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Piano Man
by Feech
Feech -- all rights reserved
for Jack de Mule

The Blind Pig Gin Mill.

What a collection is gathered here. We collect, I guess you could say, if you felt like it, people. People and life stories.

Cliched, yes, but true. I've spent a great deal of time here in the past several years and I can tell you quite honestly, if you'll listen, that I have probably been a bit player in more life stories and more dramatic scenes than any "extra" out in Hollywood.

It's interesting, too. That's why a lot of the time I like to keep my mouth shut. I tell enough by being here, with the music, most of the time anyway, and when you've had as long as I have to think about people and animals and flirting and drinks and comings and goings through that (just slightly) squeaky door at the front (not to mention the one at the back), you start to come up with some ideas that, before SCABS and the Blind Pig, you might have thought pretty strange.

It's a cold night and patrons are stamping the snowflakes off their boots and hooves and grumbling about it sticking in their fur as they come in the door and hang coats and scarves on the slightly wobbly rack by the mat; it vibrates just a little on the planking but never quite fails to hold a whole night's load of winter wraps.

"Beer, Donnie!" or "Hey, Wanderer!" seem to be the most common cries of the wildlife around here. But there are others, too, although most of the time they keep very quiet. But even they will approach and ask for a song. They have light footsteps, heavy or wobbling-new-to-digitigrade footsteps, or no footsteps at all but a flutter of wings. They come up alongside and by what they ask for you know the regulars will know them in the future. For very rarely does one of these shy ones request a different song each time. Soon, even if they never hear their voices, never really get to know the person, although come back often enough and you can get to know anyone, the regulars will become accustomed to hearing a certain song on a certain night.

And in a way, then, I guess they know the quiet SCAB who never leaves that corner table or even perhaps a perch on the beam under a bench or a spot in the restroom. From any of these places, they can see the goings-on, hear them, smell them most certainly; the alcohols and the sweats and the shed fur and dander and the mop water sitting out behind the bar waiting to be used whenever someone gets a chance.

I know the routines of this place; the routines that somehow never change with the ebb and flow of races and sexes upon races and sexes of voices, high, low, animalistic, shifting, "stabilized." I know them from listening. People who want their stories told come here to tell all or have all dragged from them by well-meaning companions. And anyone who comes in here has some kind of story, but whether they want it told is not always so clear.

Lack of a told story, though, can't hide a soul.

It still comes through.

Eventually, somehow. Whether the ones who pick up on it even realize who they're meeting or not.

And I wonder... I wonder a lot, just what does it take to know someone? Do you know what they know about themselves, or something different?

That little bat clinging tightly to the rafters; he knows he's there. In a way, his little form's meshing with that wood made as much of an impression, as much of a vibration, in this place's framework as does ol' Donnie's. So... He knows, but does anybody else know?

Well, I do, for one. And Donnie. Donnie knows everything, it seems, sometimes. But while that little fellow can watch us all from up there until he flits on out the door, whipping up tiny little breezes with his membranous wings, it seems he doesn't really take part in a story.

Or does he? If eyes look upon him now, is he in those people's stories? I suppose, if they want him to be...

I'm getting off track. Where was I. Oh, yes.

Knowing. People.

Souls.

That's what it comes down to, isn't it?

I've had a lot of time to think about this, so even if it ain't exactly right, it's close. I think. For me.

The music.

Anyone can play music who wants to; nobody's stopping them, and anyway it adds even more of an air of variety to this place than when just one artist plays... One person's version will always be that person's version. We filter everything through ourselves, in one way or another. Everything, including each other.

Songs.

If no one ever notices that bat, or the person hanging out in the restroom where they can hear the bartalk and bantering but not be drawn so far into it, if no one ever sees, and they request a song that everyone hears...

If they do, and people begin to notice a pattern, say, of Tuesdays and Thursdays Wand in the back corner with most all of the Boys, Don running a special on Imports, and "Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo" being played (for example), then they know something.

Maybe more than they would if they ever saw the person.

Isn't that possible?

Okay, maybe, maybe not.

But the point remains: where is the soul?

Where do you keep it?

I'm not... Quite sure where I keep mine. Perhaps it's in the music.

If it is, in the music that is, then how many of the songs played out in a night are me?

Or are we back again to how we all filter each other through ourselves?

I need others to bring out the soul in me. I'm not too skilled with myself. I have been surprised, a tad, to find that there are more people of more types out there like that than you'd perhaps think. Folks who need other folks to make them known-- to themselves.

Presuming for an instant that this lovely young high-heels-wearing person approaching to make a request was heretofore unknown at the Pig, let us say that instead of speaking out her request with human vocal chords she had to use a vodor.

Who made that vodor? Did they release the soul of the person using it, make the person aware that they can communicate and let them gain insight from just how it is that they make the sounds, or did they just make an already aware person able to speak with others? Does it matter? Is it one and the same?

Gee, I dunno, but I suppose I sure as heck wouldn't want to be left here alone during what's supposed to be a crowded Happy Hour. Not to mention Howling Hour, and the sometimes loosely-organized Sing-Alongs ("Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Yellow Submarine"-- admit it-- even you quiet ones whisper a few of the words from your corners). I wouldn't want to be left alone, so maybe it is all part and parcel of being, that you have to let someone else know.

One small step at a time, sometimes, and sure, they say that there's a God, and He looks down on us all and yadda yadda yadda. "Mine eyes have seen the glory" and all that, but what if they can't, and what if you don't? What if you're reeeaaally long-lived and you just ain't seein' that glory except in the way it flows up from the pinging and banging of the keys? What then?

Do you want to wait that long? Maybe one step is to request a song, something from your soul, whether you know it or not, so that someone with a story to tell, someone more aware, will carry it on and out like a little rippling of vibration like when the olive falls off a stirrer into the glass.

You know?

But like I said, it's the other people's songs that get me playing, and the soul goes out, and it always takes more than one to fill an evening, or really, even, to fill a request. Just one request. Like this girl in the high heels that asks for "Never You Mind." Takes more than one to pound out and sing that song, doesn't it? I mean, first the request has to come...

Whoah, the vibrations! And everyone in here is feeling it; you just know, if they paid enough attention, they'd see the notes in the liquid in their glasses. Just like if they looked up, they'd see the bat in the rafters.

I mean, did you ever wonder...

They say all these kinds of people are rare.

They say artists are rare. How many are hiding?

And insect-morphs? And people who "disappeared without a trace..." How many are hiding? How many just never came through the front door of the guy who's counting?

How often do you walk down the street and wonder about every little piece of litter that you see? How many do you not even see?

And how many of those little pieces of litter that get stuck to the boots of the stomping, laughing, grumbling patrons of the Blind Pig once were somebody's body?

See?

Can you really count?

How many people are at the Pig tonight?

And how many of those people know how many there are?

This is starting to sound like a take-the-chicken-across-the-river puzzle.

But I've thought a lot about this kind of thing.

If the song going out is me, and it sure feels like me, because nothing else flows like that, and sometimes there is nothing other than the sensation, you know? If the song is me, then someone else chose me.

Or... did they just show me to me?

It's a question that goes round and round like "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" or "Tiger's Playground" or some waltz by somebody.

I don't even know the names of some of these songs. I just know them. And someone has to bring it out of me.

Come think of it, it goes back and forth like a swing like some of that Irish music as much as it goes in circles. I mean, the piece needed somebody to write it down. Where did it come from then? And the human being or whatever being that created it had to come into being in some way too.

So at what level, how many times through the creative process, does something stop giving to souls and start being stagnant?

Well, I suppose if you count every artist who could ever perform it, never.

Which is a very good thing for me, because by all the looks of it, I am going to be around for a long, long time.

And I am a remarkably bad piano player.

Thank Heaven or whatever is to be thanked for Jack. And all the people whose stories get bandied about this place. I mean, where does it end? He needs a little of it, too, to keep his fingers going and feel his own soul in the requests.

The bar starts to empty out a little bit and echo a little more, just like it does every night. The coatrack trembles a little but never quite goes over. Someone has to be dragged out, someone big.

And long abouts closing time, the little bat in the rafters catches the draft of a regular patron with an irregular gait (one hoof, one paw) opening the door and wings it out with a little twirl of air. I don't think the guy even notices him. Well, he's had a lot on his mind lately.

But when don't we all?

It's just a matter of what we're ready to see. Or hear. Or be, I suppose, when it comes to absorbing the presence of so many other souls around ourselves.

By gaw, there are a lot of us.

Sometimes I think we all block out the crowd, and the details.

Jack is staying again, which says to me he just doesn't feel like going through the inevitable steps that have to come about in order for him to go home to bed. Routine, routine... Sometimes people just need to block it out.

He's had a good lot to drink tonight, and crawls under the table as soon as the others are cleared out.

I plink out a few notes-- like I said, though, I really need people like Jack. I'm bad! And I had six years of lessons, too. Pitiful, ain't it?

"G'night, Tim," mumbles Jack, idly but amiably.

I rumble out a few of the low notes on the real effective keys, the real nice messo-basso-whatever ones. I really don't remember much from those lessons.

"Tim, very nice, but leave it to the pros, eh?" Jack re-sprawls into another position under the table, and I hear him either snort or chuckle, hard to tell. I opt for chuckle. He's like that.

I cover my keys.

G'night, Jack.

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