Monday, April 9, 2012

The Piano Tuner

I have a story which has been in my mind quite a bit lately. While I was in college I was asked if I'd be willing to do some dog sitting for an evening. I'm not overly fond of dogs, but I said I'd go.

I went to the home of Rudy Pick and his wife (her name escapes me now) to meet them and their black lab, Linda. The Picks were Jews from Europe, survivors of a concentration camp. Their accents were still very strong, although they'd been in the United States since the late 40s.

Their home was filled with fascinating books and things like autographed photos of Albert Schweitzer. Mrs Pick was a master at caring for violets. We had tea and talked about Linda. They told me that they needed someone to stay with their dog when they went out because once when they were away their former dog had been poisoned.

Our conversation eventually came around to their experience during World War II. I don't know the details about their being arrested and sent to camp, nor do I know which camp it was. I wish I'd written it all down. But this part I do remember. Rudy was a piano tuner, and he was occasionally called up to tune the piano in the officers' quarters. A good piano tuner wants to know if he has done a proper job, so he will play a piece and listen carefully to the sound. The day came that all the men in the camp were rounded up. They were put on a train, to face their death. But Rudy was allowed to stay behind. Later he asked why he was spared. "One day you tuned our piano," he was told by the commanding officer, "and when you finished you played my favorite song."

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