The Piano Tuner
Publication Year: 1986
Often in these stories, what seems a safe, comfortable environment turns suddenly threatening. In the title story, a writer's quiet existence amid his antiques and books is dismantled, piece by piece, by a demonic, beer-bellied piano tuner. In "The Ponoes," a man recalls how, as a young boy living in Brooklyn during World War II, he became a collaborationist in the brutal pranks of two Irish bullies. In "The Twisted River," the sedate collegiality of a Polish university is disrupted when an American on a Fulbright grant attempts to blackmail two faculty members. And in "The Bracelet," a young anthropology student doing field work in Africa finds herself drawn further and further into the role of a priestess of Oshun, into a life dictated by the configuration of cowry shells cast upon the floor.
Meinke writes of a world where our control over our lives seldom exists across a border, and often extends no further than our fingertips. Attempts to bridge two cultures, two lives are sometimes successful, as when an actor finds love in the arms of a tough-talking barmaid, but more usually lead to disillusionment, as when a hard-drinking salesman's career is shattered after he is drunk under the table one night by a Polish engineer, or when an English father struggles to find common ground with his American son. Riveting, almost terrifying, the stories in The Piano Tuner tell of decent men and women caught in events that they could never have predicted, would never have chosen.
Published by: University of Georgia Press
Cover, Title Page, Copyright, Acknowledgments
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I: Home Thoughts
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The Piano Tuner
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The piano tuner was a huge man, crowding the doorway. I hadn't known he was coming, but I got up from my desk to let him in; my wife was still out shopping. His head was small for his body, and his belt was almost hidden by the...
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Alice's brother Dan had been a smoker all his life and had just had a laryngectomy to treat the cancer in his throat. They took out his voice box, but he refused to let them insert an artificial one...
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"Ruby lemons," Jack gushed all at once, turning from his typewriter. "High ruby lemons/7 He smiled his crazy smile at Mr. Mason, shaking his head up and down. The monkey leaped from his lap to the top of the china closet without...
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When I was ten years old I couldn't sleep because the minute I closed my eyes the ponoes would get me. The ponoes were pale creatures about two feet tall, with pointed heads and malevolent expressions, though they never said anything...
Conversation with a Pole
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Alcohol has always been a friend I could count on, unlike most of my other friends. Life in the business world is no picnic, and just when you need someone is the time they generally pick to disappear. They transfer, and you have to...
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I met him first on the basketball court. He was one of those small awkward players who throw themselves into basketball with tremendous energy, waving their arms, running erratically from man to man, never grasping the pattern of the...
Even Crazy Old Barmaids Need Love
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It takes about six months to make a decent bar. When Phil Masters bought The Grouper he threw out the new jukebox with its rock songs and put in the old one of his father's with its mixture of golden oldies and country. He put in more...
II: From Abroad
A Decent Life
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Hannah Broch didn't like the way her husband dressed, drank, drove, walked, talked, cleared his throat, made love (too noisy) or water (likewise). In the morning he'd try to fold his pajamas, but they always looked like a lump...
The Twisted River
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"What's black and white and runs away when you call it?" the American asked. Domanski was squinting at the menu, holding it up to the candle. "I give up." "A Polish...
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Emily had never hit a sheep before. Two years ago she had run over a dog right after Howard said, 'This is a thirty-five-mile- an-hour zone, you know/7 It took a long time for her to...
The Starlings of Leicester Square
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"I understand," the boy said. They were looking at a snapshot of four generations. "No, you don't," the man said. 'This was snapped right here in Leicester Square, in front of the statue of...
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That January everyone in Paris was under thirty. The streets bustled all day, but about 10:00 P.M., when the first movies emptied, they began to hum with a special youthful energy. Knots of young people clustered around street musicians...
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He liked to sit under the water-tree in the cool of the evening, nursing a cold bottle of beer and smoking a cigarette. Mrs. Carlin didn't let him smoke indoors anymore. It was quiet here at that time, except for the soft sound of the water...
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At first she had felt like a white fleck of foam in a black sea. She would bob along the crowded streets of the cloth market in Ibadan, looking at the bolts of bright fabrics piled higher than her head in front of the open shops lining the narrow...
Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 1986
Series Title: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction