The Christmas Concert Conundrum: Part One
The weather outside was frightful. Neopia Central was not only covered in a think layer of powdery snow but more was flurrying in from the skies by the minute. Though the outside contained bitter, biting coldness, pets on the inside of their homes were cuddled and cozy on sofas or near fireplaces. However, in one home, the coldness seeped into its garage, were the only fire offered was in a pet’s angry voice, and that fire wasn’t so delightful.
“Cut! Cut! Cut!” shouted the clearly irritated disco colored Kyrii, AJ, as he waved his arms in frustration. The previously flowing music stopped abruptly as a final rattle from the drum set was heard as an echo from the cement walls of the garage. Shaking his head and looking at the concrete ground, AJ adjusted his headband before he directed his attention to the band’s newest addition, the pianist, Daryl.
“Daryl,” the Kyrii started, slowly. “I know you’re new and all,” AJ paused for a breath, but his voice got louder, “but that is no excuse for not knowing your music! You’re hitting wrong notes left and right!”
“AJ,” Daryl pleaded, “I know my music! I think this piano is just seriously out of tune!”
“Well, then you have to fix it!” AJ boomed back. “We have a gig at a Christmas party tomorrow. Tomorrow, Daryl! Everyone else is prepared, and you’re holding us back.”
The camouflage painted Techo looked down at the piano keys, shamed.
“Whatever!” AJ spat. “Look, we’ll meet back here tomorrow for a final run through before the final performance.” AJ eyed up Daryl, before adding, “And make sure you’re all prepared!”
AJ then left the garage through the door, leaving with a slam. After an awkward, silent pause, the tension was broke by the skunk colored Kiko behind the drum set. “Looks like that’s a wrap for today!” he said, cheerily.
With that, a lanky red Nimmo sat down in a stool, leaning his guitar on its side, and started to fold up his music. The green Scorchio that played the bass started to pack up his stuff, as well. Daryl just leaned against the piano, and with a deep sigh, he tucked his head in his arms.
“It’s a shame AJ acts like this place is his, Ricky,” the green Scorchio said to the Kiko, as he slipped a piece of written music into a folder. The Nimmo grunted in agreement from where he was seated.
Ricky shrugged. “You know how AJ is, Kevin. He wants to be the star! No one can get in his way of that.” The Scorchio laughed with a yes and the Nimmo nodded. The Kiko looked at Daryl for a reaction, but he was hidden behind the piano, unmoving.
“Well,” said Kevin, “we’d better get going. You ready, Paul?” The Nimmo nodded a yes. He then tucked his guitar under his arm and grabbed his folder of music. “Thanks again for having practice at your house today,” said Kevin as he picked up his own stuff, bundled himself up his jacket, and headed out the door.
“Yeah, no problem,” Ricky replied. “See you guys tomorrow!” Kevin and Paul had then gone. The Kiko headed over to Daryl who had been silent since AJ declared that practice had ended. “You okay?” he asked.
The Techo poked his head up. “Yeah,” he replied. “I’m sorry; I’ll leave and be out of your hair.” He got off of the piano’s bench and started to gather up his stuff.
“Oh, no,” hastily answered Ricky, “you can stay in my hair! Or, rather, as much hair as a Kiko can have, I guess. It’s no problem, I don’t mind you staying.” Daryl forced a weak smile. “Are you going to tune that old piano?” Ricky asked.
“There’s nothing wrong with the piano; its tuning is fine,” said Daryl, with his already frail smile fading into a frown. “The notes are coming out wrong. I know that I’ve been hitting the right keys every time! It’s just frustrating.”
The Kiko nodded in understanding. “Well, don’t be hard on yourself. No one really takes this band seriously; it’s just for fun. We’re only doing a performance at some party because AJ knows the host and got us signed up.”
“Yeah, AJ,” Daryl said with a grimace on his face. “I mean, something about AJ makes me wish that this camouflage paint job I got would work so he seriously couldn’t see me!” The Kiko smiled in amusement. “I mean,” Daryl continued, “I even rented out this book from the Lenny Library about pianos; it has like everything and anything related to pianos in it. I just hoped it would take my playing to the next level, you know? Apparently that isn’t good enough for AJ.”
The Kiko laughed. “AJ tends to march to his own drum. The performance we’re doing wasn’t even a group decision; it was his.” Ricky paused. “After all, we don’t really seem like performers, especially Paul. He never says a word!”
Daryl chuckled. “Yeah, I noticed that.” He paused for a second. “So you guys don’t like AJ either?”
“Well,” said Ricky, drawing the word out, “dislike probably wouldn’t describe it. I mean, we’ve known each other forever.”
“Oh, sorry,” uttered Daryl, embarrassed. “I didn’t know you knew each other so well.”
“Eh, don’t worry,” Ricky said, smiling. “Your secret dislike is safe with me!”
Daryl smiled feebly back. “Well,” Daryl said, trying to change the subject, “I’m going to tinker with this piano and see if there is anything wrong with it.” The Techo walked back over to the piano and played with the pedals at the bottom.
“Help yourself!” replied Ricky. “I got that thing a long time ago. I think it was for sale in the Haunted Woods, though. It was cheap!”
“So it’s not the best quality, huh?” asked the Techo, with his eyes now focused on the keys. As his scaly fingers pressed down on the keyboard, he listened intently to the noise each key made.
Ricky shrugged. “I don’t know one thing about pianos! In fact, it was so unimportant to me that I almost forgot about it until the band decided on getting a piano player.” Daryl nodded to show he was still listening, but he had opened the lid of the piano and was plucking the strings that lay inside. “Since I had a piano here, we just moved practice to my house. After all, lugging a piano around to different locations isn’t the easiest thing, pianos aren’t like guitars.”
Daryl looked up from the piano. “Well, for being bought in the Haunted Woods, it looks pretty good.” Daryl was right; the piano was built of polished, dark brown wood giving it a splendid appearance. It even had a unique shiny silver plaque on the front of it. The Techo then paused for second. “And isn’t AJ making us take this piano the performance?”
“Yeah,” Ricky answered slowly. “AJ doesn’t trust that the piano that’d be available there would be reliable.” The Kiko smiled awkwardly, embarrassed for AJ.
“Well,” Daryl said, “this piano isn’t very reliable either. I’ve been checking it over, and there is nothing wrong with it, but it’s causing problems!”
“You’re sure you’re not making the mistakes yourself?” Ricky inquired. Daryl nodded with his eyes wide with assurance. Due to Ricky’s questioning face, Daryl correctly guessed that the Kiko didn’t fully believe him.
“Here,” Daryl said, sitting down at the piano’s bench, “I’m going to play a song we’re going to perform, ‘Santa Kaus Is Coming to Town.’ My fingers are going to hit every single correct key, and you’re going to see if you notice anything going on with the piano.”
Before Ricky could remind Daryl that he knew next to nothing about pianos, the Techo had already begun his song. As his scaly fingers danced along the keyboard pressing keys down, a perfectly delightful melody flowed out of the piano. Ricky stayed watchful, however, and he noticed a couple keys press down just as a hideous chord stingingly came from the piano. The odd thing was that Daryl didn’t touch the keys.
“Daryl, stop!” the Kiko shouted, in order to be heard over the music coming from the piano.
“What is it?” asked Daryl. “Did you notice anything? I know some notes came out wrong.”
“Yeah,” Ricky said. “See those keys down there?” Ricky pointed to the left side of the keyboard, where Daryl hadn’t been playing. “Well, a couple of keys pressed down, and you didn’t touch them.”
“That’s peculiar,” said Daryl. “I’ve never heard of keys going down on themselves.” The Techo paused for thought. “Which keys were they?” he finally asked.
The Kiko recollected his memory with silence. “That one,” he said, finally, pointing to a black key, “that one, that one, and that one,” he said, pointing to each separate white key.
“I wonder what that means,” Daryl pondered out loud.
“Maybe you should write the notes down,” Ricky suggested. “I might be a percussionist, but I know your notes have letters. Maybe it’ll spell out the problem.”
“I highly doubt the notes are going to spell anything out,” the Techo replied.
Ricky shrugged. “Do you have a better idea?”
Realizing that he didn’t have anything else to try, Daryl got a stray piece of paper out of his folder of music and scribbled down the notes. “It doesn’t look like anything,” he told Ricky.
“Try unscrambling them, it might make another word,” Ricky said.
Daryl complied but after a minute or so he turned back to the Kiko. “Still nothing.”
Ricky began to wonder aloud. “Try writing them out in the musical staff.”
Once again, Daryl did as directed, but this time, it yielded better results. “Hey,” Daryl said to Ricky, “this looks really familiar!”
“It does?” Ricky asked. Daryl motioned for him to look at the note arrangement, so he did. But Ricky shook his head. “I don’t recognize it, and I know a lot about music-”
Daryl cut him off and finished his sentence for him. “Except for pianos! This must have something to do with a piano.”
The Kiko nodded. “Yep, it must. Hey, what about that book you said you borrowed from the Lenny Library? If it has everything about pianos, then it should have the answer in it somewhere.”
“The book!” Daryl said, looking around. “Ah, darn,” he said, gloomily, “the book is at my house.”
“Well,” Ricky said, “just bring it tomorrow morning and we’ll talk about it then. After all, we still have practice here, remember?”
“Oh, yeah, I remember!” declared Daryl. “AJ’s shouting voice still rings in my head.” Ricky laughed and Daryl smiled himself. “Well, I guess I’ll head home.” After bundling up in his winter attire, the Techo grabbed his folder of music and walked to the door. Right before he left, though, he turned back to Ricky. “Hey, thanks for everything.”
The Kiko smiled. “No problem, man.” Daryl then exited the garage.
Ricky strolled over to his drum set and arranged his sticks and music on the stand right in front of the drums. Right before he left the garage to head to the other parts of his home, Ricky turned to the piano. “We’re going to figure out what’s going on with you,” he whispered to it, right before shutting off the lights and closing the door. As suspected, the piano just stayed put, and even after Ricky left the room and turned in for the night, the piano continued to stay put, not moving. It continued to stay unmoving until the next morning came and beyond.
To be continued...