Sing A Song Mr Piano Man
By Julie D Cole
A bit more fun for the Valentines Contest. I couldn't resist it.
It's nine o'clock on a Thursday night and here I am again. Same place and same time as for the last 5 years. It’s quieter than usual for some reason. I’m sitting at my piano watching some of the regular Thursday night crowd shuffling in.
As usual there’s an old man sitting next to me with his packet of Pork scratchings caressing his Guinness beer glass and he is oblivious to me for a while. He is just staring into space. After a while I decide to get back to the job in hand and since no welcoming applause was coming I placed my beer glass down on top of the piano. I lifted the lid. Yep all the keys are still there in the same place I left them last night. I warmed up my fingers, cracked my knuckles as usual. That’s the build up out of the way so now to get going.
I was about to play the first song in my list that I’d carefully prepared at the bar about ten minutes ago. He turns towards me with a pleading hound dog expression. Well more Spaniel really since it was an English pub. He says, "Son, it’s Valentine’s Day today so can you play me a memory”
I looked across at him thinking it was a bit early for requests and most people are rocking a bit before they ask. I guess I wasn’t going to refuse because I felt a bit sorry for him and since he is a permanent fixture in this seat these days I responded “OK Pops but which melody do you have in mind?”
“Well it’s a special love song in memory of someone rather special but I'm not really sure how it goes or what it’s called.”
“Oh. Give me a clue then. Do you know the words?”
“Not really. Well I do but I can’t remember them.’
I tried to be patient because it’s important to get your audience on your side as early as possible when you are a pub pianist in the North of England. “Well why don’t you hum it and I’ll try to figure out which song it is?”
He put his glass down and put his false teeth back in that he’d obviously removed to eat the snack. Well suck them I supposed. “ I will if I can but Roxy always started it and I’d join in at the end of the first verse.”
“Where is Roxy then? Perhaps if you fetch her she can start us off.”
“She passed so she can’t.” I should have realised since I’d never seen him with anybody.
Anyway as frustrating as it was I didn’t want to upset this guy. I was a little worried though in case the crowd might be getting restless. Nope I was OK since most of the tables were still empty and that’s often the case until the music starts. Well I should say until I start playing.”
“Was she special then Pops? What made this song so special to give me a clue?”
“Roxy was my one and only since the days we went to school together. We were in the boys choir and boy she could certainly reach the high notes. She was lead soprano. I was in the back row with ‘the grunters’ ”
“ If you don’t mind me asking what was a girl doing in a boys’ choir?”
“Well she wasn’t always a girl. Well she was but she wasn’t if you know what I mean.”
“Oh so she was a girl masquerading as a boy then? How did she get away with it?”
“ No but she was more of a boy until she met me and then everything became clear to her. We knew as soon as we met that we were made for each other. She brought out the best in me and she sang her heart out for me. Her voice never really broke and she had a hell of a pair of lungs on her for someone of such slight build. We were together for almost 40 years. This is the first Valentines day I’ve not held her hand and given her a red rose like I did on our first date.”
“I’m sorry to hear that she must have been something extra special. Forty roses then straight from your heart. Was the song anything to do with roses?”
“ No it wasn’t.”
“how about hearts then was it a melody from the heart.”
“No it wasn’t. I wish I could remember. I wish she was standing here now singing with you and I’d join in as well.”
I looked up to the heavens for inspiration. Well to the stained pub ceiling that had never been decorated since smoking was banned. “How about her name then was that associated with the song or the melody.”
“No. She was extra special though like you say. Such soft white skin and hair over her shoulders for most of her life after we left school. It wasn’t allowed in our day like it probably was for you whippersnappers.”
I guessed he was referring to my Pony tail. All musicians have pony tails don’t they? We have an image to portray. He carried on. “She was and she helped me a lot when I was having a difficult time after she let it be known she was more girl than boy. I didn’t care personally since I just fell in love with him/her the person who was so cute and needed looking after. She was all woman to me from the time I first kissed her.”
“it sounds like you had a lot of prejudice to overcome in those days. Not like now of course when it’s easier to live as you wish.”
“You don’t know the half of it son. In our day things were tough. Come on you are wasting time. Please will you play our melody?”
“Ok I’ll try my best so here goes.”
“No no you are playing the wrong notes.”
I started again and hoped he might have some inspiration. ” No No you are playing the wrong notes.”
“Look pops I’m not a mind reader and anyway I’m playing all the right notes. They might have been in the wrong order but I assure you that they were all the right notes.”
“Please don’t spoil tonight since it’s bad enough having to sit here on my own for the first time without you making it up as you go along. Don’t you know a melody?”
“I know a lot of melodies pops but you seem to have a special one in your mind.”
“of course I do. We all do don’t we? especially on Valentines night”
OK I’m humming instead now. “is this more like it?”
“I don’t know I can’t hear you for the noise from the other bar. Too many people in there. They ought to come through to this bar to listen to you.”
“I’m hoping so when I can get started. What else was there about Roxy that made you fall in love with her?”
“Well she could play the piano and the violin as well as sing. She could have been a very talented musician or sang in operas but she chose to live with me instead. She gave it all up to live as my wife and we moved here more than thirty years ago because nobody knew us or anything about us. She did a lot of charity work and I brought the wages in. She played the organ at church every week and we had lots of sing-alongs at home around the piano if we had people around. She was a womans woman and the men loved her too so she died a very happy woman. She made me the successful man I became but I am getting old now and I’ve no-one to share my life with.”
“Are you rich and famous then?”
“No my success was as a writer but I gave most of the income away to charity. Well it was Roxys idea really. We never needed money just love and affection that we never had as young children after we were cast out of our families.”
“Oh I’m sorry but it’s a great thing you did. Cheer up old man, it’s Valentines Day and just enjoy the happy memories from years gone by. Come on let me help you find the song you want.”
“Well, you are very kind. I was a much better singer and a great partner for Roxy when I wore a younger man's clothes. She had a figure that many women would die for and in her late teens she really blossomed."
“OK here I go again. La la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum”
He joined in at last and I let him sing out loud.
Sing us a song, you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
I joined in
“Well, we're all in the mood for a melody
And you've got us all feelin' alright,”
I looked across at the bar. Lot’s of people started to mingle there and join in. There was now John at the bar, a friend of mine pulling pints of beer as fast as he could. He gets me my drinks for free.
“And he's quick with a joke but can’t light up our smokes
So now it’s outside that he’d rather be”
I sang across to him and Pops was enjoying the tune
I said "Bill, your smokes were killing me."
And the smile ran away from his face,
Well I'm sure that I could be a music star
If I only could get out of this place"
Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum
The bar was filling by now and most tables were taken. We needed a waitress now to get rid of the queue at the bar and it gave her chance to practice politics as local businessmen drank to get stoned.Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it's better than drinkin' alone
Pops was up on his seat using his walking stick as a baton. How did he get up there?
“Sing us a song you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we're all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright”
I was now into my stride. I was proud to give Pops his special Valentine and he threw the rose to the waitress who caught it and blew him a kiss.
“I’m Pops and I was a writer, a novelist
Who never had time for a wife
I lived all my life with Roxy, we never had chance for a baby
The one big regret of her life"
I looked around
It was more like a crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gave me a big smile
'Cause he thought it was me that they were comin' to see
To forget about life for a while
And the piano, it sounds like an orchestra
With Pops now holding the microphone and spilling his beer
And they sit at the bar and put cashin my jar
And say, "Man, what a great singer here"
Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum
Pops is waving again and has to be steadied by the waitress,
"Sing us a song you're the piano man
we singing and feeling alright
We were all in the mood for a melody
Here’s to Roxy this Valentines night!!!"
He downed the rest of his pint of Guinness shook my hand, clicked his heels together and left me taking the applause before turning and looking across at me as he was opening the door. “Follow That!!!”
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