Miki had told Tê the piano was haunted. Miki could hear it in the reverberation behind the low keys and the strident leftover in the highs. But Tê knew nothing about pianos. She opened its cover and exposed the keys. It grinned like a dog. She pressed down, her ten fingers stretched apart. It sounded sinister, she gave Miki that.
Jason left with the rent money. They had agreed on a deposit, but the day he moved in (that strawberry blonde hair, that pointy nose, that collar neatly tucked into his cardigan), asking had seemed rude, and unnecessary. And there was the piano. Tê had never thought she would live with a piano. Now it sat underneath a pile of unpaid utility bills. Tê stuck her fingers under its jaw, leaned back and put the weight of her body into the pull. It didn’t move.
Later she found out Jason had told Miki the piano belonged to his dead aunt. He claimed she had gone mad after a failed love affair with a married man. Supposedly, he had loved her, but he was related to royalty and could not face the scandal of leaving his wife. Jason’s aunt had played their song until her fingers bled and became deformed with calluses. She drank poison and kept playing until her dead torso fell on the keys, producing a final, perfect, harmony.
Just the kind of story that would turn Miki on.
Tê brought her nose close to the piano’s shiny brown surface. But it didn’t smell like anything. Jason’s cologne had smelled nice, like flowers about to rot and wood.
To Tê, Jason had talked about his classical training, the strict private French tutor who hit his knuckles with a ruler, the neglect of his rich parents, his decision to make it on his own, not a cent from his trust fund. It turned out he had been sleeping with Miki too, and, mostly likely, also with Angela, who had not paid her last month’s rent either, and who, by the looks of it, had run off with him.
Tê had tried to sell the piano on Craigslist. Then she tried to give it away for free. Turned out, it was worthless. A piece of crap all along. That’s what made her mad. She had not been able to tell the difference. Still couldn’t. The piano sounded fine to her.
She kicked it. A pressure escaped her with the thump, like it did with the best of sighs. She kicked it again. She kicked it, and it groaned faint notes to her, like warm whispers on her ear.
Miki came out of her room, rubbing her eyes. The piano was slightly crooked against the wall. It had moved, even if just a few centimeters. And there was a nice crack on the panel.
Tê went to the basement and came back with a hammer for herself, a frying pan for Miki.
“She spoke to me in a dream. This,” Tê murmured, “is how we free her.”
Ananda Lima’s work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Rattle, Hobart, The Offing, PANK and elsewhere. She has an MA in Linguistics from UCLA and is pursuing an MFA in fiction from Rutgers University, Newark. Ananda has taught language and linguistics at UCLA and Montclair State University and currently teaches undergraduate creative writing at Rutgers University, Newark. She is working on a full-length poetry collection centered on immigration and motherhood and a novel set in Brasília, where she grew up as the daughter of migrants from Northeast Brazil.
Cover Photo by KyOn Cheng