47.2 - Spring 2018

Page 140

How novel that lingering music was, though also creepy, uncanny. It felt like a psychedelic experience, the reality being there but also not. The syncopations of the bass danced in the pit of my gut. Voices rose in the bluegrass harmonies where the third and the fifth fell in, staggered and twangy, escalating with the help of each other, optimistic yet desperate all the same. Done right, it’s a lovely sound. This was done right. After a few measures, the song snapped shut and was followed by laughter and intermittent conversation. Then it started up again. Strange business. With Sarah still asleep, I crept out the bedroom door and stumbled through that empty, unfamiliar house. As if I were in a dream, all of the edges cloudy, I found myself in front of a wide picture window in the living room. Outside, just beyond the window, four bluegrass musicians in their late twenties played on the front lawn underneath a big cottonwood. They stood in the shade, drinking cans of Pabst, and didn’t notice at first when I came out and sat on the porch. They were exquisite pickers. The mandolin player—a short, red-faced, darkhaired man in a western vest—picked so fast you couldn’t follow his left hand. He sang with a lovely twang—a buttery stream of sweet, Appalachian earnestness. When the bassist plunked, you felt it in your intestines. The other two were guitarists—a stocky bearded guy on rhythm, and a pale, lanky, long-haired guy on lead. The long-haired guy was the first to introduce himself. His name was Jon, and he had that warm, unguarded confidence you can find in musicians, especially, perhaps, in bluegrass musicians: happy to be there, to be playing this music, as if it were a gift, a privilege, which I suppose it was. The others introduced themselves, taking turns shaking my hand. They were friends of T.J.’s who had driven from Portland to play at the reception. Jon offered me a Pabst and I begged them to continue. 132

PHOEBE


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