First published in The Windsor Magazine, August 1926
First collected in The Funny Bone (1928); re-collected in Desirable Residences and Other Stories (1991)
Approx. 2,800 words
(First read 15/05/1992)
In this writer's opinion Aunts and Pianos is the perfect EFB comic short story, an unalloyed delight: it's brief and it's simple; every word is juste; the characters are very funny; the climax, though visible from Saturn, is a hoot; and it pulls off the trick of being both comical and (mildly) satirical. What more could you want?
Our hero Bobby is ... well, sublimely summed up in the first Quotable below. His life revolves around his 'aunts' (and a 'cousin'), genteel ladies all, each blessed with a piano at which Bob takes pleasure in entertaining them ...
The whole thing is eminently quotable but here are just a few of my favourite moments, starting with the opening sentence:
Bobby Deacon at the age of fifty-five was a very busy young man; no one had so many engagements to little lunch-parties and tea-parties and dinner-parties.Echoes of Lucia and Georgie here ~ 'Aunt Judy' is one of Bobby's favoured old ladies:
Aunt Judy, as usual gave him a remarkably good dinner, and Bobby, who was greedy, liked that. A crossword puzzle succeeded, and as he had done a little work at it already (though it was not necessary to mention that), he was very brilliant about it.Bobby is not above the odd base thought:
[Aunt Fanny] was the most devoted of all his aunts, and the richest and the least robust, and sometimes Bobby when he was not thinking what he was thinking about allowed himself to think about Aunt Fanny's entire lack of relations ...Aunt Judy is the larger Hermie-and-Ursie style of female person; Aunt Fanny, by contrast,
... was very small and all the furniture with the exception of her grand piano was small and fragile, and Bobby trembled to think how awful would have been the crash if Aunt Judy had sunk exhausted on that chair, or indeed anywhere in Aunt Fanny's house except on the floor.This speaks for itself. Bobby is at Fanny's piano [wow that sounded smutty!]:
Bobby slid into a fluid little morsel by Debussy, which was a favourite of Aunt Fanny's, though Aunt Judy declared that it sounded to her like a child whimpering next door. It made Aunt Fanny feel ill and unhappy, which she liked, for one of the greatest joys of her life was feeling ill and thinking she was going to die.For health reasons Aunt Fanny has decided to go south for the winter:
She talked about her journey a little more, as if it had been the conveyance of a corpse to its final resting-place.I could go on, but won't.