The piano lolled like a drunk around midnight. One leg was wedged deeper into the saturated sand than the others. It must have lolled there a while, he thought, as the lid already had speckles of seagull shit dotted like polka dots. Yet, it hadn’t been there last night, when Ken had taken his evening stroll with Blue.
Had it washed up on the tide? He wondered. But then, it was standing bolt upright, as though dumped there once the tide had gone out this morning. He considered his tide timetable back at the cottage. Living on this part of the coast, you had to be aware of such minutiae. Ken studied them religiously. Had more than once had to warn youngsters to get off the beach before they got washed off the rocks.
Ken stroked the top of the piano. He tapped a couple of the keys with cold, gloved fingers. The sound that came back was tinny, out of tune. The sound made him think of Maggie.
She had loved the piano, had taken lessons in the last year of her life. Ken had sat, ears stuffed with cotton wool, reading the newspaper whilst she practised on her grandfather’s old piano. Nothing as fancy as this one; she would have loved this.
He’d got rid of the old instrument – donated it to the local school – after Maggie passed over. Couldn’t bear to see it in the corner of the room where she’d sat, desperately trying to get a tune out of it, laughing all the while. Her laughter sounded like the tinkling of a bell, light and melodious.
Much more so than the tune she’d emitted from the instrument, Ken thought.
He looked again at the piano in front of him. The receding waves were lapping the legs. His plimsolls were getting wet from standing in the edge of the water.
Probably some irresponsible person dumped it, too lazy to go to the local tip, he reasoned. Nothing mysterious about that. He would call the authorities when he got back home, alert them to it before it got carried out to sea later that day.
About to leave, he turned for a final look across the waves, remembering the day he let his Maggie’s ashes float on the wind out toward the horizon. How much they loved this little patch of the world.
On an impulse, he reached across and tugged at the heavy lid of the piano with both hands. It reluctantly creaked open, jarring halfway.
Ken almost fell back onto the sand as a white dove rose from its underbelly, flapping and disorientated to be free. It faltered, then soared, high above Ken’s head, as he watched it fly across the sea, heading for the horizon.