General Fiction posted January 22, 2023

Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
Short story of about 800 words

The Hotel Piano Player

by CrystieCookie999

     That August evening Tom felt like playing every song he had ever learned on the piano, from as far back as he could remember for his entire twenty-three years of age. He even tried a new song published just that year in 1880, called "We Sat Beneath the Maple on the Hill," by a leading black songwriter named Gussie Davis. A traveling salesman from Ohio, where Gussie had started publishing his music, had presented the song to Tom.

     It was a warm night in Kirwin, Wyoming, and the three story, wooden hotel building where he was paid to play was only a quarter-full of people who wanted to be inside, drinking or playing cards. Tom played with his shirt sleeves rolled up and occasionally sipped cold well water from a glass beer mug, as he continued to play for hours. A tin cup was on top of his upright Fischer piano to hold tips. No one was making any particular requests of Tom, although tips were about the same as any other night. As the night wore on, the bar area emptied out, until only Tom and the bartender, Ivan, were left.

     "I am heading home to the wife, Tom," Ivan called over, as Tom finished a song. "Will you turn the last kerosene lamp down before you leave?"

     "Sure, I will, Ivan," Tom nodded, as he ran his hand through his curly, blonde hair, noticing the stubble on his cheeks. Tom reminded himself he was due for a shave the next day at Samuel's, the barber next door.

     Ivan untied his bar apron and folded it, then put it away under the counter. The last thing Ivan did was turn down the kerosene on the two tall, glass lamps at either end of the bar, then exited, leaving Tom behind, all alone. Tom continued to play the piano, sounding out the notes of a flute melody he had heard the day before in the woods while riding past the Shoshone region of Kirwin. As Tom repeated the notes of the melody he had heard, played by a Shoshone musician, he looked up to see dark eyes in the window pane to the left of the piano. He thought it was a Mexican or Shoshone girl, and the look in her eyes seemed startled, so he smiled at her through the glass panes.

     Outside the hotel, the fourteen-year-old Shoshone girl named Lomasi stepped furtively, like a doe. She wore white moccasins, hand-stitched from soft deerhide and embroidered in tiny, blue beads, to mask any hint of sound from her footsteps. Because it was twilight, she stayed behind large trees but felt brave enough to approach the large window of the white man's hotel. Someone was playing the piano, and the melody she heard sounded so familiar, that Lomasi sidled cautiously closer, leaning toward the glass to listen.

     Lomasi suddenly realized that the melody she heard was her own, which she had learned from her huttsi since the time she was very young. In fact, her willow flute was carried around her neck, suspended by a long, rawhide string. The eyes of the young man startled her a second time, but as a Shoshone, she did her best to betray no emotion. The young white man grinned at her, which took her by surprise. She was not sure what to think, about how a white man was playing her song, on something that was not a Shoshone flute. He suddenly started playing another song, which sounded jumbled and jaunty to her. It was not like Shoshone music, so she turned away from the window and slipped behind the hotel into the tall, summer grass to head back home. She gripped her flute tightly as she quickly made her route homeward.

     Tom continued to play, but he did not glimpse the girl's dark eyes again. He decided to end the evening by playing a song he had heard a couple of times in Cheyenne, when Governor Hoyt hosted a dinner he had once attended with the hotel owner. Then he stood, lowered the piano lid, and unrolled his shirt sleeves. He dumped his tips out and slipped the coins into his pocket, turned down the kerosene lamp near the door frame, and headed down the street to the boarding house where he lived. He thought he heard the sound of the fluted melody once more as he walked. But as he listened, he decided it was a songbird, perhaps a chickadee, that had happened to stay up late. Perhaps he would dream of the girl's dark eyes tonight, or perhaps a new melody would come to him early in the morning. He would just have to wait and see.


Alone Writing Contest contest entry


Lomasi is of Native American origin, a girl's name that means a pretty flower. Source:

Huttsi=paternal grandmother, source:

Thanks to Susan F. M. T. for a super photo of a black-capped chickadee.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Susan F. M. T. at

Save to Bookcase Promote This Share or Bookmark
Print It View Reviews

You need to login or register to write reviews. It's quick! We only ask four questions to new members.

© Copyright 2023. CrystieCookie999 All rights reserved.
CrystieCookie999 has granted, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.