Grimwaldt’s Choice – SHORT STORY


       MY BLOOD HAD frozen. I was as sure of that, as I was that I would freeze to death. Come spring, a forensics team would paw over my defrosted body. But only if the wolves or bears let me be.

Morbid thoughts. Were they a sign I was resigned to the end? – or just a reminder by my survival instincts on what possibilities lay ahead? I hadn’t the energy to postulate.

Composing music in a remote cabin had its merits. I’d completed one work of beauty. I was certain of that. Only the whipping arctic winds, northern lights and solitude could have gifted me that. And yet, it would be my legacy. I had written a poorly scripted letter accompanying the pages of music for a living soul to find.

Just thinking about writing, I looked at my fingers protruding from navy cotton gloves. Cracked, blistered and dry, curled inwards from sub-zero temperatures like blunt talons. I tried to move one of them, any of them, scarcely registering movement.

Sitting against a wall, legs out in front, I looked at it. A masterful piece of craftmanship. Dark maple wood like suspended treacle, and keys I regretfully know to be from the tusks of elephants. But boy those ivories made a sound, the softest, sweetest melody. My fingers so easily became extensions of them when I played.

I looked at them again. Gnarled and fading in colour. Even if I was saved in this instant, I knew frostbite had won over my extremities. I would never play another key again.

It would be easy to be regretful at this moment. I’d chosen to live here, cut off from civilisation, to regain my pride and joy, to show the world Grimwaldt was still the master.

Food had run out days ago. I’d never go short on water with all the snow and ice outside, but I couldn’t boil it anymore. No fuel. I’d burnt every flammable item in the one room cabin, except my clothes and the piano.

My attention turned to the fireplace. A tiny ember surrounded by ash, refused to die. At least the bed had provided me with comfort through beautiful dancing flames.

Judging by the size of the ember, it would start a fire with some coaxing.

There I was. Stripped to my very essence by the cruelness of winter; a man and his piano. My livelihood, my death. I’m sure pianos burn well. Maybe, they can stave off death, but there was no guarantee I would be saved. Nobody was due for another week. No piano can burn for a week. Even in my state I amused myself with that thought. I had been burning pianos for decades! In Vienna, in New York and Moscow! I could almost hear the clapping once more, quieter, but still present, and I could visualise the standing ovations that were so very hard to come by.

Ahhh. My sixty four year old eye lids closed. I was on the stage of the Grosser Musikvereinssaal in Vienna. My only son had first watched me there.

My eyes opened again, the light darker outside, my mind decided.

I would not burn the piano. That way, someone else could play..

jan 16 repost

lion around 2


  1. This is such a compelling story. I love how conflicted the main character is: he loves the pianos, yet he burns them all. And the way you chose to end it, I think that was a great use of the ellipses. It shows the main character’s story is over, but someone else might come to pick up where it leaves off, which ties into “someone else could play”.

    Lol, I could be reading way too much into this though. Nonetheless, I enjoyed your story, Fionn!

    1. Your interpretation as the reader is never wrong ☺
      Thanks on the ending, I liked the open thread to new possibilities.
      And part of the dilemma was to burn or not to burn the piano, he decides not to in the end.

  2. I love it. Some might think he’s crazy but I can relate to how much he loves the music. It would be a crime to destroy something so beautiful. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. This had to be my favorite story of yours so far. I’ve thought of disappearing into nature just to write, so I liked that even with impending death coming for the pianist, he doesn’t regret his choice.

    1. Thank you Bjorn, a parable it is. What is worth more than life? Is it sentementalism or madness not to burn the piano. And knowing when the end has come, not fighting it, and leaving something of worth behind.

    1. Thanks Adam, it is a battle of pride and sentimentalism, but more than that on some level. And true not many have definite love and attachment to any creative piece, perhaps with age it becomes clearer?!

      1. Yes, I suppose it was somewhat of a rational decision, but I would’ve thought that someone in such a desperate situation would do anything to buy time, even only for a day. After all, he can’t be 100% sure that nobody will come by to rescue him, despite the fact that no one is due to arrive for a week. Tough choice indeed!

  4. oh, wow, what a decision. Vividly told- “curled inwards from sub-zero temperatures like blunt talons.” Can totally see that. eww. 🙂

      1. I don’t think I love anything I’ve ever written that much. 😛 You’re very welcome, Fionn. 😉

  5. There’s such atmosphere and dark humour in this piece. Sounds like the creation of the first Bon Iver album taken to extremes!

    Some great lines also – suspended treacle is such a vivid description.

    Great piece of flash fiction – enjoyed it very much

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