Through the stiff rhythms and the sprinkling of wrong notes, the tune stood out. It wasn’t quite right, but it was very recognizable.
But then that last chord, F-A-B, instead of F-A-C, rung out in all of its wrongness.
Timmy slammed his fists down on the keyboard.
“I hate playing the piano! I’m no good and never will be! I hate it!”
He scrunched over, his arms crossed, his lemon-kissed face showing its displeasure.
Mt. Roberts shook his head.
“Well, Timmy, with that attitude maybe you won’t, yet I can hear a subtle improvement since last time I was here. You need to try again.”
“Don’t want to.”
Timmy leaned as far away from Mr. Roberts as his small frame allowed. He gave his instructor a sideways glance over his wrinkled nose.
“I told you, I stink and can’t get better. I hate the piano!”
Mr. Roberts smiled at his young charge.
“Oh, but you are improving. You might not hear it, both others can. You play the song once and the change is imperceptible. Play again, and maybe someone will notice. A week of practicing every day? It sounds much better. A month? If someone heard your first lesson just over a year ago and heard you now, they would say, ‘My, what a good pianist Timmy is becoming!’ It just takes time and a longer view of it.”
Timmy’s continuing to pout was the only answer Mr. Roberts received.
He nodded to himself. He had a different tack to take.
“So, Timmy, how hard is granite?”
Timmy stopped swing his legs, obviously not expecting such a question.
“Granite? Real hard.”
“What happens when you walk on it? Do you wear it down at all? Is it like snow, where you leave a path?”
Timmy let out a single “Ha!”.
“Is granite like the snow? That’s just silly. No, you can’t leave a path in the granite.”
“Come here.” Mr. Roberts waved Timmy over to the window.
“Do you see those steps leading up to that house?” Timmy nodded. “Notice how worn they are? They are quite ‘U’ shaped, aren’t they?” Timmy nodded. “So, how did those granite steps wear out like that?”
Timmy didn’t answer.
“They are like that because people have walked over them,” Mr. Roberts said.
“But those are ancient!”
“It does take time, but remember that every footfall on those steps wears them down an imperceptible amount. It is the constant repetition of those steps that have worn them down. Right? Got it?”
“I guess so…”
“Great! So go back to the piano and let’s go over that tune one more time.”
“No? But what about that imperceptible but constant improvement? You can’t get better unless you practice.”
“No, no, you just reveled Mom’s game plan. You are making me play over and over to wear me down so Mom and Dad can handle me better. I’m on to you now, so there is nothing you can do to get me to sit down and play.”
“Hey Mr. Roberts, that’s your third drink. Got to be careful. Don’t need me cutting you off, do you?”
“Yeah, Mike, I just asked my brother if I could start in with his company doing bricklaying. Has to be easier…”
“Easier than being a piano teacher? Now come on, Mr. Roberts, a mason’s job isn’t easy.”
“These kids, though, they’re tough.”
“Oh, Mr. Roberts, I know, they can be irritating, but it will get better. It always does.”
“Well, sure, it might seem like just a little irritation, but then it’s student after student, day after day, year after year. I’m just plain worn out. Anyway, Mike, can you get me another drink?”
“Only if you promise to go home after it, sleep off the drinks and give it another go. Call your brother, tell him you were kidding. See your next student.”
Mr. Roberts stared at his empty glass and thought of those ancient granite steps. That was exactly how he felt. But they were still there, weren’t they?
‘Sure, Mike, fill it up. I promise. I’ll go back to a messy Mozart doing a tortured twinkle twinkle tomorrow. For tonight, though, I’m a brick layer.”
Mike the bartender smiled.
“That’s the spirit.”
Mike collapsed into his new drink. Someday he wouldn’t cave, he’d go through with it, but he just felt too worn to argue tonight.
This was written for Sue Vincent’s writephoto challenge. the photo at the top is hers. She also gave us a key word, “Worn”.