Once Upon A Time

It was my third high school. I was sitting in Auto Shop Class. It was the only elective available for someone who transferred mid-semester. Mr Lingenfelter was talking about draining brake fluid when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

I leaned back without turning around.

Do you play bass? he asked.

I was surprised at the question so I turned around. He had long blonde hair, a mouth full of braces in a mouth too big for his small face.

Uh, I can play scales on a guitar?

Good enough. Wanna be in my band?

I don’t have a bass.

I have one you can use. 


Cool. You’re in. 

I had no idea what I was doing the first time I played with Doug’s band – aptly named Confusion. The bass he had for me was a garage sale special with action so bad I had to almost stand on a string to get it to the fret board.

At the same time I was a regular at my local church youth group. They needed a bass player so, I volunteered as tribute. The church had a much nicer Fender Squire bass. I liked it. So… I borrowed it on occasion for my not so jesus-y gigs with Confusion.

My grades were improving (to this day I have no idea how I actually graduated) and my dad realized I was actually doing this music thing.

A year later, for Christmas, I had this gorgeous red thing under the tree.

She likes to be slapped. 

She was beautiful to seventeen year old me. For a kid who was finding a way to slap the funk into covers of Jane’s Addiction and The Cult, she was perfect.

I need to stop right here and disabuse you of any notion that I was at good at playing bass. I was a hack. But seventeen year old girls can’t tell the difference between a bass and a guitar and that was fine with me.

Eventually, Confusion disbanded. College and shit.

I also left the church and it’s band of merriment makers.

When I joined the Air Force I took her with me. First to Monterey, then to Dover. I jammed here and there. Even joined a band for a time in Delaware.

I also had a temperamental ex. She was not a fan of me or my bass. Really, that relationship is a case study of why nineteen year old manchilds should never be allowed to date.

One day, whilst I was serving our glorious country on a base in a state you cannot find on a map, she decided to take a machete to my gorgeous bass and toss it off our second story apartment balcony.

It was the first time in my life I seriously considered homicide. I knew I could dump her into the Atlantic and she would never be found. I also knew I would be the most likely suspect.

I took the broken bits and drove her to a local music store. In Delaware that meant driving to Maryland.

Music repairman suggested buying a new bass. Said it would be more cost effective. I said no. He suggested I replace the entire neck, bridge, fret board. I said no. He said it wouldn’t ever play or sound the same. I said I don’t care. He said filling the gouges and repainting would cost more than a new bass. I said that is superficial so leave it. Just make her work again.

He repaired her.

If you really look, you can see where the fret board separated from the neck.

She was scarred. Bigly. But she worked. She sounded deeper, sadder.

Like she’d lived the blues.

For years I left her naked, her scars on display for the world.

Then, one day, I stopped playing.

She got put in her case and put away.

Then, one day, my dad died.

When the hullabaloo that accompanies all deaths and funerals finally subsided, I took her out.

She was a connection to my dad. She was one of the few connections with him that I didn’t have to share.

After a time I put her away again. I moved on in my life. Back to Monterey. Then onto a life with TGB.

When we made our home here in Mexico Beach I took her out again. I decided she needs to breathe, be a part of this world. So I put her on display.

She is a beautiful mess of a bass, but she is a self-conscious girl. So I covered her scars.

Little bits of the life I have lead cover her scars.

I finally restrung her and bought her an amp. Even jammed with a few friends.

After the hurricane she went back into her case and back into storage.

Now, she is finally home. She is safe and has a view of the sea from her lofty perch on my office wall.

Don’t worry, she will get played. A lot.

You can always put to music what you can’t say in words. That’s what my dad once told me.

The bass guitar is a far superior instrument to a guitar, or even a piano. A bass carries a song. It is the foundation. Without it, your favorite song sucks.

The bass gives a song its soul.

That is my religion.

The End.

Copyright 2022 Rudy Martinez
©2024 Rudy Martinez