Written September 2006
Synopsis: “I challenge you to a duel, Madam.”
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of Heel & Toe, Shore Z. Productions, Bad Hat Harry Productions, and other corporations. No infringement is intended.
Stores that sold musical instruments, particularly pianos, always had such beautiful displays. Red ropes to protect some of the pieces, plush carpeting, potted plants… Cuddy breathed deeply as if that would somehow enhance her visual senses.
“Hurry up, I want to get home before the Spongebob movie starts.”
She exhaled just as deeply. “Shut up. You’re the one who told me I needed a new piano.”
House shrugged. “Of course you need a new piano. How else am I supposed to amuse myself while you cook dinner?”
“Setting the table would be nice.”
“But not nearly as fun as playing an eardrum-shattering rendition of Smoke on the Water.” He performed the intro on an invisible piano, loudly humming the notes.
“Yeah, thanks to that, my neighbor still isn’t speaking to me.”
“No, that’s because you scream during sex.”
She smiled sweetly. “Only when I’m alone.”
They were approached by an employee in a handsome suit and tie, and she was impressed. Professionalism was often pushed to the wayside when the items sold in the store were more expensive than the employee’s monthly salary. “May I help you?”
“We’d like to buy a piano,” House told him.
Cuddy smiled at his use of the word ‘we’ but said nothing. She knew better than to call attention to his inadvertent slips of domesticity. As the salesman led them to what was probably a wonderful piano, her eyes fell on a beautiful black Steinway baby grand. She let go of House’s hand and wandered in that direction. Pricey, she thought as she took note of the placard. But perfect. House was still listening to the sales pitch for the other piano and didn’t seem to notice her disappearance, so she sat on the baby grand’s bench.
A tune drifted through her mind like smoke, tickling her brain, teasing her. Edelweiss. She hadn’t heard it in ages, and she wasn’t even sure she remembered all of the notes. Only one way to find out. She positioned her fingers over the keys.
The first few notes of Dueling Banjos resounded through the air, but she hadn’t pressed anything. She looked up and saw House seated at the piano across from her, grinning slightly.
“I challenge you to a duel, Madam.”
Selecting a higher octave, she repeated the notes. “Duel accepted. Prize?”
He played the next line. “No dishes duty for a week. And I’m leaving the bed unmade.”
“And if I win…” She played her part back to him. “You have to apologize to my neighbor.”
“For making you scream?”
“For playing the piano loudly, and for showing up in the middle of the night on your motorcycle … and for making me scream.”
His smile broadened. “Deal.”
Her fingers crashed down on the keys at the same time as his, and the duel began. The fervent playing captured the attention of the staff and other patrons of the store who gathered around the pianos and watched appreciatively. If this had happened a few months ago, before he urged her to practice, he would have beaten her easily. But now she was faster, sharper, and on rare occasions could outplay him.
On a whim, she ran her left hand along all of the keys to the other end of the piano and back while continuing to play the tune, drawing oohs from the crowd. House looked at her, impressed by her improvisation, and proceeded to one-up her. Typical. She couldn’t match his dexterity so she increased the tempo, hoping to throw him off.
“I’m not apologizing!” he shouted over the music, but he was laughing and so was she. They finished the piece with a brilliant crescendo and pounded out the last note simultaneously. Applause erupted, and they each took a modest bow.
House spotted their salesman and gestured to the Steinway. “We’ll take it.”