Mr. Piano Man is a story told in a frame, beginning in 1987, flashing back to 1941 during the Blitz in England, then coming to the present for the ending of the story. I started it thinking it would be a novella, but it has grown into a book! It’s a story that has been brewing in my mind since about the time Sinners’ Opera was written. Here’s an excerpt.
Charleston, South Carolina, 1987
Pity the beautiful old women all the more for they have lost the most.
She came into the bar, looking very ill-at-ease and out-of-place. As lost as she might seem, she was a classic beauty, her bone structure sculpted and fine. Her eyes were large, ringed with thick black lashes, and her slender nose straight. The hair in an elegant coil at her nape had once been coal black. Now, pure white streaks wove through the ebony, shining in the lament light. Excusing her way to the only vacant seat at the piano bar, she spoke to no one. She gave me a fleeting look, sat, and strung her handbag over the back of the tall stool. The other patrons of the establishment gave her scant notice. After all, she was old.
But as I watched her, something dim and distant flickered in memory.
I wanted to speak to her but couldn’t stop playing in the midst of a song. Besides, she appeared distant. What had made her cross the threshold of a piano bar on a cobbled side street in Charleston? She glanced at the man to her left, drowning his sorrows in scotch, then at the women to her right, singing the lyrics to “Mr. Piano Man”.
A spotlight pointed to my hands, but no one really paid a blind bit of notice. Tonight, I was Mr. Piano Man. What did the patrons see? A young man with long hair and a pianist’s hands? A man down on his luck, playing a piano to keep body and soul together? I was the former but not the latter. I didn’t need the tips in the fishbowl atop the scarred baby grand. Over the centuries to come, I trusted my estates would serve me as well as they’d done in the past.
Soon, the time would come for me to stage my own death and resurrection again. These things came to try vampires as the years passed but didn’t take their toll. My hair was still thick and blonde; my blue eyes young and bright—too bright if I dropped the Glamour of a normal man. By the calendar’s reckoning, I should be seventy-one years old, but no one in this wayside bar had a clue this ‘lifetime’ began in 1916. In truth, I’m closing in on three-hundred fifty-five years young.
The scent of blood bedeviled me. For nights, I hadn’t fed, and I was starved. Each different fragrance tempted me sorely. My mouth watered, hunger stretching my nerves as tight as the piano strings.
Tonight, my life wasn’t as I’d planned. Since 1897, I’d treasured a dream that had yet to come true. At least the piano was in tune, even if I wasn’t.