Photo Prompt

Each month, we post a photograph as a writing prompt. Post your 100-word story in the comments section, and we’ll choose one to feature in our next issue. To see examples, read photo stories we’ve published in the past.

In the spirit of fun and fairness, please follow these guidelines:
• Post only one story per photo prompt.
• Be mindful of others’ feelings when commenting (keep it positive rather than giving feedback).
• Remember this is a shared safe space for all lovers of 100-word stories.

Photo of piano keys in a bar setting.

Photo Credit: Nan Palmero

44 Responses to “Photo Prompt”

  1. Mueleski says:

    Escape in Four Quarters Time

    Once upon a time I was a jazzman. I’d blow my horn nightly in dark gin joints and smelly taverns, kissing silver lips and gracefully fingering pearled pistons in lightly oiled valves. Together, we transcended time and space, entered erotic realms, and rode syncopated riffs through fantastic dimensions.
    Problem was, I always came back; out of breath and surrounded by the smells and noise that turned my soul stone cold–until that night.
    Lester was tickling ivory while I drifted off blowing dotted quarters between his chops. I floated through explosions of colors and sounds and just never came back.

  2. Craig Jackson says:

    The light spilled across the shadowy cabaret as the door opened. It was too early for customers, hell I never read the bible before noon.

    She came in rolling her hips as she walked. Her dress was black, her hair burgundy and curled, and her eyes became the brightest things in the room once the door closed.

    “I’m here for the job.” She looked to me at the bar.

    “This place is harmless but a bit rowdy.” I nodded to the piano, “you just got to know how to play.”

    “I’m gonna like it here.” her smile grew Cheshire wide.

  3. It was the pride of a thriving jazz bar until the government declared that music had died. Afterwards, with our streets bereft of melody, the piano sat dormant; a forgotten relic in the corner of a bar now dominated by the sounds of phones unlocking and Facebook notifications popping until, one day, ten dextrous fingers dusted its ivory keys. Its tuning had been lost with the motifs of yesterday yet there remained in its discordant tones a beauty that prized eyes from phones and, for the first time since that fateful day humanity, staring at a ghost, became tangible again.

  4. Her buttocks press against the edge of my piano, dangerously close to contributing a secondary bassline as I play a song from the soundtrack of their youth, the couple now violently making out against the tool of my trade as I unintentionally fuel their drunken passion merely by doing my job. Was it the song they danced to at their formal? A moment they’re trying to recreate thirty years later while up to their livers in bottom-shelf bourbon. I hope he’s eyeing the tumbler I use for a tip jar because he’s planning to contribute, not attempt to drink it.

  5. Raynne Larrea says:

    Seeing them at the bar, drinking and watching sports, amused me. How silly was it that you can waste your life in that way, instead of reading eights and quarters and halves. The streetlamps outside shimmered an odd shade of red, blood.
    The piano man tapped merrily on the keys, making nice melodies and pleasing my ears, jingling like Halloween decorations in the wind, bones.
    The chicken and waffles served at the counter was salty and sweet. It was warm- seemingly warmer than anything I’d ever eaten before, hot.
    How lovely it would’ve been, had it not been in Hell.

  6. Marina says:

    The bartender did warn me about the shot’s effects, but what sane person would believe him? I’d played for two hours without recognition, I needed a drink, I wanted something a little different. That’s what I said, but maybe he just heard “little.” At this diminished height the only way I can span the keys is to straddle them, each Ken-sized shoe on its own ivory. But the show must go on; so the audience will get arpeggios. A six inch tall pianist leapfrogging from note to note—well, at least it’s something they haven’t seen before, even if nobody’s looking.

  7. R. Carter says:

    The Blues

    Daylight streams through the windows. An old piano sits on the small stage showing every flaw. The wood is scraped and has long lost its luster. Rings from wet beer bottles mark the wood. One of the keys is even missing its ivory. By every description this piano is ugly.

    Night approaches the neon lights buzz and glow. Darkness replaces the light. People begin to gather around the small stage. They have come to hear the music. He sits in front of the scarred piano begins to play. His notes are full of pain, as if the piano is singing

  8. Ms Archana (Archie) Iyer says:

    Murder

    Everything had changed in the last two decades I wasn’t here. Well, almost.

    The grand old piano was still here. With a key missing. Blemished, just like my life.

    And Ryan with the horn – I recognised that silhouette at the window.

    He’d killed my wife and framed me.

    With my little princess’ screams reverberating in my ears, “I hate you, Papa!!”

    Then twenty years as a jailbird. Enough to transform this mild-mannered pianist.

    “Judgment Day, Ryan”, I muttered, aiming my pistol at him.

    The most dangerous person is he who has nothing left to lose.

  9. Tess Mescal says:

    As the light of day waned and went to that roseate place, reflections of that light peeped into the bar, lighting up that delicious wood as though it were lit from within. Highlighting the bum keys that had been beaten into submission. But never surrendered.

    Anticipation building for the denouement of sound, accompanied and heightened by the neon lights now. And underpinned by the babble of the customers finding their way from the safe outside to the oh so unsafe inside.

    To witness the coming together of the elements, spiritual and mundane.

    The conversion of the human into angelic.

    Alchemy.

  10. Giant Xylophone

    “Rodney plays the vibes,” Judy told me.
    Hmmm, the vibes. Nice.
    I knew nothing about jazz and had never heard of the vibes.
    But it was “Jazz Night” at the local pub, and I embraced the idea of new music filling my ears while squeezed around a cocktail table with strangers sipping cosmos.
    After thirty minutes listening to the syncopated sounds of independent rhythms wafting through the smoke filled room, my head began to bob, my eyes grew heavy and just for a moment, I let them rest.
    Sometime later, Judy nudged me.
    “Want to stay for the second set?”

  11. Jim Byrnes says:

    A Piano’s Life

    I can’t remember how long it’s been since someone caressed my keys, making me sing. Rocco might have been the last of my lovers. Way back then he would make love to me nearly every night, magical fingers summoning all sorts of music from ebony and ivory keys. Beautiful melodies would fill the air and he would leave me drained and emotionally spent as applause rocked the room. These days I’m lucky if I get an occasional plink from some random customer as they amble by, but it’s never enough to get my juices flowing like in the old days.

  12. KHoffman says:

    She wasn’t sure what had drawn her to the place; perhaps the bright lights or melodic jazz. Either way, she found herself seated at the bar, face in hands, exhausted from the day. She was miserable—had been miserable for months, or was it years? Years, if she was being honest with herself. She just wanted out.

    Tonight, she packed a bag, just the necessities, and headed out the door with no plan; and she found herself where…in a bar? Her life was a cliché—laughable.

    “Whiskey shot”, she uttered.

    “I need a dose of courage before I head home.”

  13. Natalie Wu says:

    She waits in the corner, haughty and lacquered. I always sit close, inhaling her delicate scent of beeswax polish. Customers dine here just to be near her. So, despite her missing key, she has never been replaced by extra tables.
    Her song was rich and melodic, a husky laugh. I miss it dearly, but she should never have let that trumpeter caress her. His inexpert hand made her laughter shrill; mocking.
    Well, nobody’s laughing now. I rub the ivory key in my pocket. Of course, she is too stubborn to ask for it back, as we sit in eternal silence.

  14. Ken Gosse says:

    Great atmosphere and story and your opening phrase could be terrific in rhymed verse.

  15. Ken Gosse says:

    Cookin’ in KC ~

    The Kansas City Barbeque,
    a place that local people knew
    for fine cuisine, by that they mean
    the best of KC and a brew.

    Not only known for fine cuisine,
    a hotspot on the music scene,
    for KC jazz has razzmatazz—
    smokin’ music, hot, and lean.

    The place was new in ’83
    and soon became the place to be—
    piano bar, horn, sax, guitar
    played by the best you’d ever see.

    and then, in 1986
    strangers came and made some flicks—
    Cruise, Ryan, Edwards, were the headwords
    for the cast— “Top Gun” would last—
    Great Balls of Fire’s spicy mix.

    [Note: Some web searching confirmed the scene is the Kansas City Barbeque where Great Balls of Fire was filmed for the 1986 movie Top Gun.]

  16. Ryan says:

    He is the music man, I the piano, he played me one day, bought me the next. Now I sit in the dust, doom and gloom. He lives in the light, Neon signs, excitement and new love in a world I can never know. I’m inanimate, with all the rights that come with being an object. I’m excluded, wishing for the world with the neon lights, the world of saxophones and guitars. Alas, I am the piano and while other instruments may wander – I must stay. I’m waiting for my music man, after all, Piano’s aren’t easy to move.

  17. Andrea Sprague says:

    She was six, he was nine. Forced to wait in the old storage room. Waiting for Mama, rushing around delivering orders to impatient customers. The keys gleamed despite the layers of dust and grime. She crawled up on the chair and began to play. Nervously he stood beside her, glancing out the window at the full dining room. “Stop! Mama’s gonna git you!” Stubbornly she banged the keys even louder. “Please!” he pleaded urgently. “Fine!” she yelled, punching the keys one last time. Twang! One key flew up and away. Staring at each other in shock, and then, uncontrollable laughter.

  18. Sam Jacobson says:

    The buttery tone of the saxophone unified with the keys of my locked soul, a pleasure of mine forbidden by society. Moving here from Louisiana, I was able to spice up the monotonous atmosphere. Everyone knew the food was mediocre, but none of our customers seemed to care. They said I was their window to the world, a beam of golden light in a room of darkness. I never was able to see these rays of joy and comfort, but I could feel it surrounding me, embracing me, and whoever walked into the restaurant left full with satisfaction and comfort.

    • Ken Gosse says:

      [I missposted this. It was intended for Sam’s story.]

      Great atmosphere and story and your opening phrase could be terrific in rhymed verse.

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