92: The Ghost of Truffles

92: The Ghost of Truffles

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Cat Did That!

The Ghost of Truffles

There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.

~Andre Gide

In the days of my youth, when I was still known as Billy, my namesake and beloved Uncle Bill made a long trip to visit us. Bill was a railroad man, my father’s older brother, a kindly man who told exciting stories of his work with the giant steam locomotives of the day.

Back in those days, such visits were infrequent, at least in our family. This was Uncle Bill’s first, and as it turned out, only visit to his brother, and it proved to be memorable, all because of Truffles the cat.

Truffles had arrived at our house one blustery winter day and decided to stay. She was a nondescript feline, of numerous indeterminate colors, and exhibited a similarly undefined, almost nonexistent personality. Truffles blended into the background, as nearly invisible on a richly colored Persian rug as on a drab linoleum floor. Truffles ate and snoozed. She gave and asked for affection in equally minimal measure. Truffles was a cat who was not there, even when she was. But Truffles could play the piano.

One day, exploring our small house, Truffles wandered into the basement. My father had built a recreation room in the basement, and the centerpiece was a well-traveled upright piano. Dad was a piano player. Obeying his masterful magic fingers, that old piano had sent out a million ragtime tunes, tangos, waltzes and polkas that would rouse the dead. Our recreation room had hosted countless neighborhood parties where the dancing began at eight o’clock and ended in the wee hours, the old house shaking with the pounding of the dancers’ feet.

Truffles may have observed my father playing the piano, and connected the sounds to the moving fingers, or more likely she jumped on the keyboard and made a “Eureka” discovery. What we do know is that one day we heard a melodic tinkling of the keys — somewhat discordant — but the notes went up, then down, then back up the keyboard. My mother and I peeked through the door, and there was Truffles, vaguely visible, walking back and forth on the keyboard. She was clearly enjoying the sounds she was creating. As time passed, Truffles’ piano concerts became a part of our lives.

Uncle Bill arrived, and after a long day of great stories and Mom’s best recipes, Bill was tired and asked where he was going to sleep. The only guest bed was a pullout sofa in the recreation room, so Bill headed downstairs, and soon all of us were in our appointed rooms, dreaming pleasant dreams.

In the dead of night, on little cat’s feet, a musician sat down to play. Because Truffles was an invisible cat most of the time, Uncle Bill had not seen her, and did not know she lived among us. Bill woke with a start, sometime after midnight. The piano on the far wall was playing. Faint light from the sunken window to the street showed the white keys moving up and down, with no apparatus to make them do so. He explained later, he came to believe the unseen piano player was making an attempt at Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” but doing it badly. Dark basements and invisible piano players? Bill quickly came to the logical conclusion: a ghost!

“Be off!” he cried, “Leave me be!” He slapped the bedclothes.

Truffles, possibly insulted by this negative review, ceased playing. Slowly Bill allowed himself to believe this had been a nightmare. Invisible sonatas indeed! Pulling the covers over his head, he returned to fitful slumber.

But Truffles’ concert was not finished. She began again, high notes, sharps and flats, fast twinkle-toed notes. A Mozart concerto?

The unearthly music penetrated Bill’s senses, leaving him too terrified to cry out. He shrank against a wall, silently pleading with the spectral pianist to leave. Through dark hours this torture continued. Then, after a pause, Truffles began her finale, and with a leap, all four paws sounded out the opening chords of Chopin’s “Funeral March” — which Bill swears to!

Realizing now that he had been “sent for,” Bill shouted out, “Help, help, no, don’t take me, not now!”

Reacting in panic, he threw books, a lamp, and whatever was handy at the ghostly player. This commotion woke the household. Soon, my father and mother and I had rushed down to the recreation room. The lights came on showing a shaking, hollow-eyed Uncle Bill.

“GGGGGhost . . . piano playing . . . funeral . . .” he stammered, unable to speak coherently.

As quickly as we guessed the culprit, who was currently invisible, Truffles, alarmed at the uproar and confusion, made her escape from the top of the piano. With a bound she landed upon the deep base keys, sending out a thunderous, resounding roar.

We then explained to him about Truffles and her piano playing. Uncle Bill laughed and joked about how silly it was to let his imagination get the best of him, but he did sleep on a tiny couch in the upstairs living room for the rest of his visit.

~William Halderson

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