The last time I saw my father he was wearing a toupee that looked like a year’s worth of dryer lint, a worn-out Carolina t-shirt, the blue almost white now, green golfing shorts, and penny loafers... [+]
This job is a grand. We’re supposed to deliver the piano from a suburban chateau into a self-storage facility. Why doesn’t matter. Pick-up address, how many floors down; delivery address, how many floors up, then Chad and I get into the van. We have a custom decal: Bayshore Piano Movers. There’s a sign taped into the rear window with Chad’s number on it. We get a good amount of business.
The woman who opens the door for us gives us that look. Chad’s tall and skinny and has home-made looking tattoos. He wears our business’s t-shirt but with the sleeves cut off. I wear my t-shirt and work shorts.
“But you’re a girl,” the woman says.
I’m thirty-six years old. I’m not a girl.
Chad is good at ignoring.
“Where’s the piano?” he asks.
“On the mezzanine.” The customer points up a curving flight of stairs.
Most people don’t have a mezzanine. Chad and I go up the carpeted stairs to the piano. We lift on “Kids, don’t try this at home!” and the lady’s hand is clamped over her mouth.
“No, wait!” she exclaims, when we’re already halfway down the half-flight of stairs.
Chad ignores her until we set down for a break.
“Yes?” he asks. I wipe one hand over my face.
“No, it’s fine,” the lady says. She looks like she’s not so sure she’s doing the right thing.
“You know it’s my husband’s.” She says it like a question.
“Okay, didn’t know that,” Chad says and re-adjusts his grip. I get into position.
“Gooo kiddo.” That’s him counting me in. I brace and lift. We tip the piano on its side.
“Bottom secure,” Chad says. Snigger, just between the two of us.
The lady is still hovering.
“He doesn’t know I’m getting rid of it,” she says.
“I thought we’re putting it in storage,” Chad clarifies. We’re taking the legs off the piano.
“I can’t make up my mind!” The woman’s voice is getting more intense. The grand is on the dolly now.
“It’s a tall one,” Chad warns me about the front door’s threshold when we get ready to get the piano out of the house.
“Got it,” I respond.
“I mean, technically, he’s home most weekends, but is he really? He acknowledges me like he acknowledges furniture.”
“Gooo kiddo,” Chad says. I lift up. He’s lightning fast with that dolly on the other side of the threshold. “Mind right,” I say, making sure the piano’s sides are clear of the door frame.
“Clear,” Chad confirms.
The lady has followed us across the threshold and into her semicircular driveway.
“I suppose I was thinking that if I got rid of some of the furniture, maybe he’ll notice me again?”
“Hm,” Chad hums. It’s not like we get offended if someone thinks of a piano as just furniture. We don’t super love pianos. It was just that time Chad really wanted to turn things around, but for that he needed not to be poor and desperate. We were buddies before we were business partners. He needed money and together we were pretty good at lifting heavy stuff. Plus we’re good at talking to each other. Would be funny if Chad played Chopin like some prodigy but neither of us play.
“He doesn’t even play!” The lady keeps talking.
We’ve rolled the piano on the dolly to our van. I open the van’s doors wide.
“It’s all about status. Gotta get the Bösendorfer. Gotta put it on the mezzanine where everyone will see it but without tripping over it. Understatement and status. Why does he have time to plot that but he can’t even spare one word of appreciation for me?”
Chad prepares the bed of the van and I make sure the edge is padded for when we’re going to tip the piano into the van.
“I’m so lonely.” Suddenly the lady sounds dark. Like she’s dropped a mask.
“It’s not my money,” she says. Some sort of accent comes through now. Southern maybe. “I ain’t gonna throw all of this away, am I?”
“Don’t try this at home!” Chad says and we secure the piano inside the truck.
Just gotta go back for the legs now.
“Look at you guys!” she says. “Doing your thing. Why don’t I do my own thing? I never commit to anything. Putting it into storage... I should burn it! I should be strong, like you!”
Guess she doesn’t know much about us. Sure, we’re strong, but mainly we’re smart, because you’ve gotta know how to lift and when.
We load the grand piano’s legs onto the dolly. We wheel them outside and load them into the van.
“Anything else?” Chad asks the lady.
She gives him this really intense look for a few seconds.
“Yea,” she says and there’s a new determination on her face. “Let me just get your tip.”
She turns on her heel, marches up her drive, and goes into the house. She stays away for minutes. I give Chad an annoyed look. We got another job after this one. Don’t wanna be late. Chad shrugs with one shoulder and smirks. We want the tip from that lady with the mezzanine.
She comes back out and hands me an envelope. I say thank you and we get into the van. She waves as we pull away.
I open the envelope. There’s a twenty and a piece of paper in there.
He pops a piece of gum into his mouth.
“She gave us the Bösendorfer.”
Chad snorts. “Bullshit.”
I stuff the gift letter back into the envelope.
“Yea, let’s just deliver it. She’ll change her mind.”
“Love ya, Chad.”
“Love ya too, kiddo.”