Another Magpie Tale
Just on time. Julie opened the door to see a man's legs and torso. Then a head swung under the door frame, and a large hand extended toward her.
"Hello! I'm Izzy, the piano technician. Ah, would this be the patient?"
A petite woman, Julie was accustomed to looking up at people, but this was ridiculous. How tall was he? She felt much more comfortable once he was seated on the bench.
Izzy easily opened the cabinet. "I assume it has been a while since the last tuning?"
"Yes, a little while." Julie and her husband had bought the piano from the friend of a friend several years before. Since the last tuning, they had moved the instrument from coast to coast, left it in storage for a year, and let their children practice their lessons on it for three more years. By now, even the kids could tell that the F below middle C did not sound right. Why were Christmas carols always written in the key of F? They had sounded terrible last winter. Still she had perendinated, until now.
Izzy checked out the hardware, then began his diagnostics, a fluent cascade of show tunes. Julie looked ruefully at her own small hands, wishing they could play those chords, too. Then she moved into the other room to do some quiet dusting. She tried to name each tune he played in her mind. "Moon River," "Singin' in the Rain," "Under the Sea," "I Made it Through the Rain" . . . Wait. That was not a show tune. Was Izzy trying to tell her something?
The notes faded away, and Izzy called Julie over. "I'm sure you won't be surprised that this needs some serious adjustments. Has this piano suffered a catastrophic humidity event?"
"Humidity event?" Every day was a humidity event back in Savannah.
"A flood, burst pipes, something of that nature?"
"Oh. Not since we've owned it." Though who knows how many hurricanes the poor instrument had weathered down South.
"Well, the evidence suggests that it has been repaired for that reason. Considering this piano's likely history, I will need to use some special equipment." Izzy reached into his toolkit, and Julie expected him to bring out a sophisticated electronic device. Instead he extracted a small pouch, made of aquamarine watered silk. Unhooking the clasp, he pulled out several small metal figurines and laid them carefully on the soundboard. They looked like fish. Intrigued, Julie sat down to watch.
Beginning an octave below middle C, Izzy played a C major scale. The figurines immediately began wobbling, rattling against the soundboard. When he reached that F, one fish flopped entirely off the board. Izzy easily fished it out from behind the instrument, and started making some adjustments. Up and down the keyboard he played and tuned, until the figurines were still. Then he tried a C-sharp scale, again tuning until the rattling stopped. Julie left the room again, letting the rattling notes wash over her. D, D-sharp, E, he played every note in every octave, until the strings sounded alone.
Finally the showy tunes began again. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "(The Sun'll Come Out) Tomorrow," "Blue Skies." The selection seemed much drier this time, and Julie had to admit that the piano sounded much better. She thanked Izzy for his skilled service, but as he wrote out the bill, she had to ask.
"What are those little figurines?"
"Why, these are Tuner Fish. They have very sensitive scales."