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Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Piano Tuner by Tim Gautreaux

Michelle Placervent lives alone in an ancient house in the deep South on an old plantation. "He knew that all she did was sit in a 150-year-old house and practice pop tunes on a moth-eaten George Steck upright." Claude is the local piano tuner whom she calls to tune up her piano again.

"'What problems you having, Michelle?' He put a tuning hammer onto a pin and struck a fork for A. His electronic tuner was being repaired a the factory, so he'd gone back to listening, setting temperament by ear."

"Why, none at all, she said, too brightly and breathlessly."

'He then tuned by octaves from the reference notes, and this took over an hour. Michelle sat there with her pale hands in her lap as though she had bought a ticket to watch.'

'The piano tuner was the kind of person who hated for anything to go to waste and thought the saddest thing in the world was a fine instrument that nobody ever touched, so it made him uneasy that someone who could play like this lived alone and depressed in an antique nightmare of a house ten miles from the nearest ear that knew what the hell her fingers were doing.'

Michelle feels obligated to stay put while Claude thinks that she ought to move and be closer to others and to be able to show off her talent. A couple of weeks later Claude gets another call from Michelle:
'Giving a good musician a fine tuning is always a risk, because when the first string starts to vibrate, he gets dissatisfied and calls up, as if one little note that's just a bit off ruins the whole song.'

The ending of this story is great.

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