by Megan Giddings
We smashed the piano with a sledgehammer out on the front yard. It wasn’t that we hated it or wanted to teach it a lesson. It wasn’t that we needed the money from the copper insides. Although we were going to pull it out, drive it to the junkyard like your brother had suggested. We just didn’t feel like loading it up, bringing it to a new place, and having to pretend that someday we would pull out our dusty ass copies of “Moonlight Sonata” and plink out the notes to make moving the piano worth our time. We borrowed the sledgehammer from my dad and took turns. The keys sounded so glad to be smashed. Grey hammer eighth notes. A smashed up arpeggio. The scales of wood splintering. Our neighbors shut their blinds, happy we were moving away. I smashed harder, getting ivory and wood dust in my dark eyebrows.
We hired a professional piano tuner because the sharps sounded like mice fighting in the walls. I had an idea of myself sitting on the bench, teaching myself to be a brand-new kind of Coltrane. He charged $60 an hour, but assured us that every minute he would be there would be definitely a thousand percent worth it. He had to say that. Anyway, after an hour, the piano tuner said there was no way to make it sound better. The piano had been too old, had been through too much. You rolled your eyes. He showed us what he had found inside its soundboard: a half-smoked cigar, playing cards, poker chips, and a blue envelope that had the name Susie written on it in ugly chickenscratch. We pretended it was a murder piano: it had gotten so sick of a poker party’s bullshit that it gobbled them all up. It made us like the piano better because we also hated card games. We hoped the piano would live up to its new murder piano credibility and eat the tuner, bones and all. We hoped it would spit back out our sixty bucks, so we could go see a movie. We wished there had been a letter in the envelope, something romantic for Susie. We could’ve spoken roses to each other all night. That would’ve been worth sixty dollars.
When we first saw the piano, it was sitting on a front porch with a FREE sign on it. I had never seen a free piano before, only ugly couches and particleboard furniture. We rounded up a posse of friends, lifted it off the porch and into the back of a pick-up truck. It was bungeed in, but it still wobbled and plunked out a middle C along the back roads. It was smeared with splattered bugs and red road dust as we lifted it into the new house. I recounted how my piano teacher had died and I just stopped learning as if no one could ever teach me again. She was an old woman. It was nothing tragic. We pushed it in, lodged it against the wall. It turned into a party. It felt like we were moving in together for a second time. We took turns banging out different songs. I said I would throw myself down the stairs if I had to hear “The Entertainer” again, but you said it was the only one everyone knew.
When my parents were moving, my brother started joking that we should smash their piano and sell the copper wire insides at a junkyard. We kept joking about it until it expanded into these imagined Ferris Bueller's Day Off-type shenanigans. We would take the wire, see some crazy stuff at a junkyard, and then take the money and go to the movies, end up crashing a party or a parade or somehow end up in Chicago or Mexico. And we never did it. I tried for years to smash pianos in fiction to make up for not taking a sledgehammer or running down that old piano with the empty moving van, but those destructions always got deleted before the final draft. So here I am, finally living the dream.
Megan Giddings is an MFA student at Indiana University and the Executive Editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. Her fiction has been recently published at or is forthcoming from Wigleaf, The Vestal Review, and Sou'wester.