He waited in the wings while the audience settled into their seats. There were the hushed voices, people slinking out of their coats, the shuffle of footsteps, the familiar laugh of a fan in the front row who had been following him since the early days. The good old days when he played in smoky taverns, always eager to interact and improvise, his fingers gliding over the keys as he sat on his favourite piano stool with the slightly rickety leg.
Henry looked down at his hands. He studied the knuckles and fingers, the skin now knotted and veined, shrivelled by age. He no longer regarded the tools of his trade with the same vanity. He couldn’t. The fifty-year ride had reached its end. The audience out there, after tonight, would be his no more.
The curtain rose; the drama and dignity of its ascendance sent a hush through the auditorium. Henry walked out into the spotlight. He sat at the piano, drank in the applause. He could feel the tremor in his fingers. Not nerves, but the early onset of that dreadful disease. The beginning of the end.