding that interest.
Because now, I think it’s her father that fuels her motivation.