Brian Wilson’s Lost Bootleg

Kyle Hemmings


            One night at a party, Brian told Van Dyke Parks that he wanted to make an album in the solitude of the desert. He said he wanted it to be free from the whirl of his corrupted thoughts, from the illusory relief of painkillers, from villains posing as heroes. Van Dyke Parks put down his Martini and said, “I will accompany you. This room is full of too much smoke and gossip.” They strode into Desert Valley, began singing into a tape recorder. When tired they drank the dry hot air over an arroyo; on Zabriskie Point, they stood on tip toe, chanting the truth in minor keys. Van Dyke Parks said, “The lyrics are coming to me in the shape of clouds. But we have arrived too late. Our voices are no longer our own.” A displaced swan began to peck at Van Dyke's nape while he was resting in the dirt. Van Dyke shooed it away. Then, he became too light for the earth and floated up into the scorched sky.

           After finishing the tape himself, Brian felt heavy, entertained the notion of walking back to the city, surviving on sand. He forgot the tape recorder. Circling vultures hovered over it; one took the tape into its beak. The tape made a wavering ribbon in the sky and the bird lost interest. A drifter who was once a promising folk singer in the LA cafes found the tape, picked it up, then flung it. It kept twirling around him as a wind blew everything back in his face. He felt there was some kind of message in that— perhaps, he should go back to his first vocation, even though hardly anyone would book his acts. It was much the same with Brian too—few radio stations would play his songs—too obscure, not hip enough, the DJs said.

           Brian wandered back to the city. He came upon an old house with wind chimes in the front. Inside was a young couple, frenzied and hungry to get out. The girl had just shot her father over another act of sexual abuse. The boyfriend said, “Don't worry. We'll get rid of the evidence.”

           “No,” she said, “I want to plead guilty so that I will win the hearts of the jury with my story.” The knocking at the door became louder.

           The girl, nervous at first, answered. The disheveled man with a long bushy beard said, “I am Brian Wilson. If you feed and hydrate me, I will play piano for you. In whatever key you like.”

           The boyfriend, who had loved The Beach Boys while growing up, remembering them from Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, said, “Let him in. I think he's telling the truth.” He then whispered into her ear, “We can use him for an alibi. He’s too wasted to contest.”

           The girl with fresh red spots on her sneakers said, “We only have three-day old cannoli and some hard ham steaks and our old piano has not been tuned for ages.”

           “That will do,” said Brian with a far-off gaze. Brian sat at the piano and played some watered-down Gershwin. The couple disappeared into the bedroom, undressed, and made love in the sharps and flats of forgetting themselves. Remembering the dead father’s face for a moment, its various contortions and the anguished cries for mercy, how she drove the knife through this and that point, the girl reached a salty climax. After they dressed and reached the living room, they discovered that Brian had left. But the piano keys were playing themselves.

           The girl sat down at the piano, turned to her boyfriend, and said, “My father used to love this song. And so did I. But not anymore.”

           The boyfriend smiled and said, “C'mon, baby, it's time to go.”


Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. He has been published in Elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Blaze Vox, Matchbook, and elsewhere. His latest collection of poetry/prose is Future Wars from Another New Calligraphy. He loves 50s Sci-Fi movies,  manga comics, and pre-punk garage bands of the 60s.