Please Do Not Shoot the PianistThe U-Haul guy asked my brother for a “destination address.” My brother, confused, arched an eyebrow and cocked his head.

“You know,” the U-Haul guy said. “Where you’re moving to.”

“Oh, I’m not moving anywhere,” my brother said, finally understanding the question. “My ex-wife is.”

The U-Haul guy chuckled and nodded like he’d heard that one before, then turned back to his computer screen. But my brother must have taken the gesture as a sign of disbelief, because he turned to me for confirmation.

“Am I lying?” he asked.


At my brother’s house, we struggled to roll the upright piano from the entryway onto the front porch. His two sons split their attention between the computer and watching us work.

The day before had been Thanksgiving, and I’d passed out well before dinner but after too much scotch. My nephews had pointed out, I was told later, that I was lying down because I drank too much. My brother defended me, telling them I would do anything for any of them. I tried to remember that justification as I cursed and shoved the piano. I could get away with regular ruining of family holidays as long as I was willing to help with shit like this. The hard stuff. The family stuff.

My younger nephew called to his dad from the computer that we couldn’t get rid of the piano because he hadn’t learned to play it yet.

“We’re not getting rid of it,” my brother told him, “and you can still learn to play it, buddy. You’re just going to learn to play it at your mother’s house.”

My nephew turned back to the computer, seemingly satisfied with that arrangement.


My ex-sister-in-law’s mother is a paraplegic; when we arrived at her daughter’s new home, we used her portable wheelchair ramps to roll the piano out of the truck. We’d parked close to the curb so as not to block traffic, but that made the angle between the back of the truck and the curb sharp, which caused the piano to roll out quickly and almost bury itself vertically in the ground, like a giant tombstone.

The piano’s destination was an old house, the kind of place my brother’s ex never would have chosen if she still had unrestricted access to my brother’s salary. She had always aspired to be a living embodiment of all things HGTV, but she had undergone a personal reinvention lately, or so she told my brother. Maybe this claptrap old house was her proof that she didn’t care about having the most modern in furnishings anymore. Regardless, as we worked, I was careful to ignore her, following my brother’s instructions. He’d said this approach would drive her insane, and that was what he wanted.

We rolled the piano through the almost-too-narrow gate past the neglected front yard and up to the porch. We transferred the wheelchair ramps from the truck to the front steps, but again the angle was problematic. The piano was long and unmalleable, so by the time the lower wheels were getting close to the top step the higher ones were dangling precariously in the air. Pulling them down only left the piano high centered and forced us to drag it along its bottom until we could get the back wheels started again, scratching both the porch and the bottom of the piano. We settled on this as the best approach. It was an old house and an old piano: both had been scratched before. Besides, we weren’t professional movers. You get what you pay for.


After maneuvering the piano into the living room, we left my nephews with their mother, drove back to my brother’s house, drank two beers each in celebration of being rid of the thing, then went to return the U-Haul. My brother drove the truck, and I followed in his car.

I waited for him outside as he finished the paperwork. It was early still, cold. NPR played softly—trouble in the Middle East. When my brother flopped back into the car he said, “I don’t know how people get by in life without twin brothers. Who do they call for mornings like this?”

We went back to the house. We drank beer and talked about the heavy wooden things we’d stood on either side of, the places we’d tried to chuck them out of, the places we’d tried to cram them into.

Tom Hoisington is a journalist living in Kittitas County, Washington, with his wife, daughter, and cats.

Photo by Tory M. Taylor