So the piano's gone

So the piano’s gone. It felt like some weird kind of sexual assault, even though I’d consented in sober mind. Someone wanted it and I wanted this someone to have it; but that didn’t make things any easier.

The buzzer went and the six men I’d seen leaping from a van below could be heard bounding up the tenement stairs: four floors, eight narrow flights, 10 treacherous steps on each. There were no introductions: one man rushed to use the toilet while the others frogmarched into the living room to size up my beloved Alexander Herrmann.

Two started groping at it clumsily while the smart one grabbed the piano stool and held on to it for dear life. On the count of three, four of them raised the instrument up about three centimetres, straining conspicuously before setting it back down. They began walking it, but incredibly slowly: one wood and metal body, eight near-buckling legs, a long row of smiling black and white teeth.

The men huffed; they puffed; they cursed. I felt powerless. My son started crying, looking at me for answers. I felt I should give one of the men a dead arm or something – anything to save face.

Instead I stood there, ready to move furniture out of the way if needed. At the flat entrance, one man smacked his elbow off the door knob; one tried to move my neighbour’s bicycle angrily; one emerged from the bathroom relieved; another kept saying how difficult this was going to be. Aye, difficult: watching your piano go off travelling, not even a hug.

For a moment the beast teetered awkwardly at the top of the stairs, propped against shoulders and sweating backs. Then, on the count of three, it was embroiled in an orgy of grappling hands, purple faces and cries of “woah, woah, haud on, shite, for …”.

If I’m honest, the thought of the piano sliding from the grip of the two men at the top and flattening those below filled me with a certain joy. I’m not proud of this. I’ve always feared being crushed by a piano pushed from a window above, as sometimes happens in cartoons.

Imagine: one minute you’re tying your laces, the next you’re being rushed to A&E barely breathing, paramedics shouting: “We’ve got another one – someone play Misty for me …” Anyhow, you look like an accordion for a bit, they shake you about and you return to normal – there’s rarely any lasting damage.

At the first corner the men had to tilt the piano almost vertically, their veins bulging as a plaintive C minor rang out from the depths of Herrmann’s belly. I set myself to thinking about dinky wee keyboards, and why they’re such a hit in top-floor flats.

From there I followed events only with my ears, dreading and quietly hoping for the cacophony of falling piano and scuppered mankind. Instead there was foul language, wrestler grunts and a couple of heavy clangs; and then some familiar outdoor noises.

I rushed back inside to the window and watched two men reversing the van while four others leaned on the Herrmann like a gigged-out barbershop quartet. On the count of three, they walked it on to a hydraulic lift, edged it slowly into the vehicle, jumped down and secured the steel flap with a final grunt.

I could still see it peeking out like a horse in a trailer. I waved, blew a kiss, but it was off down the street and away.

First published on Herald Scotland.