“It was only the second week that Emy’s Jazz Club was open when I broke the rule. I played the piano. I had longed to use it since opening day of the restaurant, but it was prohibited by all the people working there. The only person allowed to play it was my father.”
It was only the second week that Emy’s Jazz Club was open when I broke the rule. I played the piano. I had longed to use it since opening day of the restaurant, but it was prohibited by all the people working there. The only person allowed to play it was my father. When he went on break, I played a short song. It was nothing really. It had just been torture for the past two weeks. Seeing everyone play it, I felt it was mine. And I didn’t want anybody touching what I thought was mine. It just didn’t feel right. But, when my father came back from the break room, I was just midway through the song. The crowd was sinking into it.
“Rene!” he screamed and yanked my hands off of the keys.
He brought me to my room and threw a box of crackers on my bed.
“Goodnight Rene,” he said. “If we wanted you to play, we would have said so.”
And with that, he slammed the door and left me with nothing but a bed and a box of stale saltines.
I woke up the next morning to screams and gasps. I ran down the stairs as fast as my legs could carry me. The jazz club was somewhat empty. Not because of the people, but because of something else… the piano!
“I’m sorry,” my father said. “I forgot to lock up the club. Someone must have noticed and stolen it.”
There were more gasps and screams.
“Without the piano, we could go out of business,” another cook exclaimed.
My father gave me a glare and told me, “If you go out and find the piano, you can take over and play it when you come back.”
For the first time, I stared into his eyes.
“I’ll go,” I said like a hero. “Anything for Emy’s.”
“That’s the spirit,” Christina, the barista, said.
Pretty soon, everyone was cheering for me. I walked out of the club with a reassuring “Be back soon!” so that everyone could feel comfortable with me walking around New Orleans by myself. I took a deep breath and set out to find my piano.
I started walking towards Port Trade & Exchange. Mr. Port loved music and would give up anything in his store for something so valuable. I have known him since I was born. He opened his store the day I was born. He was 60, but, hey, who’s counting?
“Good Morning, Mr. Port. How ya doing?” I asked the man.
“Very well, Rene,” he said very casually. “What brings you here, gal?”
“Well, is there any chance that you got a piano yesterday or early this morning?” I asked hopefully.
“No, no, no. What makes you think that? But I did see two men walking with a piano at four.” He sipped his coffee. A couple of minutes passed by. “Hurry along now. Go, go. This isn’t school, this is the proud store of Port Trade & Exchange.” He hurried me out the door.
I had collected some information. The people who stole the piano did so at four o’clock. They were men, two men. I scribbled down all the information I had collected on a Post-it. I headed back to the jazz club. The door swung open.
I walked in and had a seat at the bar. Christina was making me cheese and crackers.
“How was it, honey?” she said.
I ate a cracker. “Good. I found out some information about who stole it and when they stole the piano.”
“Really?” said Cristina, wide-eyed. “Tell me.”
“Ok. Well, they were two men. They stole the piano at four.”
I explained the story to her, telling her what I heard from Mr. Port. Then the band (without the piano) started practicing. The drums and trumpet sounded empty without the piano. I saw Father standing backstage. He was probably thinking about Mom. She worked for NASA and always left early in the morning and came home late at night, if she came home at all. When she was home, she baked cookies and left us enough to last until she came back later. I watched as Father started clapping to the music. When they finished, they took a bow like there were people watching them. In total, they did a good job. They were louder than usual. They weren’t as into the music as they were when they had my dad leading with the piano.
The person playing the trumpet was named Greg, and the person playing the drums was named Stewart. Sometimes, Stewart would let me hit the cymbals after a performance, but I didn’t ask. His band had enough to deal with without me getting cracker crumbs over his new instrument. All of a sudden, I had a thought. Could Mr. Port have stolen the piano? How could he know for sure that two men stole it at four o’clock? Maybe he was hiding the piano in the back closet! That was why he rushed me out of the shop so quickly!
I ran to his shop, and as I got closer, I got stealthier. When I finally got there, I snuck through the back entrance, where the storage room was. It was the only place he could hide a piano. He lived on the second floor of the large warehouse. I walked into the storage room. Things were piled up everywhere. There were statues and rocking chairs of all different kinds. Scarves and photographs with frames were put on any spare space in the stifling room. I wobbled my way over to the back space of the room. I saw a tarp covering something in the back of the room. Could it be?! I uncovered the tarp to find… a Pac Man Arcade Machine? So Mr. Port didn’t steal the piano after all. I felt kinda guilty for suspecting my closest family member (other than Christina) of stealing my father’s most prized possession. He would never want Emy’s to close. I walked slowly back to the club. I took out my cellphone and texted my friend, Nella.
Me: Can u help me with a mystery?
Nella: Sure. Is it about ur dad’s piano?
Me: Howda u know about it?
Nella: GOTTA NEWS projected it.
Nella: Am I coming or not?!
As fast as I could turn off my cell, Nella was standing at the club stoop. Her hair was blowing in the wind as if she were a supermodel. I walked up to her. She was eating a blueberry scone.
“Hey, Rene,” she said, giggling.
I guess she thought it was funny that Rene rhymed with hey.
“Let’s go, Nella.” I said.
She handed me a walkie talkie.
“We should spread out. You go in the club, I’ll go to Port Trade and-”
“Already checked there,” I said, not making eye contact with her.
“Okay, then I’ll go to the Instrument Shop instead.”
“Let’s go,” I said.
I hooked up my walkie talkie to my pants and sprinted into the restaurant. I heard talking in my walkie-talkie.
“If you find anything, moo like a cow!”
Nella can be so weird sometimes. As I walked towards the storage closet, I heard something.
“If you tell Syd, we’re in big trouble.”
Syd was my dad’s name. That was Stewart’s voice.
“Yeah. If Syd finds out that we stole his piano, we’re both dead.”
That was Greg’s voice! They stole the piano! I mooed into the walkie talkie and barged into the closet.
“Ahhh!” they screamed.
The police came and, pretty soon, both of them were put in prison. Later, we found out that they stole the piano because they thought that they were not getting attention from the crowd, so they stole the main instrument. My father later came and put his shoulder around mine.
“Nice job, Rene. You ready for tonight?”
“What do you mean?”
“Mama’s coming, and you are playing the piano for everyone.”
“Oh, I forgot.”
That night, I put on my dark green dress with lace sleeves and my white flats. They were like ballet slippers. I thought it would be best to wear my flat shoes, because if I was going to be pushing the pedals, I needed flats. My hair was in one braid all the way down my back. Soon, I found myself on the stage with my hands on the keys again. I saw my mama, and my heart raced. I also saw all of my friends, Mr. Port, Christina, and people who came to watch. It was just like the night I last played. Except, instead of my hands being yanked off the keys, the spotlights went on. Click.