The masked woman put an apple on my piano, twirled her swizzle-stick in a sassafras-flavored drink and looked into my eyes for a long, awkward moment.
I finally broke the ice, “What’s with the apple, lady? Was I your piano-teacher or something in a former life?” Not that far-fetched a remark, actually, since I did used to teach kids how to play … before everything felt apart.
“Yes,” she replied, “Don’t you recognize me?”
I began a soft-rendition of “Piano Man”. Well, as soft as I could, anyhow, considering that with my sprained ankle I couldn’t really work the dampening pedal the way I liked.
“Of course I don’t recognize you — you’re wearing a freaking mask! What is it out there, Carnival or something?”
She took out a switchblade and deftly sliced the apple in two, placing both halves on my piano, face up. Way to invite browning oxidation, but I didn’t mention it.
“Actually, Jake, it is Carnival.”
I got to the part where piano started to sound like a calliope … She said something, but I couldn’t hear over the cacophony of the piano combined with a group of revelers that had just entered the bar. I thought I saw a hint of disgust in her eyes, but that could have just been her mask.
“Got a request?” I shouted.
She began to sing, at the top of her lungs, “John Jacob Hinkleheimer Schmidt! His name is my name too!” Immediately, I understood. I complied with Jenny’s juvenile request.
The controversy surrounding our previous relationship had faded to nothing with the passing of the years.