by Sophie Langley
His fingers moved across the piano keys, again and again hitting the same wrong note. That same section, again and again. The keys were smooth under his fingers, worn from years of his sisters’ treading similar paths, and from the family who had owned the piano before theirs did.
What he really should do, he knew, was stop and play notes around the offending one slowly – repeatedly – until his fingers moved without error. The instrument was out of tune anyway, he thought, having been moved between houses many times. The wrong note, repeated so many times now, didn’t sound so wrong anymore.
Without warning, he played the correct note, and his fingers hesitated above the keys. Practise makes perfect. Or practise means our bad habits become more deeply ingrained – he was never sure which.
When he placed his fingers back on the ivory it was warm, and he’d lost his place on the sheet music. He wasn’t an exceptional pianist, he thought.
His sisters had been exceptional pianists. And public speakers. And debaters. And exam-passers. He, on the other hand, made the same mistakes again and again.
He thought about closing the lid.
Instead, he played the same section through once without a mistake, then twice, three times, four, five, six, and on and on, never finishing the whole piece but playing that section so many times that the number itself was exceptional, even if the playing wasn’t.