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The Preacher's Love

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BASSLINES

My brother and I are in the backyard. I am in a lawn chair and he is in a wheelchair. He’s wearing those leather gloves with the fingers cut off that make him look homeless. He says they’re convenient. It won’t be long before snow covers all this shit up. Brian passes the joint.
“Tell me what you make of this,” I say.
Brian looks at me, then back at the leaves. The leaves are the same color as his beard. It feels like a revelation. It’s the kind of thing that seems interesting when you’re high, but isn’t. “Make of what?” Brian says.
I can’t remember. I’m thinking about beards: bushy ones, trimmed ones, Abe Lincolns.
“Fuck,” I say. “I don’t know.”
“How’d it go with that girl the other night?”
“Oh yeah, that’s what I was going to tell you about. Tell me what you make of this.”
Brian smiles. He likes it when I fuck up.“Shoot,” he says.
“So we’ve eaten, and the date’s been okay so far. I haven’t offended her or anything. She’s done most of the talking, and I’m just trying not to stare at her tits. She’s cute, though, and I’ve made her laugh a couple times, nothing big, but, you know.” He nods.
“So dinner’s over, we’re working on the wine, and I feel like it’s getting to that point in the night where she’s gonna want me to
tell her something profound about my life in order to make her feel like we’ve bonded emotionally so when we fuck it won’t just be, you know, cheap or something.” “Okay,” Brian says.
“So she says, ‘Tell me a story’ in this kind of seductress voice. Now normally this is when I start bullshitting about Mom dying, or about some chick that broke my heart.”
“Should have told her you had a brother in a wheelchair. That would have got her.”
“Not like I haven’t used that one before,” I say.
We both laugh; we know it’s true. “But that’s the point,” I say.
“I’m sick of all that. It’s like a movie I’ve seen too many times.”
“So what did you say?”
“Well, I start telling her about this guy I met at work. He’s a weird dude. He wears this trenchcoat that’s entirely decorated with patches. You know, like, of bands and shit, peace signs. Those type of patches. Iron-ons. His whole trenchcoat is covered in them. There isn’t an inch of space on the thing. Now he’s working on covering the whole inside with patches too, but he’s having trouble finding enough new patches. They all have to be different.
“So every couple of months he comes by the store to see if we have any new patches in. We never do, but he still comes by all the time just to check.
“Anyways, the first time he came in I thought he was real strange. After all, he’s wearing this coat with all the patches. Aside from that too, he’s one ugly dude. Seriously: acne, big-ass glasses, greasy hair. But you know, lots of weirdos come into my store, so I don’t think much of it. Anyways, the first time he comes in, he asks about the patches and I tell him we’re out. Instead of leaving he introduces himself and hangs around for a while.”
“So get to the point,” Brian says, although I know he wants me to keep going. He doesn’t have shit else to do. “You get laid or what?” “Hold on,” I say, “let me tell you about this guy.” “You never get laid,” Brian says.
I get laid sometimes, not often. Brian never gets laid.
“So he’s still in the store, and he has these huge headphones on,

you know, like the kind they have in recording studios? He asks if I want to hear something he wrote. I’m bored, and he’s the only customer, so I say okay.
“So I listen to the CD, in his headphones, and it’s just this repeating four-note bassline with some weird effect on it. I don’t know what you call it. Like the bass is going underwater or something. That’s it. Just this bassline. No other instruments or anything.”
“How long did you listen for?”
“Well I was trying to be polite, so maybe a minute, two.”
“Right.”
“So anyway, he keeps coming back every few weeks with new shit to listen to. And every time it’s roughly the same thing: basslines.
But, you know, I try to be nice.”
“So you told all this to the chick?”
“Sarah.”
“Who’s Sarah?”
“The chick.”
“Oh, right.”
“But the story’s not over yet. Listen, this goes on for a few months or whatever, maybe he’s come by four or five times by this point.”
“Okay.”
“So one day he shows up and he’s got this backpack. It’s morning and the store’s empty. He opens it up and there are like fifteen CDs that he’s made. Says they’re his albums. They’re pretty homemade looking, but each one has its own cover art. And not just simple drawings or some shit, I’m talking about serious cover art. Like this guy must have spent days drawing all these covers. And the drawings are raw too, all sorts of evil shit, devils goblins, skulls.
“So I’m sitting there admiring, kind of in awe, right, and he takes out one of the CDs and tells me he made it for me. His Greatest Hits.
He wants me to listen to it with him, see what I think.” “Sounds like somebody has a little crush on you,” Brian says.
“So I put the CD in the stereo because I don’t want to break the guy’s heart, and I’m kind of wondering if maybe it won’t just be basslines this time. CD starts, we listen: basslines. Same shit as always. But whatever, I leave it on, kind of space out. CD keeps going, ten minutes, twenty minutes, whatever. Some customers come in,

and I want to turn it off but I don’t. Eventually the customers leave, more come in, the whole time the CD is still rocking. We’re talking maybe fifteen tracks so far of just bass. And all the basslines are basically the same. Like a tiny bit different, but basically the same. The store empties out again, and I’m getting restless and a little frustrated, so I say to him, real softly, gently-like, ‘These basslines are awesome, man, but have you ever thought about adding any other instruments, or maybe getting a band together, even just putting some of the basslines together to make a song?’ And he just gives me this look; stares right at me as if I’ve told him I fuck his mom up the ass or something. ‘No,’ he tells me, ‘this is what I do, these are the songs.’ So now I feel kind of bad, and I just agree with him, tell him I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about.
“We keep listening, another two, three tracks. It’s been about an hour at this point and we’re down to the last track. I’m looking at the CD case and I notice that this song doesn’t have a normal name. It’s just a bunch of symbols, like how people swear in comic strips, you know what I’m talking about? He says he wants to show me something. He takes out his wallet and pulls out this little piece of paper, must be folded like eight times. He unfolds that shit, and on it there’s all these symbols, Greek letters, runes, I don’t know what the fuck they are. I think pi was in there somewhere. ‘This,’ he says, ‘is what this song’s about, ‘and it’s the meaning of life.’” “Still basslines,” Brian says.
“Still basslines,” I say.
“But listen. So he tells me this, and then he folds up the paper again and puts it in his pocket, and then he takes off the trenchcoat. He drops the coat to the floor like he’s a stripper stepping out of a silk kimono. I don’t say a word. He takes off his shirt, lifts it over his head, dramatically tosses it. I’m not fucking around. He turns around. His back is like acne city, but he’s got the symbols tattooed across the entire thing—swear to God—burned into his flesh. And he stands there with his arms spread, and the bassline just thumps.”
Brian doesn’t seem surprised by the ending to my story and I’m disappointed. I feel something wet on my neck and think it might be a snowflake. The tips of Brian’s fingers are white from cold.
“I think it’s snowing,” I say.
“Yeah, man.”
I watch his hands as he maneuvers his chair around and moves toward the house. The joint has been put out, but our breath is visible like smoke.
“You fuck her?” Brian asks without turning around.
“Nah,” I say. “I didn’t feel like it.”
I do not tell him that after dinner we took a cab back to her place. That we fucked each other’s brains out. That I couldn’t sleep. That I woke her in the middle of the night and felt the urge to tell her about my brother, his atrophied legs, or the way when I bathe him he closes his eyes and hums. Instead I whispered, “It was nothing, go back to sleep,” and waited, watched the ceiling fan revolve until her breath became gentle and I could slip on my jeans and disappear.
Brian reaches the house. I step in front and open the door, holding it until he’s inside. I press my palm against the glass of the sliding door so it makes a print. Then I follow.


by Adam Wilson

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