231/366 – Piano

Day 89 of 100 Word Prompts: Piano

The gentle rhythm of the piano in the lounge was soothing to Conner. After a long day of work, there were few things that he considered relaxing more than a few drinks and the melody of a good pianist. Frank, the regular pianist was working thankfully, and upon seeing him, changed to more classic pieces without so much as missing a note.

“Awe, come on, I liked that one!” a man at the bar said, throwing his hands up in the air. “I tipped you to play it and everything.”

“You’re going to have to calm down, sir,” Megan, the bartender, said as she poured a drink for Connor.

Connor picked up the glass and downed the whiskey in one gulp, setting the glass on the bar and tapping the rim signifying that he wanted another while he dealt with the burn of the first.

“Long day?” Megan asked, pouring another shot of whiskey.

“Too long,” Connor confirmed before downing the second.

“How about a beer?” Megan asked as he tapped the glass once more.

Connor thought about it for a moment, and nodded.

Megan was already on her way to grab a glass. She poured his favorite beer and placed it on the bar in front of him.

“Excuse me,” the other man said, leaning over the bar waving his hand wildly. “What’s a guy got to do to get some service around here?”

“What can I do for you?” Megan asked, flipping her hair over her shoulder.

“Scotch, please,” the man replied, his tone softening slightly.

Megan grabbed a blended scotch and poured it in a glass for him. “Anything else?”

“No, thank you, ma’am,” he replied taking a sip of the beverage. The man looked up from his drink to see Connor watching him. “Hey, you look familiar. What’s your name?”

“Connor,” he replied.

“Connor what?” the man asked.

“I think you’re asking a bit much when I don’t know your name,” Connor replied, taking a drink of his beer.

“I’m Harold Porter, but you can call me Harper,” he said, moving along the bar to sit closer to Connor. “I used to do sales, you know? It was easy. I could get people to eat out of the palm of my hand, but then some guy pushed his way in to the business and I lost it all.”

Harper smelled like a brewery to Connor, who was just beginning to feel the effects of the alcohol. He shook his head to refocus on what Harper had said.

“Are you okay, buddy?” Harper asked as Connor watched the room spin.

“I-I don’t know,” Connor said, gripping the bar for security, but feeling the stool under him begin to tilt. “I think-”

Connor collapsed onto the floor, looking up at Harper who kept talking through Megan running around the bar. He heard nothing of what the drunk said, and he didn’t hear anything that Megan said either. He tried to say something, but his mouth wouldn’t work and his body wouldn’t move.

“Megan?” he tried to say. “What’s happening to me?”

Connor’s body felt heavy. Too heavy, but the sound of the piano rang through crystal clear to him, despite not hearing Megan speak, her face full of panic as she yelled over at someone else.

This is too heavy, Connor thought as his eyes closed. I need to go now.

With a final exhalation, he felt all the weight leave him. The melody of the music still lulled him into relaxation as he pushed himself from the floor. Megan was still crouched next to someone, she was crying now. The poor sap in her arms looked like hell.

“It’s alright, Megan. I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Connor said as he turned to see Frank still playing the piano happily. “The guy probably just had too much to drink.”

“You’re too right,” Frank replied with a beaming smile and nod. “I think you may have.”

“What’s happening, Frank?” Connor asked as the world blurred around the old pianist.

“I’m playing you out, Connor,” Frank replied as he picked up the pace.

From within the ceiling Connor watched a gleaming white staircase descend. It was both ethereal, yet completely solid from his view. Each post on the railing seemed to shimmer and twist in a way that showed some kind of image from Connor’s life.

Connor approached the stairs. He felt nervous and unsure, but he also didn’t feel his heart slamming in his chest like it should have been under the circumstances. He turned back to look at Frank who simply smiled and waved at him as he set his foot upon the first step.

Instantly, Connors mind flooded with a thousand memories of his first year on earth. He saw himself drinking milk, and laughing while his parents made funny faces at him. He saw his fat little fingers struggling to grip huge fingers and thumbs whenever they pressed against his palm. He took another step.

Connor remembered learning to walk. How weak his legs felt, but how excited he was when he finally managed to pull himself up from a sitting position and let go of the couch in the living room. He remembered his mother yelling at his grandmother to get out when she lit a cigarette in the room. Then another step.

With each step Connor took, he remembered more and more of his life. He remembered walking, and learning to ride a bike. He remembered when he broke his arm skateboarding. He remembered his first kiss with Diane, and the fury of her father when he found out. He remembered finding Tiana, and how passionately they had pursued each other. Then how far apart the grew as he took job after job that took him all over the world. He remembered the lonely nights sitting in the bar staring into a glass of whiskey while bartenders became his only friend for a night.

Connor paused on the last stair, feeling a deep sadness in his heart. He wanted to turn back and try something-anything, to make it better. Maybe he would ask Megan more questions if he had a second chance. Maybe he would quit his job and call Tiana, even after all these years he knew she had never found another long term boyfriend. Maybe they could be together… Maybe they could.

The scene beneath him vanished in a dense fog, leaving only the staircase and the light above him. Maybe would never happen now. He had waited too long to see what he had done wrong. He had waited too long to look back. Now his only option was to start over and try again, hopefully finding the lessons this time…

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