Tales From an Oversized Pianist

January 2, 2009
By Kevin Griffin, Inverness, IL

Percy Davis will always be known as the biggest darn baby ever to be conceived in Port Di’avello, Maine. Percy was cut from his mother on the fifth day in November, tipping the scales at 27.6 pounds and about 22 inches tall, so as one could imagine, he carried a bit of a belly. Percy rolled right out his mother’s stomach with a head covered in hair, and a face almost the same as the one he wears today. Percy’s father was no giant, just shy of 6 feet, and his mother was no mass either. She was, however, one tough son of a gun for carrying around Percy for nine months. Percy might as well have walked out of the hospital wearing overalls and a baseball cap, because he could be mistaken for a 5 year old, and one big five year old. Without a doubt the biggest baby in Port Di’avello, Percy’s name was being whispered through every diner and bank within the town’s boundaries on that November day.

Percy’s parents were good people, which wasn’t exactly the trend in Port Di’avello. Percy’s mother, Grace Davis, loved every fat inch of her swollen son. She showered Percy with hugs and kisses well into his teenage years, just so he wouldn’t feel as different as he appeared. Most of the working men in the port made their living by working in the mines, but Percy’s dad Raymond was different. He spent all his time working in the mines. Since the day Percy was born, his father would leave home every morning at 5 am to work in the underground pits until 10 at night, when he would come through the door with skin stained black, deeply saturated in black soot. Raymond Davis didn’t spend much time at home with his small family of just three, or four depending on how you count Percy. See, while the Davis’ could only afford to raise one child, they ended up spending enough money to raise two. At the dinner table, Percy took up two chairs, he ate twice the food he should, he slept in a bed made for two people, and his clothes were always getting too small. Every day Percy would come home from school, and stretch out his big body over the carpet that covered the Davis’ living room floor. Percy would shuffle through his father’s cabinet, overflowing with old records of every singer that belted a tune in the previous four decades. Raymond Davis had everything from Hank Williams to Elvis Presley. But there was only one singer that was able to pluck at the heart of Percy’s perceptive sense of rhythm. Ludwig Van Beethoven was the only master of music that could satisfy Percy. He would sit on the floor, humming every tune, running his fingers over the soft rug, as if he was performing for crowds larger than the eye could see. Before Percy came along, Raymond had never spun the old record of Beethoven’s, that came free with the purchase of the record player. Percy would replay the same songs over and over again, just to see if maybe he missed a part in the song that he couldn’t hear the first time. The records would play through any homework that Percy was obligated to finish. And it would play through the night until Percy’s father came home. Upon which Percy would shut off the player, and spin an old Hank Williams record, rolling his eyes at Percy’s love for the piano.

As Percy grew up, he did not follow the natural cycle of freakishly tall first graders who turn into average to short high school students. Percy stayed freakishly tall all the time. Percy was raised to treat everyone equally, even though all he needed to do was look in a mirror to realize not to judge a book by its cover. Percy had the face of a 35 year old during the days when he was learning the alphabet, addition, and subtraction. He started shaving in third grade, even before he had a health class to show him how to clip his whiskers. As was probably assumed, Percy didn’t fit very well into a standard wooden desk, so he was always given a table in the back of the room, where he was forced to sit snug. Sitting within an arm’s reach of the back wall was not usually very convenient for Percy, who suffered from a slight astigmatism and a nagging case of nearsightedness. As a result of his less than perfect vision, and poor auditory learning skills, Percy’s grades were usually less than impressive. Teachers frequently mislabeled him for a bad student, due to his poor performance on class assessments, but Percy was in most cases, naturally a better student than the pupils who surrounded him. By his freshman year in high school, Percy towered over his classmates at just shy of 8 feet, and he weighed well over 400 pounds. He could dunk basketballs, while getting his shoelaces tangled in the net, although he couldn’t dribble a basketball to save his life. Most college football scouts would take a boy the size of Percy Davis and throw him onto their offensive line without even a second guess, but they would probably cut him as fast as they signed him. Percy could not run to save his life. He would start moving his feet and in a matter of three steps, he would be crashing to the ground in a heap of sloppy footwork. For Percy Davis, sports were not a strong suit. Now, while there is nothing wrong with not being a five star athlete, in Port Di’avello that meant you sold your soul to the mines. That is if you could fit in the mines. Percy had gone to work with his father one day, in 8th grade, and a 7’11’’ Percy never made it off the 6 foot tall mine shaft elevator.

It took Percy Davis only six and one half years to earn his graduate diploma from Port Di’avello High School. College expenses didn’t comfortably fit into the Davis’ family budget, after they spent 20 years of raising one kid for the price of two. Percy tried to leave home after high school, and start a life of his own, but the ailing health of his mother and absence of his father kept him chained to the same front door he hit his head on every day for 21 years.
Percy was 25 when his father died in a mining accident on a cold December morning. The mine closed right on top of him and ten other guys, but Raymond Davis’s was the only life it took. Percy’s mother wasn’t able to stay around much longer after the death of his father, and she died a few years later from what most would call a broken heart. Percy carried his mother’s sick body six miles, all the way to the hospital on a March morning, when the car wouldn’t start. He knew she wasn’t breathing as he carried her down the street, but she probably didn’t want to take an ambulance, it was better when Percy carried her.
Although Percy had spent all of his 30 years in Port Di’avello, he didn’t have many friends there. Most of the people he had known from school had moved away from the cramped town, at least all the smart ones. Percy was still known as the biggest baby in Port Di’avello, which was a title he was not too proud of.
On his 32nd birthday, Percy went for a walk. However Percy was not going for a walk around the block or a walk that went out and back. In 23 days, Percy found himself hundreds of miles away from the only place he had ever lived. Here, Percy was not the tallest building, and he fit through the doors, but what Percy discovered on this 23rd day was far more important than a new habitat. He had discovered himself.

On December 9, Percy wandered into a small store tucked between a deli and diner. Inside, stood five black pianos, all different models. Percy hit his first note on December 9 at 2:49 p.m. and in a matter of three minutes, he managed to captivate the attention of the 65 year old store owner. The sound of Beethoven that kept replaying in his head came out more perfect than Beethoven could have himself. Finally, Percy found the thing he had been missing for his whole life. See, the one thing about Percy’s body that did not come super sized, was all ten of his perfectly spaced fingers. His middle finger was just a hair above 3 inches and his pinkies were 2.5. Every day for the next week, Percy would walk into “Livingston Strings,” and crash his fingers down onto the ivory keys and he would squeeze out the most beautiful sounds the machine had to offer. Percy soon found himself spitting melodious tunes for audiences far bigger than himself and the piano owner. Percy would take his act to small saloons and stages, where he would make people stop in the tracks of their busy lives and just listen to what he had to offer. The men who would drink away their sorrows at the bars found themselves simply humming away their guilt to the command of Percy’s music.

The black and white memories that Percy had of Port Di’avello soon faded to gray. He sold out amphitheaters and played music on request. Never again did Percy find an amphitheater where he didn’t fit through the door, or a store where he was too big to walk in. Percy became an icon of musical expression throughout the world. He began speaking in schools to kids about discovering and loving music. Every time he talks to a child, he leaves them with one message. “Next time you find yourself in a small town called Port Di’avello, and you don’t seem to fit, remember this. "You are never too big for the place you’re in. The Place you’re in may just be too small for you.” Then Percy just smiles, and slowly walks away.

The author's comments:
Percy Davis may be big but he is able to squeeze a little bit of himself into everyone. Part of growing up is not about figuring out where you belong but figuring out about where you belong. Believe it or not, becoming the person you want to be, the person you truly believe you can be, takes alot of courage. Everyone has the courage somewhere deep inside of them, and everyone has the days that make them feel like a ten foot Percy, living in a six foot town. And when everything is going south, remember what Percy says,"You are never too big for the place you're in. The place you're in may just be too small for you." And if you ever do see Percy sometimes, just give him a nod, and he'll know you read his story.

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This article has 10 comments.

DJ said...
on Feb. 3 2009 at 2:21 pm
Interesting story - found the ending to be inspiring and a great lesson to all. Can't wait to see more stories from this writer.

mimi said...
on Jan. 13 2009 at 2:23 am
Imagination was ok. Could've been better. Plot was ok. Very plain, noncreative, and boring title.

BigT said...
on Jan. 12 2009 at 9:20 pm
Such a heartwarming tale! It makes you want to give Percy a hug or,if that's not possible, at least grab one of his legs!

GG said...
on Jan. 12 2009 at 9:13 pm
Well done! interesting.

mfionui said...
on Jan. 11 2009 at 5:53 pm
Great Story! It sounds like it should be a screenplay for a movie or something!

on Jan. 11 2009 at 7:18 am
kgriff... this story was magical! loved it! it made me extremely happy and you're a fantastic writer. (:

nene said...
on Jan. 11 2009 at 4:00 am
I couldn't stop reading after once I started...Touching and thought provoking. I love the twist on it.

xcrunner409 said...
on Jan. 10 2009 at 11:57 pm
nice article!

grandmaB said...
on Jan. 10 2009 at 5:50 pm
well done! sounds like something paul harvey would have in his broadcast.

DiG said...
on Jan. 10 2009 at 5:15 pm
I love the imagination and the lesson!


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