Photo of Tori McDonald

They make everything rattle. I was glad Abel never played one, or I’d have gotten a headache every time we were together. They rattled the kick drum at the slightest little pluck. Or maybe it was the drums that were so loud, I couldn’t tell. Either way, I was bound to go deaf sitting in on their practices. And you couldn’t hear the singer, except for a few murmurs somewhere in the music. You couldn’t even hear the bass in the music most of the time. But Abel said the bass holds things together, for some reason. I didn’t see why.

Bass players always had longer hair than me, and beards, all of which reminded me of some puny tumbleweed with split ends. And they usually talked like Yankees. The way they just kinda stood there with their fingers flopping over and tapping the strings always seemed pointless and looked like a spastic little inch worm rocking along to the music. Chicken legged, pigeon-toed, pot-bellied, shaggy, floppy-fingered thugs. I was glad Abel played lead.

Abel wasn’t some diva that only cared about the perks of being a rock star. He held doors for people and hated when his dad gave him money, even when he needed it. I was always welcome wherever he was, and he always widened his eyes when he saw long lost friends, making them feel like they were his favorite. People got this awestruck look in their eyes just from talking to him. He hated that, and even more than that was when people bragged on him, which was a shame; he was that amazing. Most importantly, Abel had his stuff together…unlike this putz.

Abel rolled his eyes at the guy when he had to kneel down and hunch over the guitar to look at the notes. Unprepared Abel mouthed to me and shook his head. I blinked slow and smiled a little, trying to sympathize, when a whiff of some kind of cheap grape raspberry vape invaded my nostrils. I shot a look at the twerp, but he didn’t even look up. That made Abel laugh.

When they took a break for dinner, he fixed his plate and nestled down on the couch in the little bit of space I left for him at the corner. I picked away at the barbeque chicken on my own plate, watching out of the corner of my eye for him to slingshot the back of his fork into my leg. Once he finally succeeded, I winced and smothered his cheek with the remaining sauce from my lips. That made the twerp laugh, which he couldn’t do without hacking. Abel rolled his eyes again, and when his dad noticed the gesture from his seat behind the drums, he called it a night. His dad thanked the twerp and shook his hand, saying he’d be in touch, and Abel grabbed my hand and hurried me out the back door.

The freshly dewed grass tickled my feet once we cleared the patio. I could hear crickets chirp in the nearby trees, and I looked up at the stars just clearing the purple horizon. When we reached the batting cage, I stepped a little too low and lost my balance, wobbling and wrapping the already tangled netting around my foot. The whole cage swayed when I slammed into the frame. Abel knelt down over me and slid his hand up the rusty metal bar, warming my lips with his in one swoop. It wasn’t until after he let up that I tasted blood in my mouth. I wasn’t quite sure if it was Abel or the fall that caused it.  

“I gotta show you somethin’,” he rumbled. His eyes twinkled as he wiped the blood from my lip with his shirt tail. “But let’s git’chu untangled first”.

The smell of oil seemed to cover the inside of my nose when he rolled up the tin door of the shed. He grabbed my hand once more, taking me past the tractor in the bay and making me sit on the hay bales in the back corner. Out from behind the nearby wheelbarrow, he pulled out a once navy blue guitar that he had covered with, what seemed like, every sticker he’d ever gotten. The Goofy and Mickey Mouse stickers from the doctor’s office, zebra print duct tape, scribbled up sticky notes…my sticky notes.

They were blue, covered with black scribbles that kept me entertained during boring class lectures. Bubble letters, swirls, chevron patterns, stripes, spots, animal prints, sweet nothings, all puzzled together on a three-by-three inch square. Abel had secured them to the body in various places with scotch tape that had a milky matte adhesive. I had always made sure to sketch “I love you” on each of them. Against the other stickers, they gave the guitar a homemade feel, a feel that made me grin.

A portable amp lay slightly hidden in a tuft of hay. He plugged the bass into it and turned the volume down low. Then he took a seat in the hay in front of me and leaned back against my chest. I noticed then that the guitar only had four strings. The deep pulse that came from the first pluck surprised me completely still.

The bass lay on his stomach and my knee, and I felt each pluck on the strings tickle up into my chest where he rested his curly head. His blue eyes stared at the squirrels in the rafters, and my heart fluttered every time his lashes blinked over them. With every note, he twitched his sunburnt lips slightly, pouting and pursing in the middle of a scruffy ginger-brown beard. He was always so warm and made chill bumps speckle my legs when he moved more than his arms.

“I love you,” I muttered into his ear in between his picking.

“I love you more,” and his kiss was just as good upside down. My heart fluttered again. “Mmmmmm,” he rumbled. “I can’t believe you’re mine!” He grinned like a little boy, making me chuckle and lean into him once more.

“I can’t believe I got a spot on the guitar!” I beamed.

“You like that?” He pointed to the inked up note that hugged the curve on the top edge.

“I love it!” I watched his eyes twinkle again and let the bass rattle my chest in harmony with the crickets.