The Pit and the Piano (Story by Risa Peris)

They were a pit of snakes. Their iridescent skins shimmied and swayed. Their faces painted like a Renaissance portrait gone very wrong. The rouge made them look permanently flushed or worse still, ill from consumption. Their eyelids were painted China Blue and their lips pale and gently mottled like a woman’s sex. They were the women of La Maison du Vierge in a coastal town in Germany. The snakes were whores. They plopped beers on tables, set on men’s laps, exposed their breasts, danced, and acted entranced and in love with the world. 

The boy, barely fourteen, was sent by his father to play the piano. They needed the money. Now there were laws about music and minors in brothels, but the police cared little about the brothels and they sometimes were patrons at the many coastal flesh bars. Who didn’t like a tune while breasts flopped and liquor quenched deep down fires? 

The boy was laughed at by the snakes. He was fondled and stroked while he played. Sometimes he made a mess of his pants. This did not, however, deter his focus on the piano. That was the real marvel and the men in the brothel were always impressed. The boy’s focus was so pure. Piano, piano, piano. And so expertly played. 

The boy played until three in the morning when he stacked his music to flee. He was often stopped by a snake who pulled him into bleak corners or foul smelling rooms and proceeded to satiate herself on the young, handsome blonde haired boy. 

The boy would gather his money from the owner, flee across town, and leave the money on the kitchen table. The boy would then crawl into bed with the stink of the pit and cry. He was being abused and had no way to express it. He never told his family the truth. There was too much shame. 

Music. He did have music. Yes, maybe be could express himself through music. He was, after all, Johannes Brahms.