Jean-Claude Beauvais, a story
Either stimulated or irritated by my question, he moved, ever so slightly.
The room fell silent; so quiet, if you listened hard enough, you’d hear our departing laughter.
Louis, unlike Ollie, was not a drama school graduate.
He turned to me, slowly.
“I saw a piano.”
“For two people.”
“Ah. The Pleyel Double Grand Piano.”
“What was interesting about that piano?”
“With two keyboards, we could play, together.”
“You would like that?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Very sure.”
“Tomorrow, we’ll be busy all day visiting the Tall Ship museum and the Trolley Museum. We can go, Saturday, to see about what is possible, so we can play together. I know a man, here, in the city, who knows about pianos.”
“You know everyone, don’t you?”
“No. Not at all.”
“It seems as if you know everyone.”
“Don’t be silly. You know very well, I don’t know everyone.”
Louis still appeared bothered as he sat at my piano.
Ollie rolled in the starboard door making noises to syncopate with his gait. He and his percussions bounced to the end of the table.
Madame Tissot said, “Did you take care of everything?”
Ollie said, “Yes. Madame Tissot… and a little bit, more.”
Monsieur Tissot looked at me with a grin, “I won’t ask about the little bit, more.”
I returned his grin. “To know may be a burden. Remember ‘where ignorance is bliss’.”
Macaulay arrived. “Time for dinner.”
He opened the port door and announced “Dinnertime” for Dashiell.
We paraded to the dining room, led by the Tissots, saying ‘Something smells good’, with Ollie making syncopation sounds as he bounced. Halfway through the hallway, Monsieur Laurent added his clapping hands to Ollie’s musical endeavor. Dashiell and I, quietly walked at the tail end.
As I followed along, I wondered if I had Howard Flavian’s telephone number onboard.
We sat. Macaulay brought out a cold, very green soup.
Ollie’s hand touched my wrist.
I looked at him.
“Do I have to eat it?”
“You have to taste it. Take a couple tastes.”
He raised a soupspoon half-filled with the green soup to his pursed lips. He opened his mouth and slid the edge of the spoon into his mouth, just enough to be inside. He closed his mouth on the edge of the spoon. His face froze. His tongue wiped visibly at his closed lips.
Dashiell tapped my leg under the table.
I couldn’t look at Dashiell; I was afraid Ollie was going to spit out the soup. I looked at Ollie harshly and mustered some stern voice, “Don’t do anything stupid.”
Ollie looked at me and said, “That tastes good.”
“Of course. The chef wouldn’t make it, unless it tastes nice.”
In went the entire spoon.
Louis hadn’t yet tested his soup. Without looking directly at Louis, I could see him, watching Ollie, carefully.
I looked over to Dashiell and said in English, “If we don’t look, he may just try it.”
Dashiell and I talked about the day, between sips of soup.
I turned to Ollie.
“Don’t slurp. You’re not the bottom of the sink.”
He giggled and said, “Sorry”, with the obligatory flapping of the eyelashes.
I heard Louis’ spoon touch his bowl of very green soup.
I wanted to yell “SUCCESS”, but I didn’t want to embarrass him.
I looked over to Jacob and asked, in English, “Is everything set for tomorrow evening? The Swedes and Portuguese are coming.”
“Everything is set. ‘He’ will have a grand time.”
I took out my little phonebook and looked for Howard Flavian. Nothing. Jacob was attentive, expecting my asking for the telephone. I looked back to him and said, “I don’t have the number.”
“I can get it for you, if you like.”
“I’ll write the name in my book, and you can fill in the number when you find it.”
I wrote, ‘Howard Flavian - Steinway Piano Company’. I said, “He runs the company, here in the city. They have a store here.”
Jacob picked up my telephone book.
“One more thing. Could you please ask the Captain to see me, when he has time, this evening or tomorrow morning?”
“He is at the movies. He'll be back about seven.”
“I’ll have to ask him if the movie was good.”
Macaulay, coming out, passed Jacob, going into the kitchen.
I looked around the table, while Macaulay removed the soup setting.
Rhetorically, I spoke across to Macaulay, “That was delicious. Just perfect.”
Louis, in a sense of light humor, said, “Perfect and very green.”
Macaulay spoke as he collected the dishes, “Broccoli, cream, seasoning, turn on the blender, and pour ‘Green Soup’.”
I turned to Ollie, “You looked at the photographs, today. Did you take any pictures?”
Ollie said, “I don’t think so.”
“Why take a picture of a picture?”
“So you can remember it.”
He looked up with tiny furrows on his brow. “I can remember them.”
“The swords and musics were interesting, but I was just looking.”
“What about the sculptures?”
“At first I was just looking, but the more I looked the more interesting they became. Then we had to come home.”
“You’ll see more sculpture… in Hamburg and at home in Marseille… and maybe, if we have the time, in Miami.”
Louis asked, “We’ll see glass in Hamburg, too?”
“Yes. For sure.”
Dinner continued on placid water.
At dessert, I announced, “Tomorrow we leave about ten for the Tall Ship Museum and the Trolley Museum. Dashiell and I haven’t been to either museum, so they will be new experiences for all of us.”
Madame Tissot confirmed, “At ten?”
Jacob returned with my telephone book.
“The name is not listed in the telephone book, but I put the company number in your book.”
“I’ll call in the morning and talk to him, before we leave for the museums. I have a special deal I have to work out with him and Captain Collard.”
Jacob looked at his watch. “He’ll be here, soon.”
Dashiell asked, in English, “Is there something wrong? You usually don’t seek to talk to Captain Collard.”
“Nothing wrong… I think I’m on to something nice for the Birthday Boy.”
“Remember he said he liked the Double Grand Piano?”
“And I asked him ‘what was interesting about that piano’ and he said, ‘we could play, together?”
“Yeah. What are you going to do?”
“Tomorrow I am going to call Howard Flavian who runs Steinway pianos here in the city, and have him install two pianos in the lounge, back to back. The company, which made the Double Grand Piano, stopped making them in ’27. The modern pianos sound much better than the old pianos.”
“What’s that got to do with Captain Collard?”
“I need to check with him if the ship can take handle two large pianos, in one place. He’s the expert. I know nothing about ships. And… before I say anything to a certain party, sitting next to you… I need to know how much of a problem it would be, to move the lounge piano out and bring aboard two new pianos. If it’s easy, I’ll do it, pronto. Otherwise, I’ll have to wait until he says I may do it.”
“You couldn’t just give him something simple for his birthday, could you?”
“This isn’t for his birthday, Dashiell. He wants us to play, together. This is a bonding thing. Something he and I can do together.”
“You could try something simple like going fishing.”
“That’s a great idea.”
“Stop.” He repeated, “T'arrêtes.” He continued in English, “Let it be. When we’re home in Marseille, you and the boys can go fishing.”
“I’m just trying to do what is meaningful to him. I certainly don’t have any use for another piano. The only difference between the instrument he saw and what I propose installing is what he saw was in one case; what I propose is in two cases, back to back.”
“I saw the instrument.”
“You and I weren’t inspired by it. You-know-who was.”
“I guess you’re right. It still seems like a lot of work just to play together.”
“Right now, in his world, ‘to just play together’ is his dream.”
“What about Mister Short Stuff?”
“What about him?”
“Are you dreaming up plans for him,” he paused, grinned across the table at me, and continued, “like… perhaps a Mister Short Stuff sized plaster casting of Michelangelo’s David? They sell them all sizes, in the Piazza della Signoria. We could stop in Florence on the way home and pick one up.”
“You’re getting silly.”
Captain Collard tapped on the starboard door.
Jacob opened the door.
“Hello. Captain,” I said, in English. I didn’t want to tip off my birthday boy to what was afoot.
“Hello,” he returned. We shook hands.
“I want to take the musical instrument out of the lounge and replace it with two musical instruments. Is that a problem?”
“Not as long as someone takes the current musical instrument away, before the new musical instrument s arrive.”
“Weight is not a problem?”
“Not at all.”
“A matter of five or ten minutes.”
“You made my day, and the birthday boy’s day.”
I said, without looking at Louis, “Sitting next to Dashiell.”
“Ah… a surprise.”
“Yes. He will be thirteen, tomorrow. There are no calendars hanging about, so he may not know tomorrow’s his birthday.”
“Then it will be a real surprise.”
“I hope so. I’m taking him to two places he wants to visit tomorrow, followed by dinner with his friends. By dinner time, he’ll know something’s unusual is going on.”
Captain Collard smiled and said, “I think I was that young, once.”
Dashiell, Captain Collard, and I laughed.
“How was the movie?”
“Popcorn was stale. That ruined the start; in the middle, groups of people were angry and shooting at each other, about something; in the end, everything blew up. What else can I say?”
“Not much more. A great shoot’em-up of some sort.”
“The Invaders from Pluto.”
I pushed away from the table. Louis, Ollie, and Dashiell followed my lead.
“We were just about to go to the lounge.”
Captain Collard and I shook hands. He said, “Let me know, a day ahead of time, when the packages will arrive. I’ll prepare the current item for leaving.”
“Please do come to the birthday party, tomorrow, after dinner.”
“I will. Thank you.”
Captain Collard left with a bag from Angelo’s Sandwich Shop.
Louis, Ollie, Dashiell, and I left through the hall doorway.
Dashiell went his studio in; Louis opened the lounge door and held it for Ollie and me.
I said, “It’s cool in here.”
Louis sat on the end of a chaise. “Is everything okay with the captain?”
I quickly replied, “Oh. Yes. He went to the movies and I asked him about the movie.”
“What was the movie about?”
“Invaders from Pluto. He said the popcorn was stale.”
Louis said, “Oh.”
Apparently, he did not question my explanation.
Louis turned on his chaise and stretched, as best he could.
Ollie went to the bookcases, browsed a while, until he retrieved a book, and took it to my desk. He pulled the bottom drawer out, plopped his shoes off, and rested his feet on the draw, leaned back, and tried to look at the book. He was simply too short to effectively lean back in the chair, as I did, with his feet on the drawer, and look at something. The chair kept sitting him up. After a few tries, he decided he wanted to look ‘cool’ more than he wanted to look at his book. He scooted his rump forward in the chair, easing it backwards. It looked uncomfortable, but, apparently, he enjoyed performing this feat.
He attempted to look relaxed and asked, “Are we going someplace, tomorrow?”
“Yes. We’re going to some places Louis wants to see before we leave.”
“The Tall Ship Museum and the Trolley Museum.”
“What are tall ships?”
“Tall ships are the ships from the olden times, when ships didn’t have motors. That’s when ships had sheets of cloth, called sails, on tall poles, called masts. The cloths would catch the breezes and propel the ship.”
“Do you understand?”
He said, matter-of-factly, “You could say sailboats and I’d know what you mean.”
“Tall ships are a very special kind of sailboat.”
I asked, “You know about trolleys?”
Ollie dramatically pressed his hand against his forehead almost upsetting his delicate balancing in the desk chair, “I know what a trolley is.”
“Well. That’s where we’re going, tomorrow. Maybe we’ll eat at the automat.”
I waited for a reply. Nothing.
I continued, “That was fun, before. Perhaps we can do it again, but this time, with the Galegos and the Karlsens. That would make it more fun.”
The boys responded positively to eating lunch at the automat with the Galegos and the Karlsens.
I turned to Jacob. “A favor, please.”
Jacob approached from the doorway. “Yes?”
I handed Jacob a few bills.
“Could you ask someone to go to a bank and bring me… ten… no… fifteen rolls of nickels?”
“By ten o’clock, tomorrow?”
“Of course. Not a problem.”
Out of nowhere, Louis, from his reclined position on the chaise, asked, “How did they make that thing Ollie brought home?”
“The original was chopped out of a piece of stone. I would think the artist sketched the display on the flat face of the stone and then began to chip away, one tiny piece at a time, until the piece was finished.”
“That is amazing.”
“You may want to browse through his Sculpture book.”
“I want to do something.”
“Let’s take a walk around the promenade, until it gets dark. Maybe by that time, you’ll feel inspired.”
I pulled him up and we walked out the foredeck door, turned and walked along the port side promenade.
I wanted to say something like, ‘you’re getting older…” but couldn’t.
“Is Ollie having a good time, here, in New York?”
“Sure. He likes doing stuff.”
“Going to fun places…you know, doing fun stuff.”
“How about you? Are you having a good time, too?”
“I guess so.”
“What would make our stay in New York, better for you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Remember, coming here was Ollie and your idea. We’re going to be here another week. We still have four rest days before we leave for Miami. You may want to ask Ollie to spend some time together, looking at the New York City books and make sure there’s nothing that you want to see, before we leave.”
“I’ll try but he and I don’t do stuff together, much.”
“Once we leave here, it will be at least a year before we return.”
“I’ll ask him. He will probably think I’m trying to trick him into something.”
“Why would he think that?”
“I don’t know. I don’t try to trick him.”
“Tell him I suggested it.”
“Okay. I will.”
“I need you to help me. You’re with him when I’m not around. I need you to tell me when he thinks something’s not right.”
No reply; his silence felt awkward.
“I don’t mean anything like telling on him.”
“I know what you mean.”
“What have you found to be the most interesting event or place, here, in New York?”
“You really want to know?”
“Yes. I really want to know.”
“We left home and traveled to New York City, on the other side of the world. There are so many people here, who know you. That’s what I think is most interesting.”
“Those people are old acquaintances, from when Dashiell and I lived in Lake Pennyworth Place, or here, in the city.”
“All the stuff we go to is interesting. I would never see anything like this stuff at home in Marseille.”
“I hoped this would be a learning experience for you… I wanted to give you the experience of a different world from Rue Théodore Pépin.”
“This is different from Rue Théodore Pépin.”
“Miami and Hamburg will be different, too. You’ll see.”
“What are they like?”
“Dashiell and I have never been to Miami or Hamburg. I know Miami is warm, with beaches on the ocean and Hamburg is cooler with of industry on the river.”
“Did Dashiell and you always live together?”
“Dashiell was born in the town where Lake Pennyworth Place Resort is located, Lake Pennyworth, New Jersey. He lived there, all his life, until his mother left him and went to live with her brother in Black Rock, New Jersey. His father … the bishop sent his father to work in Paterson or Elizabeth, New Jersey.”
“Why didn’t his father take him when he left?”
“Where he was going was not a nice place to raise kids, so his father asked my Grandpapa to adopt him. That’s how Dashiell and I became brothers.”
“Is he… you know…does he makes love to you?”
“No. He and I aren’t homosexuals. We love each other, but we don’t make love to each other. Our love is just not like that. Our aunts, Odie and Gizzie, raised us in a place, never meant to raise kids… a place built to provide a playground for wealthy city socialites. Our aunts raised us, as best they could under the circumstances. You know, if my mama didn’t get sick and die, and if the plane didn’t fall on the church, I’d still be in Canada and Dashiell would still be in Lake Pennyworth. We would never have met, become brothers and be at the right place, at the right time, to…”
I couldn’t continue the sentence.
Louis without skipping a beat, said, “Adopt Ollie and me.”
“Let me ask you something private. Okay?”
He walked a little more distant from me, as if I was about to molest him or something.
“Do you remember when you were a little kid like Ollie is?”
“What did you like to do?”
“Dig in the backyard and play ball with my neighbor, Christophe.”
“Does Christophe still live there?”
“No. His family moved a couple years ago. Since then, there’s been no one around to play with… except Ollie, but he only does kids stuff.”
“He will start school, when we go back home. I hope he finds some friends his own age at school.”
“School is great. The best part is friends at school.”
“I went to three schools. One in Canada, that was the same as your school, all French. In French Canada, everything was in French. The radio, television, church, hockey games, and the newspaper were all in French. All my schoolwork was in French, just like your schoolwork. When Grandpapa brought me to New Jersey, I didn’t know any English, except a few dirty words and I wasn’t sure what they meant.”
“Kids are, in many ways, the same, everywhere.”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
I continued. “Grandpapa hired Aunt Odie’s husband, from an agency in New York, to teach me English and the lessons I was missed at school. I remember, very clearly, the day I went to take the test, to enter the public school system.”
“Did you pass?”
“Yes. They advanced me a year. That’s when I first met Dashiell. He was in my class. I had seen him at church, but I had never actually talked to him. You know how you remember kids your own size at places you go.”
Louis and I passed the lounge. Ollie was at the table looking at a book. He had given up on the desk chair and bottom drawer. Louis and I continued for another loop around Mon Grandpapa.
“I’ve been doing all the talking. Now, it’s your turn. I’ll try to be as courteously quiet, as you were, while I talked and talked.”
“Well, compared to your life, my life is boring. I remember playing a back yard, someplace when I was little. I don’t know where I lived, before I lived on Rue Théodore Pépin. I never thought about it before now. Maybe Ollie knows where we lived. I remember the lady who used to visit my mother, when we lived there. This lady was very tall and very, very thin. She had eyes that looked all watery… like she was about to cry and glasses that made her eyes look really big and scary.”
“What did she do?”
“I don’t know. She came to our house, sometimes, and sat and talked with my mama. She is about all I remember about that place. There was a closet there, I used to play in. Once I got yelled at for playing in the closet and never played in it again.”
“Why did you get yelled at?”
“I don’t remember. When my father came home, mama told him to yell at me for playing in the closet.”
“Yes… and he threatened to beat me if I played in the closet again. I never opened the closet in the hallway again. I remember it smelled like a vacuum cleaner, in there.”
“Do you remember anything else from there?”
“I remember one day, we had canned tomato soup for lunch.”
“Why do you remember that?”
“Mama was very upset about something. When she was really mad, she wouldn’t talk. I didn’t know what she was mad about. I remember she was behind me, in the kitchen. I smelled the tomato soup when she opened the can. I heard her put it on the stove. She put her hand on my head. Her hand made me feel better. I knew she wasn’t mad to me. Maybe she was mad at Elizabeth. Sometimes Elizabeth got in trouble at school. I don’t remember what happened after that.”
“Do you remember eating the soup?”
“Any other memories from when you were a kid?”
“I remember we went to the beach and it rained. Papa got sick on the way home in the back seat of the car. Mama had to drive. She was mad and didn’t say a word to him. Liz sat in the front seat. I was in the back seat with papa. He was so sick. That was before Ollie was with us.”
“What do you remember about Ollie coming home from the hospital?”
“I remember a baby in the crib, crying. Mama didn’t allow me in his room, without her. I remember standing in the hallway, and telling him stuff… like, ‘Mama’s coming soon’, ‘She’ll be here’, ‘She’s busy’. He never listened. He kept crying. I wanted to make him feel better, but nothing I did worked.”
“You make he feel better all the time, now.”
“Yes. You’re being nearby helps him feel secure.”
“Yes. We are a family now. Being together gives all of us a feeling of security… a team spirit…”
I paused as a plane flew loudly overhead in the summer dusk.
“Us against them… Together, we have a certain unity, a sense of belonging…” I paused again, “to each other, a sense of family.”
With our talking finished, we walked the port promenade, to the music of the East River’s sounds.
“We should be getting to bed soon. Tomorrow will be a busy day. Two museums and lunch at the automat. We’ll have a lot of fun, too. The Karlsens, the Galegos, and Jacob are coming with us.”
“Ella is coming?”
“Ollie and I will have a good time.”
“Jacob is coming, too?”
“Yes. He’s never been to the automat. I insisted that he go with us, as a little treat for him.”
“I’ve never seen him having a good time. He’s always against the wall, waiting to do something.”
“That’s his job. He is paid well.”
We passed the Jacuzzi, turned, and walked along the starboard promenade.
The ambience changed from near and distant East River sounds to lush cacophony of the lush, foliage-filtered, Manhattan, evening traffic.
“Listed to that… isn’t it wonderful. No place on Earth can you hear this… just here, aboard Mon Grandpapa, and only on the starboard promenade.”
Then it happened. It never happened before.
Louis put his arm around me and hugged me. Not simply a hug. Hugs he had given me before many times. This hug was special. This hug was a hug with love.
I hugged him. We stood there on the starboard promenade, for a few minutes, silent, hanging on to each other.
I eventually loosened my hug on him and said, “We’re going to be alright. Louis. We’re going to be alright.”
As we broke from each other, his hand caught my hand and for a few seconds he held my hand, like the little child he still was. Almost immediately, he realized what he was doing and released my hand.
I said, “That’s alright. I understand.”
He said nothing.
His silence whispered, “I’m too old for that mushy stuff.”
His hug cried out the inverse.
We entered the lounge. At the table, Ollie sleep; his head rested on his opened book.
“If you open the doors, I’ll carry him upstairs.”
Louis returned to the door and opened it.
I picked up Ollie’s bag of bones and went upstairs with my precious bundle. I set him on the bed in the darkening bedroom. He rubbed his eyes.
“Okay, Tiger. Into the bathroom, to the toilet, and into your pajamas.”
He walked to the bathroom, didn’t close the door as usual, and started peeing. I wanted to tell him, “Close the door. No one wants to hear you doing you toilet”, but I would have been wasting my breath. He was only half-awake and fully half-asleep.
Louis took Ollie’s pajamas into the bathroom and closed the door behind him.
Louis came back into the bedroom to retrieve his own pajamas.
I sat on the foot of the bed, looking out on the Hell’s Gate Bridge at a passenger train passing in the evening gray. The cars’ interior lights eerily illuminated the bridge’s structure as they passed.
I heard the bathroom door open. I turned. Ollie arrived, in his pajamas. Behind him, I saw his clothes on the bathroom, floor. Louis went in as Ollie came out. Louis picked up Ollie’s clothes with one hand and disappeared from view. I looked but the train had passed from view. I heard the hamper lid fall before Louis closed the bathroom door.
Ollie slid into the bed. I sat beside him.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun, tomorrow. You get a good night’s sleep, so you don’t miss anything tomorrow. Okay?”
He was more than half-asleep, now. I rearranged the comforter over him and kissed his forehead.
He puckered and made a kissing sound.
Louis arrived from the bathroom, smelling of peppermint.
“I guess I sleep on the floor, tonight.” He laughed.
“Get in bed, from the other side.”
He walked to me, hugged me, back up enough to kiss my forehead, circled the bed to the other side, and slid in behind Ollie. He slid his arm around Ollie, under the comforter. I stood and leaned over him, kissed his forehead, and said, “Good Night.”
Louis said, softly, “Good Night.”
I pulled the curtains, left the boys’ stateroom, and went downstairs to make a phone call and urge Dashiell to bed.
Jacob gave me the phone.
“I have an excellent piano that has to find a new home.”
“I would prefer to someone who needs an instrument, but can’t afford one.”
“A Knabe grand. The one sitting on my yacht.”
“No. I am buying a pair of Steinways to replace it.”
“No. There’s nothing wrong with it. I’ll tell you why this is happening.”
“I don’t tell short stories, Lenny. You know that.”
“We spent the day browsing around the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a couple days ago. Little Oliver and I paired off and went in one direction. Louis and Dashiell paired and went in another direction. Louis saw the Pleyel Double Grand Piano in the Musical Instruments Exhibit. He didn’t say anything to Dashiell about it, or Dashiell would have told me. You know, he tells me everything. Anyway, he told me in the dining room, he saw the Pleyel Double Grand Piano and thought it was neat. I asked him why. He said, ‘Because we could play music, together.’”
“He is so sweet.”
“I was speechless. I saw an opportunity to bond with him, so I am looking to replace my Knabe, with a pair of Steinways.”
“I haven’t any idea how old it is. It holds its pitch, even being on the water, all the time.”
“On Seventh Avenue. Right?”
“The delivery entrance on West Fifty-Sixth. Hold second, while I jot that down.”
“I’ll ask Howard Flavian to have his people drop it off. Should they have a note with it?”
“Okay. I write a note and put it inside.”
“Of course the bench will be with it. What would I do with an extra piano bench?”
“I don’t think it’ll float, either.”
“Yes. I received fifteen tickets for it. I’ll be there, with my usual French delegation and the Swedish and Portuguese delegations, too. I have an extra ticket. I may bring someone else, but at this time, I have no idea who that may be.”
“I appreciate your saying that, Lenny. Thank you.”
“Of course. Three pieces.”
“‘Children, With Peter Pan’ and ‘The Hudson, Oliver, and the Tadpoles’ which I renamed to: ‘Ollie and the Tadpoles’. I liked it so much I worked it into a concert piece, called, ‘Ollie and the Tadpoles - A Concert Piece for Piano’.”
“It’s easy for me to play. I wrote it.”
“I have no idea if Chopin would like it.”
“Yes. It’s melodic. I played it one night, and Dashiell, who has a rusty tin-ear, mentioned that he liked it.”
“Tomorrow, I’m taking the boys to see the tall ships and the trolley museum. I don’t know where the trolley museum is. I’ll look it up, in the morning.”
“Yes. By the fish market.”
The door opened; Dashiell walked in and dropped his butt on my desk. He smelled of paint.
“Dashiell is here, smelling like paint.”
“Lenny says ‘hello’.”
“‘Hello’ to him, too. We’ll see him Saturday night. Right?”
“Dashiell wants to know if he’ll see you, Saturday night at Carnegie Hall.”
“He says he’ll look for you.”
“I have no idea.”
“Okay. The Steinway guys will drop it off tomorrow morning with a note to see Mister Bernstein.”
“Thanks, Lenny, for helping me. See you Saturday night.”
As the phone fell into the cradle, Dashiell asked, “What was that all about?”
“Lenny is going to find someone who can use the piano. The Steinway guys will move that one out of here, before they move the new Steinways in. Otherwise, all the furniture in here has to be unfastened and moved, and afterwards, moved back into place and refastened. Too much fooling around. Too easy for someone to make a mistake.”
“What exactly is your plan?”
“Tomorrow morning, I will call Howard Flavian and ask him if he has a matched pair of concert grands and benches, ready for installation, by ten o’clock. When he asks where would I like them delivered, I’ll tell him here, after ten o’clock. It’s important that the Steinway truck not arrive until after ten o’clock. We are leaving for the museums at ten o’clock.
I’ll ask him to take the Knabe to the Carnegie Hall delivery entrance. I’ll put a note with it, saying ‘See Mister Bernstein’.
They will install two Steinways over there, where that piano is, now.
The Captain will secure them to the ship’s structure. The piano tuners will tune them and go by the time we return, from the trolley museum, all sweaty and tired. We’ll hop into the Jacuzzi for a while, and afterwards, clean up for dinner. After dinner, we’ll have the birthday party. After that, we’ll leave the dining room and go into the lounge, where Louis will find his own piano, sitting beside mine, so we can play together.”