“Oh, look! They have a piano!” Foam splashed over the rim of Bartz’ mug as he hurried to the weathered wooden bench. Its joints creaked as he plopped himself down, and he carelessly set his drink on the seat next to him, wiping his beer-soaked hand on his breeches. He twisted back around to find Faris striding across the room toward him, a look of amusement across the pirate captain’s face.
“I’ve been taking lessons,” he said, speech just slightly slurred. Off to the side, he could hear Galuf groan. “Okay, I only get to practice while I’m drinking, because the only pianos I have access to are in saloons. But!” Faris leaned in at Bartz’ gesture. “I’m getting really good,” he whispered, as though revealing a secret weapon.
Faris gave a very serious nod in response before taking a swig of Bartz’ abandoned ale.
After a moment of considering the keys before him, Bartz gracefully laid his hands in place. The back corner of the room grew quieter in anticipation of the performance to come. Bartz took a deep breath, straightened his back, and —
played a magnificent major scale! Galuf clapped loudly, exclaiming to the fact that he didn’t miss a single note this time, and Lenna sounded an impressive whistle between her fingers. Faris gestured cheers with Bartz’ own mug.
“I’m kidding, okay… hey, do you play?” he said, looking up at Faris.
“Oh-h no,” said his quiet companion, smiling warily. “Never touched th’ivories in me life. Ye might call me tune-deaf, even.”
Bartz laughed and slid to the right, patting the bench. “Well let me give you a free lesson, one beginner to another!” He refuted the onslaught of protests and excuses, but eventually (and another round of beers later), the wooden seat creaked a second time as his reluctant new student joined him at the keyboard.
“I promise you this is only as scary as counting to four.” Bartz tapped the fallboard with his finger, one, two-three, four-one, two-three, four, and looked to Faris for confirmation, who responded by mimicking the rhythm. “There you go!” he said with an encouraging grin. “It’s as simple as that. Now I’ll show you the notes.”
All it required was one finger of the left hand and two of the right, but Faris quickly became flustered and began to insist anew that the piano bench was no place for a salty seafarer. “No no no, it’s really easy, I promise!” said Bartz, putting a reassuring hand on Faris’ arm. “I know you can do it, just give it a shot!”
Faris sighed, drained a glass, and said, “A’right. One quick lesson.”
Bartz eagerly slid off the bench and circled around to stand behind his student. “Since I don’t even know the names of the notes, we’ll skip all that nonsense. Here’s what you do.” Reaching in, he took Faris’ hands in his own and set them on the proper keys. Then he gently tapped out the notes through Faris’ fingers. Four simple measures he repeated this way, until he began to feel his guidance was no longer needed.
“I guess that’s not so hard…”
Bartz clapped Faris on the shoulders and reclaimed his spot on the bench. “Now just keep playing that… good! You got it!” When he was certain Faris had the rhythm down pat, he joined in with a simple melody above it — and after they’d fully introduced the song, a couple voices around the saloon began to murmur along:
Heart and soul, I fell in love with you;
Heart and soul, the way a fool would do…
“Ma~dly!” bellowed Galuf, swinging his beer so exuberantly that Lenna had to duck as she rejoined with, “Because you held me tight!”
“And stole a kiss in the night,” sang Bartz, and as if without even realizing his actions, he turned and pressed his lips against Faris’ cheek.
The music stopped suddenly, then, but the room was far from silent at that point. Drunken revelers continued the song, stomping out the rest of the beat and growing ever rowdier with each verse. Faris stared for a moment at Bartz, face flushed — but then burst into laughter and wrapped an arm around Bartz’ waist, pulling him closer.
“I wouldn’t’a pinned ye as the life o’ the party, but I was wrong about a lot o’ things this evenin’ it seems.”
Bartz leaned into Faris’ shoulder and smiled. This was only the beginning of what was to be a very good night, he thought.