I used to think I was the only one who had swallowed a glass piano. That was why I had to keep my secret, why I had to be so careful. I avoided the rough games that the other kids played when no one was looking.
The Glass Piano says: I found you, and you found me. I give you my music, and you give me movement. I can go anywhere you go as long as you and I don’t shatter.
I blamed myself for so many years, until I told the family doctors. The terror of telling on myself kept me dyspeptic in my early years, baffling the experts. They tried different diets (all soft, a blessing), and they prescribed rest, and they gave me prayers.
By the time I told the doctors about the glass piano, I could have been a mother if I hadn’t been so sick. A blessing. I could have been forced to do all sorts of things.
The doctors laughed when I said “As a child, I swallowed a glass piano.”
I could feel the music building inside me, and I opened my mouth so they could hear. It was like I’d asked them to listen to the heartbeat of my doll. They put their ears near my mouth and murmured with such exaggerated frenzy, and they drowned out the little song. It’s only the smallest tinkling song, and it’s muffled by all my tissues.
When I sleep, the music fills my liver and kidneys and my rippling digestive trail. I thought I would die young.
The Glass Piano says: I am so small, everyone swallows me.
I remember the glass piano the way some recall their first love. The size of a coin, standing on delicate legs. I had everything then. I could have swallowed thousands of coins. I did.
Thank God I swallowed the piano and remembered it. Otherwise, I would have married a prince. They would have had me bear more princes. The piano would have shattered, and I would have died in my finery.
The Glass Piano says: You are dying.
I know I am.
The Glass Piano says: I will find you in the afterlife. Listen for my song, the small sound muffled by the tissues of heaven.
I left the palace and learned. I devoted my life to orphans. All because of the glass piano. In my religious life, the first orphan I met said she had a song stuck in her stomach, and opened her mouth, and I heard the brilliant tinkling. I laughed, delighted, and I told her about the glass piano. How wide her eyes were. How wonderful to pass on the fruits of your pain. From then on, she respected the glass piano inside her, though she couldn’t remember swallowing it.
The Glass Piano says: You had so many things, yet you only remember me.
I’ve heard the music from so many mouths that now I know glass pianos are everywhere. I thought my fine life was my doom, that the others were happy because they’d never seen a glass piano shining like an eye in the candlelight. Who could resist such a thing? I had been playing rough games that morning before I swallowed the glass piano. I had eaten aged cheeses and nuts, foods that never passed my lips again for the rest of my life.
It was no different than swallowing a little lump of snow. A frozen soul. Later, I learned about cameras. Maybe that’s what it was, a device to show God my insides.
The Glass Piano says: My music was your resting place.
Thank God I never had a normal life. I left the palace. I lived among the orphans. I am an orphan. I have lived.
(for Princess Alexandra of Bavaria)
Ivy Grimes is from Alabama but currently lives in Virginia. Her stories have appeared in The Baffler, ergot., Seize the Press, Tales From Between, Interzone, Vastarien, and elsewhere. To read more, feel free to visit www.ivyivyivyivy.com or read her (sigh) substack at https://ivygrimes.substack.com!