Joshie's Bass Solo 

By Ben Heath

Hi-hats hiss 

And swelling,

Anxious breath

Like semi-trucks approaching,

Shifting gears somewhere secret nearby—

Louder, louder, then

The engine cuts, noisy hissing

Evaporates into sweaty steam. Making 

Space for Joshie’s enormous upright bass.

 

His mother sighs. The new bass’s F-holes

Look more like dollar signs.

She used to like hearing him practice in the garage,

Scraping and plucking at old strings, sound partially muffled.

 

Then that day

she was late to work—

Rushing, brushing teeth, grabbing

Keys coat shoes purse—check check check

Check—kettles eardrums hi-hats hissing pounding,

Check ignition (on!) In reverse, looking back, slam the gas—

Bam. 

The van threw her head forward, whiplash,

And she heard a terrible sound like the earsplitting crack of a falling

Tree—She looked at the dashboard. The van was in drive, not reverse—

And she looked out the windshield to see Joshie’s bass,

Still in a black fabric case, smashed between dry wall and the front bumper.

The hood is lined with tiny creases like a balled-up letter

Someone tried to save.

In the half-empty café, Joshie’s fingers

Glide and settle down. He plucks the shiny

Coiled strings of a factory polished instrument.

His solo hums

To the clatter of coins in registers,

To the soft rustle of dollar bills.

 

His mother never

could help thinking how much

the bass sounds 

like a mosquito

buzzing the blues in her ear.

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