There it sits like a ghost, quietly, in the back of the house on a bare wooden floor, its back against the wall in a set of rooms that are about to be renovated. Consequently, we have decided to move this ghost out to the back of the garage and cover it for the summer. A big move.

It’s very old, this musical lady. The front piece says it’s a Kohler Campbell, maybe 1903, probably older, with delicately carved features and three pedals.

We found it over 50 years ago in an old antiques barn out in Culver City, California.

We were there to buy an antique clock, and then over in a dark corner I saw her, old and shuffled about by everyone who had once touched her keys.

The dealer said it was once owned by an old woman in Kansas, whose son played it until he left and died in the Great War.

She sold it, the man said, to a traveling salesman, and it found its way to a saloon in San Francisco. All involved, including the saloon, are gone now. Only the ivory-keyed lady survives.

I taught myself to play piano by ear as a young boy, and I’ve caressed various keyboards from Louisiana to Tokyo.

As a young actor, while working the night shift at the Waldorf Astoria in the late ’50s, I would take my late dinner breaks up in the hotel’s famous Starlight Room, and there in the dark, I played a few bars on that famous grand piano whose ivory keys had felt the touch of Cole Porter and Eddie Duchin. Sweet memories.

So there she was, sitting in the corner of this old man’s store, waiting for someone to come and touch its ivory keys. Gently with my fingertips, I tapped out a few notes of “Tenderly,” and there in the shadows we fell in love in an old barn 15 minutes from Sunset Boulevard.

Love happens like that, does it not?

You touch a piano’s keys the way you touched the lips of that summer girl, and you fall in love. It happens.

So we bought it. We took it to our new home, and 10 years later, when we moved to Maine, our beautiful lady piano traveled alone in the back of a truck across America, far from where it surely remembered being played in a saloon, and across Kansas, where it may have passed the house of the old woman whose son touched its keys before dying in France. Piano keys, once loved, remember every finger that once touched them.

So in 1984, it arrived here in Maine to settle in my daughter’s rooms at the back of the house, where, on occasion, she would stop to play a bit of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” on its old keys.

Today, it’s to be rolled into a dark, damp garage, set among garbage cans and rusting tools, covered carefully and set aside.

I’m standing now beside it where it rests in a big patch of yellow afternoon sunlight.

Recently, the great writer John Patrick Shanley tweeted, “Never pass a piano without touching the keys.”

I touch its keys now, as I have for years each time I passed by, and each time we both remember how we fell in love.

No. I can’t. I can’t move it to the garage, not even temporarily. Nor, as some have urged us to do, will I sell it. Sorry. I disagree with Mr. Porter; love is not for sale, not here, not today.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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