The man at the piano at the front of the bar seems
to not care about the fact that a kid, way too buzzed
on limoncello just pressed the molten butt of his
cigarette against the back of his bony forearm. The man
isn't old; middle-aged, perhaps, but his hands are
withered with the years he has left to live, mottled
and blue in some places. The cords of his veins pull
and loosen with each flourish of his wrist. It's all
classical pieces he's playing, and the barflies who
hang around the scantily clad waitresses are tired of it.
They demand he play something old, something new,
something filled with the brassy, melancholy melody
of the blues. The man looks up, his eyes are a watery
shade of grey-blue. Out from his thin lips comes a sigh.
He leans back from the keys, and his fingers fly to his collar.
He undoes each tiny pearl button slowly; he chooses to take
his sweet time. The barflies grow restless.
The man leans over the keys and cranks out the jaunty tune to
Joel's "Piano Man". The weight of the irony is more than apparent to the
poor soul, and the barflies, who haw-haw-haw and slap their
meaty hands against the splintered bar counter.
Once his set is done, the man, one of many Piano Men checks his tip
jar, the one by the ebony foot of his instrument, his life.
There's a couple of Lincolns, a flurry of Washingtons and one
Hamilton. It's not much, but it's something.
Maybe he can buy himself a drink or two, if he really
wants to end the night on a less than dismal note,
but the beer from the tap is watery, and the wine is
He rolls them up and shoves them into his pocket. The
burn on his arms is throbbing. He'll have to buy
some plasters to soothe the pain. But it's not
even a fraction of the pain he feels knowing
his dream has scooped out his hope and made