The Sign Said “Don’t”

A few years ago, I attended a writing retreat in New Orleans. I spent the day roaming Uptown New Orleans with three other writers. This post comes from that time.

The sign on the piano just said “Don’t.” It was written on an order ticket. Use what you got. Les Bon Temps was thick with angst. Lots of tats, lots of hair (face and head). Not our vibe so we left. One of the patrons had a pit bull mix. Carolyn petted the animal to be friendly, a barrier breaker. The dog liked to be petted. I wonder if this is true of the patrons. Did they enjoy petting? Did their rough exterior exclude them from affection? No, each one may manifest violence or the appearance of it, but each one wants someone or something warm to lay by. The “don’t” on the piano is an almost a joke, but it isn’t. it is a growl to scare you away- away from harming it, bothering others with it. Then why not just take it out. Maybe on the right night with the right person, one who has earned the trust of patrons could play it. Maybe it was out of tune- too long since someone touched its keys. Maybe the piano is a family relic. They keep it there to remind them, but they must protect what is most dear to them- not the piano themselves. That gooey inside that no hard shell can toughen. The tenderest animals need the hardest shells. In the Gulf where I live, we consider it our pleasure to pull hard shells and enjoy the sweet tender flesh. Remove the scales to enjoy what it sought to protect. It is a dangerous world. We need protection even if it is just a sign that says “Don’t.”

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