The Music Box

In which The Author helps to move some furniture

This particular incident took place on a Sunday evening some years ago. My friend L— and I were sitting in my front room, listening to music and having a chat, when I heard a strange noise in the street. It only lasted a couple of seconds, and L— didn’t hear it, as he was sitting away from the window. I was wondering if I’d imagined it when I heard it again. This time, L— heard it too. It was a low-pitched rumbling, scraping sound, which lasted for a few seconds before stopping and then starting up again. We were baffled, so I opened the front door and looked out into the street.
About thirty yards away, my next-door neighbour but one and his mate were pushing an upright piano along the middle of the street.
It was clearly going to be one of those Sunday evenings.
This on-and-off progress of the piano continued until the boys drew level with my front window. By now, L— and I were standing outside, watching the proceedings with a mixture of barely concealed amusement and blatant curiosity. Eventually I had to ask Eirion where on Earth he’d acquired a piano. If I remember rightly, it used to belong to his mate’s aunt, who lived at the other end of the village, but she’d given it to Eirion. The boys had pushed it (in fits and starts) from her house to his, presumably making the same racket throughout the journey. His mate told me that they’d even been stopped by the police at one point, who wanted to know what they were up to. I’ve always maintained that Police Intelligence is an oxymoron. I suppose that ‘Moving a piano, officer,’ would have been too obvious an answer.
So would, ‘No, officer, it isn’t stolen. If we were going to steal a piano, we’d probably have arranged to transport it quietly, rather than getting half the village out to see what’s happening.’
Anyway, once he opened his front door, Eirion discovered the flaw in his cunning plan. It opens straight into the front room at a right angle, and there was no room to turn the blessed instrument into the house. There was a stud partition at the end of a very short passage, where the stairs are, but we didn’t really fancy dismantling it at that time of night. (Actually, to be more exact, Eirion’s other half Gail wasn’t madly keen on the idea!)
The forecast was for rain overnight, and it was clouding over as we stood in the street, pondering the situation. Nobody had a tarpaulin to spare, so leaving the piano outside until the morning was a no go. On the other hand, my front door opens into the passage, which extends to the foot of the stairs. It would have been a squeeze, but manageable. I suggested pushing it into my house, leaving it there overnight, then trying to dismantle the partition the following evening. At least the piano would stay dry (if not exactly conveniently parked.) We hummed and hahed for a minute, and then Ken, our elderly neighbour opposite, opened his front door.
‘That’s a nice looking piano,’ he said, crossing over and opening the lid. The next thing we knew, he was playing the damn thing in the middle of the street. It was definitely becoming a Silly Evening.
In spite of my offering it a home for the night, Gail was adamant that she wanted the piano in the house as soon as possible (and preferably with a minimum of damage to the structure of the building). With this in mind, I grabbed my toolbag and took it out into the street.
‘Come on, lads, let’s see if we can crack this,’ I said, emptying various bits of kit out of the bag. When Eirion saw my bolster chisel the idea struck him. We needed something long, with a fairly wide blade, and I had a screwdriver that fitted the bill. Before Gail could say anything, we were removing the double-glazed sealed unit from the front window frame. With the window out, we had plenty of room to manoeuvre the piano into the house. Eirion and his mate went inside, while Ken, L… and I hoisted the piano onto its side and then slid it through into the front room. It took us about ten minutes to refit the window, and probably took Eirion several months to tune the piano after its adventure.
Before the local authority resurfaced the road a couple of years ago, one could see the scars in the tarmac where the boys had dragged the instrument along the street. Occasionally someone would ask me what had caused them. I always used to say, ‘If I told you, you’d never believe me.’ Now you know …

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