Author: Hillary Lyon

Justin clenched hist fists, then slowly unfurled his fingers. “See, the little finger of my right-hand sticks; it’s not as flexible, as quick, as my other fingers. These gloves are no good to me if one finger lags.”

The technician stared down at his tablet, rapidly entering data with his stylus. He chewed the inside of his cheek. “Looks like your warranty has just expired. Sorry—but we can either take those gloves on discounted trade for new ones, or we can send them back to the factory for custom repair. Which will be expensive. I suggest the trade-in option.”

“Naturally.” Justin crossed his arms to tamp down his rising frustration. “Listen, I’m a working composer and I need functioning gloves—I don’t have time for repairs. Trade these busted gloves in for a pittance towards a new pair? Yeah, that sounds like a great deal, all I have to do is mortgage my piano to pay for it.” Justin turned on and stormed out.

Once home, he peeled off his gloves, and threw himself down on the sofa, looked around his tiny townhouse—what could he sell to raise money? How could he compose when his glove was busted? For the first time, he regretted buying the things. The technology behind them was brilliant, he admitted—slip on a pair of sheer, clingy smart gloves, merely think of your melodies, your harmonies, your chord progressions—and viola! your fingers danced over the keys (or strings) before you! You didn’t even have to know how to play the instrument! And the gloves recorded the music, as well, then uploaded it to your personal account in the ether.

The downside? Now everybody and their dog was a composer. Some of these ‘dabblers,’ as he called them, were good enough to compete with him for work, threatening his livelihood. How dare they! In a sudden decision, he called his cousin Morey—who was a bit shady, but would have a notion as to how to raise some quick cash.

“Yeah, Cuz, I can connect you with a guy who’s looking for a piano player at his club in Vegas—”

Vegas! Justin sniffed to himself, that white trash paradise! He took a deep, calming breath. “Okay, hook me up.”

* * *

“You start tonight,” the sweaty man in a tuxedo two sizes too small said. “Put these on.” He slapped a pair of scarlet gloves onto the bar between them.

Justin pulled them on. “I’ve not seen gloves like this before.”

“That’s because they’re, ah, custom made.”

Justin shuddered. The tuxedoed man chuckled, “Sting, don’t they?”

Justin pulled at the fingers on one hand, trying to get the glove off. “Nuh-uh, won’t happen,” the man pointed out, “not until you’re through working for me. Now, get over to that baby grand. Tonight I want to hear the great love songs of the 1970s.”

Justin sat down on the padded bench and raised his hands—which were immediately yanked down to the keyboard as if by a great magnet. He scowled. “I don’t know any love songs from the ’70s, so why don’t I—”

But he was interrupted by the movement of his own fingers gliding over the keys, playing a voluptuous version of Captain and Tennille’s “Muskrat Love.”

“Atta boy!” the tuxedoed man chortled, looming behind Justin. “Ya know, including tips, you’ll earn enough money for them fancy composer gloves in about, oh,” he straightened his back, stuck an unlit cigar in the corner of his mouth, and scanned his half-full nightclub, “ten years.”