Out of Tune

Out of Tune

by Marion Oliver


“Oh Mum, please may I have piano lessons,” pleaded Jenny again.  “You know I want to be in a band when I leave university.  I always wanted to play the piano.”

“You’ve got plenty of time to learn to play,” I said.  “You’re only fifteen years old.”    “But it takes years to be a really good pianist, I need to start now.  Anyway what’s the use of having a piano when no one can play it?” she said.

“It’s going to cost a lot of money to send you and Alex to uni.  Your father and I are not made of money.”

“Well, what if I get a part time job?  I could pay for the lessons myself then.  Please Mum can I?”

“Well alright,” I said, “but you keep changing your mind about what you want to be.  A few weeks ago you wanted to be a vet and last year you wanted to be a traffic warden.”

“Yes, but my friend Becky is learning to play the ukulele and we could be in a band together,” she said excitedly.

“Alright,” I said, “but you won’t be able to work many hours because you will still have your school homework to do as well as your piano practice.”

“Oh thanks Mum,” she said as she ran out of the door.  “I’m going to see if Farmer Green can give me some part time work.  He’s always advertising for casual help.”

Half an hour later Jenny returned.  “’Farmer Green said there are always jobs I can do on the farm, so I can go round any time that suits me.  Isn’t that great?  He’s so cool!”

Two weeks later Jenny started her piano lessons.  Every weekend and most evenings she practised.  The noise was awful.  As soon as she started playing the dogs next door started barking.  Our cat ran upstairs and hid under the bed.  Our neighbours all closed their windows although it was summer and eighty degrees outside.  My friend stopped coming around at weekends for coffee, making excuses that she wasn’t well.  She usually said she had a headache.  I tried wearing earplugs but that didn’t work.  I said to Jenny: “Couldn’t you play a little quieter?”

“You can’t turn down a piano, can you?” she said.  “Anyway when Grandma visited yesterday she loved my music.”

“Really?” I said.

“Yes!” said Jenny.  “When I asked her what she thought, she said she had never heard anything like it.”

One morning the doorbell rang.  I opened the door and a man with a box of tools stood there.

“Good morning madam,” he said.  “I’ve come to tune your piano.”

“But I didn’t ask you to come,” I said.

“No,” he said, “but your neighbours did.”

One day Jenny said, “I’m not working on the farm anymore.”

“Oh but why?” I said.  “Where are you going to get the money for your piano lessons?”

“I’ve decided not to have any more lessons,” she said.  “It’s much harder to learn to play the piano than I thought it would be.  Anyway Becky has given up her ukulele lessons.  We no longer want to be in a band.”

I gave a sigh of relief.  “Thank you God,” I muttered under my breath.

“So do you still want to be a vet?”  I asked hopefully.

“No Mum,” she said, “but you don’t need to worry about me anymore.  I’ve made up my mind for good.  I’ve met a man from the circus and I’m going to train to be a trapeze artiste.”

(c) Marion Oliver 2020