Yacht Rock Mentor

Yacht Rock Mentor

At 6.37 AM I go to open the door to my apartment. I rattle the sticky lock free, forgetting to unhook the chain, and when I pull on the door I nearly tear the fixings away. With a blink and a grimace I look through the slit opening. Gino stands on the landing, dressed in a tight short-sleeved patterned shirt, white belt, and salmon dress pants, his loose, dark curls on the right side of wild. He’s taking mouthfuls of candy floss from a pink cloud that nearly covers the complete view of his trim upper torso. I see myself in the twin mirrors of his knockoff Ray-Bans. My doppelgänger reflections resemble a lead singer who got fired from the band three years ago and hasn’t been seen in public since. There is the sense Gino’s eyes are smiling behind his lenses.

“We’re taking a trip,” Gino says.

“Are we?”

“Yes we are, brolio! Grab some clothes. I’ll wait in the car.”

I bolt around the apartment, unearthing an outfit not unfit for the outside, at least at a distance. I take too long getting my shit together.

Finally, I make it outside my apartment building onto the wide, hilltop street. The houses on the opposite side of the road crouch under warm morning mist, and the hills roll out dozily behind. It is one of those days where the sound of traffic and far off construction is the concern of someone else, like the world has turned its face away.

As I walk up to Gino’s sky-blue wheels he is in the driver’s seat, lackadaisically using the wooden stick he has relieved of its candy floss as a baton to conduct the string section of a track playing at an adventurous volume. He holds up the baton to point it at the rearview mirror, conducting away, and checks his reflection. The music sounds like a gathering of housemaids snorting into a bassoon. Shouldn’t work, but at that moment it’s the best thing I’ve ever heard. I jump in the passenger.

“This is way too early for me, I know you know that,” I say, and flash a performative grin. “You even had any sleep?”

“Slept like a rock. Now, let’s get going.”


Gino drives us downhill, through the latent city outskirts, and breezes coast roads, taking cliff corners as smooth as 33rpm. I don’t ask him where we are going until he glides the car up to an angular building with wide windows. Vines and wayward trees encase the building’s facade. There is a hint of cedar and citrus in the air. A dirt track made impenetrable by overgrown briars sits at the side of the house, and I catch glimpses of grove trees somewhere out back. The upper-story front balcony uses thickly lacquered wood rails to disguise dark glass double doors, in contrast to the faded cream stucco that decorates the majority of the building.

“And where exactly is it we are going?” I lean forward, straining to raise an eyebrow to inhuman levels.

Gino smiles and kills the car. “This isn’t our destination, but it is a vital stop on the way.”

“Cryptic,” I drawl.

He laughs. “Nah, it’s just a place owned by this guy I know. He owes me some money so I suggested I could stay here rent free until he pays up. Seemed pissed off at first, but I’m pissed off at him. Balance is restored. It’s a cool place. There’s a boathouse out the back, down a trail. That’s where we are staying. Not in the main house. Looks like the type of location notorious for a mass killing in the ’70s. No thanks.”


Gino wrestles with some wayward scrub, eventually clearing us a path to the rear of the main building. He gives me a smirk that suggests he hasn’t been here in a while, maybe no one has.

Heat hangs heavy as we walk a chalk path through near bald citrus trees. The path enters a section dense with gangly tree trunks and I follow Gino as he wends his way through dusty curves and slopes. Eventually, he pauses at a point deep in the trees where a few steps are carved into the path. Dry heat presses on my lungs.

Leaves crack around us as parched air breaks them up. Gino scours the area and raises an arm, pointing a little way ahead. Through the trees sits the boathouse, neatly camouflaged by its wood-panelled exterior, which mimics the blue-tinged bark of the surrounding thicket. One dark window peers directly at us.

Down chalk steps the path widens out and as we approach the building the tree canopy thins, letting light through. Soft inklings of moisture in the air give way to the sound of low lapping water, although the density of the trees around the end of the boathouse farthest from us allows no view of the waters that must exist beyond it.

“Weird, isn’t it?” Gino says and steps up onto a worn wood deck at the front of the place. From my point of view the building seems to be constructed in an L shape, the front entrance near us being at the inner side of the top of the “L” with the bottom of the “L” protruding out from the building farther down, obscuring what I expect to be a tree-lined water bank.

“What is?”

“The way the humidity changes, in an instant. Like passing through a curtain.”

“Yeah, I noticed that.”

Gino fluidly unlocks the door and leads us in.

A dusty ambiance greets us, with late afternoon sun dappling over the room. The large dark window that spied on us on our approach is situated at the very top of the “L” and gives a wide view of the trees outside. With fractured sun rays coming in from somewhere off to the side, high in the canopy, only the end of the room where we enter is illuminated, the rest of the space in quiet but warm gloom. A dark couch set is fitted against the walls at the shadowy end, and breaks only for a door that must lead to the other part of the boathouse. A bar area sits in the far corner.

“Nice,” I say and take a seat in a low chair next to the large window.

Gino nods. “Imagine having a place like this and never using it.”

A low crack breaks at the far end of the room and a statuesque woman, wearing a long white halterneck dress covered in brown and orange splotches, emerges from the door by the couch area. She walks unhurriedly into the room like she’s in the middle of searching for something.

“Oh, hi Gino,” she says, while she continues to slowly glance around. “I wasn’t sure what time you’d be here.”

Gino ventures over to a portion of the long couch and plonks himself down under a window that faces the decked porch we arrived by, that part of the property in pleasant shade.

“You lost something, Joely?” Gino says.

“Just a magazine I was reading. Has a great article I want to finish, about the UFOs that trucker saw just outside town. You remember? About a decade ago.”

“Yeah. That never sat right with me.”

The dense scent of floral perfume reaches me as Joely wanders closer. A table with a glass top resides next to me, the light so strong the tabletop glares like the surface of a still lake under midday sun. A stack of old hardcovers is placed at the back of it, bathed in sunlight, with a couple of magazines draped over the top.

“Is this it?” I say, reaching over and grabbing the magazines. The top magazine features a photograph of Jack Parsons as the main front cover image. I hand it to her.

“Hey, thanks. When I’ve finished I’ll leave it for you guys. Some really interesting stuff in here.”

Gino runs a hand through his hair.


Squelchy music sinks into the wood panelling. Lamplight amber glow lights the room. Outside it’s so dark the large windows show nothing to us but blankness and a reflection of the inside space. Candles burn scents of rich rose and vetiver. Joely twirls long floaty scarves and tests my nerves as fringes skate by flames but somehow miss. Gino dances in jerky steps across the room, like he’s play-stalking Joely without her knowledge. The couch enfolds me. I take a large swig of pink punch and it sweetly stings my throat on the way down, confirming a warm surge that kneads every muscle. Gino shoulder shimmies towards me to the rhythm of “My Girl” by Chilliwack. Gone, gone, gone.


Subdued light greets my eyes upon blinking them awake. I’m on a bed, having slept on my stomach, limbs splayed in various directions. Someone has removed my jeans, but otherwise I’m clothed as I left my apartment. It’s morning, sometime early, that’s my best guess. My body complains as I move out of the awkward sleeping position.

Gazing around the compact and clean room I spy fresh garments draped over a wooden-backed office chair pushed under a desk. Like the rest of the house, the room is dominated by a large window. Now I see water, as the room looks out onto a vast lake. The view is unbroken apart from an interruption far to the distant right, where a small bank of land provides some leafless trees, their boughs leaning over the tranquil surface. As my senses return I hear the water too, a faint lap and hiss from down below.

I pick up the clothes and head out of the door, quietly padding down a hallway I don’t remember, to hunt out a shower room. A slatted door halfway along slides open and Gino emerges, wearing only a towel around his waist, and shades. Water droplets make trails down his large reflective lenses. He lifts a finger to his mouth to indicate we should be quiet, which tells me Joely is sleeping in one of the nearby rooms, most likely one she has shared with Gino.

“Let’s go out on the deck,” he whispers.

A short way along the hallway, in what must be the centre point of the bottom of the L-shaped layout of the boathouse, Gino takes us through a full-length glass door. It leads to a sizeable open-aired deck area, extending the section of the building that protrudes over the water. A weatherbeaten but solid wooden railing system encloses the deck and there is enough space for a couple of seating areas to be unobtrusive on either side of us. I realise the house has not serviced a boat for a long time, and must’ve been converted from an old boathouse years ago.

Morning sun appears as a fuzzed orb, sending its light in a silvery path across the dense haze that rises from the pale lake surface.

“I need your help,” Gino says. He leans on the wide wood railing and looks out over the water.

“Oh, now it comes out,” I say good-naturedly.

He laughs and nods. “Yeah, this isn’t just a fun excursion. I have to transport something down the coast, and then inland. If we leave early, within the hour, we’ll be there by midday.”

“Fine. But what do you need me for?”

“It’s kinda bulky.”

“So you are using me for my strong physique.”

“You could say that.”

We laugh, lowly.

“Get ready. We’ll go up to the main house and I’ll show you.”


Away to one side of the house extends a large garage, deeply shrouded by vines, on a part of the property previously unnoticed. Gino rips bedraggled greenery from a pitted metal door. The door’s mechanisms provide a concerning screech as he raises it. Inside is a truck, and as I enter the garage, disturbed dust particles freewheeling, I see the faded signature of a removal company etched across the side of the vehicle.

“I hope this thing starts up,” Gino says, swatting unnervingly large and agitated insects away. “We are screwed otherwise.” He grins and moves to the back of the truck.

The rear door to the truck opens up smoothly to reveal an upright piano, black, not looking so good. Gino hops up and moves inside, approaches the instrument and splays his fingers above the keys. “Moment of truth.” He puffs his cheeks and drops his hands. Sweet melody erupts and he beams. “Perfect, I knew it,” he says, letting his fingers skip around the easy music.

“Sounds good to me,” I say, projecting my voice.

He stops, and takes a second, as if drinking in whatever this means. “Okay. This is why you are here. I need you to help me move it.”

I shrug my shoulders in a why the hell not type way and smile.


Gino keeps the truck idling out front as I close the garage door before hopping into the vehicle’s passenger seat. Joely emerges from the other side of the house and heads towards Gino’s car, but changes direction after a few steps. She walks up to the driver’s side of the removal truck. “I nearly forgot to give you this.” She hands up a canvas bag. “Sarsaparilla. For the journey.” Gino nods his appreciation and she backs away. She finds Gino’s car and takes it, heading down the overgrown driveway and out of sight. “That woman,” Gino says, shaking his head. “Most trustworthy person I’ve ever known.”

We drive coast roads and then across country. The air gets hotter, the buildings sparser, the sun whiter.

The truck powers along desertic roads, the terrain on either side of us dry scrub and pale arid earth, blanched rock formations flatly underpinning fathomless blue sky. With the sun near its midpoint, Gino takes the truck through a section of road where two giant rock shapings terminate and create the entrance to a wide valley of white sand enclosed by ancient sedimentary mounds. He parks up close to an outcropping.

We sit and gaze out, over a wide valley. It’s quiet as hell.

Near the very centre of the space, dark against the white sand, is some sort of marker, in what appears to be an obelisk shape.

“Here,” Gino says, and hands me a drink. “This is going to be thirsty work. We can’t take the truck any farther.”

Over the next hour we move the piano over the sands, using flat white wooden boards, placing them one after the other, edging slowly forward. I feel the prickle of sunburn on my exposed skin.

Gino stops us and directs the piano into position to rest on white sand, a few metres away from the obelisk.

“There,” he says, “That should do it.” He stands hands on hips for a moment, and takes a full circle look at the layout of the valley. “Yeah, this is great.”

Sweat rolls into my eyes, and I step backwards onto one of the discarded boards, hoping its bright white might reflect some of the relentless heat away.

Gino seems to approve of this. “Stay on there, okay? The sands are too hot.” With this he undoes tape affixed to the piano stool which has been attached to the top of the main instrument, frees it and sits, ready to play.

From across the valley a breeze sweeps in, coolness soothing the skin. Thoughts circulate, notional questioning. The sands in silence relent.

Gino lightly skates his fingers over the piano keys, drawing out a melody, earthy and rapturous. He takes control of the song and when the time is right moves his voice along with it, spilling the lyrics all over the valley.

An incredible crack resonates across the sands. I cover my ears in reflex, flinch and near fall over, but steady my feet. My head flips towards the truck and I refocus my gaze on the faraway vehicle. The back of the truck leans into the sands and the side is twisted so that the removal company logo is warped.

Stunned, I place my hands behind my head and step around thoughtlessly while I stare. I turn to Gino but he isn’t there.

Sun stops and drops. There is a ringing, and I cannot tell if it is inside or outside of my head. The piano remains, but it is changed, and now made of clear green glass.

I spin and the valley spins back at me. After a time a wooziness sets in, heat sloshing my brains around. I feel nauseous and guess I might pass out, so I numbly stagger across the sands and back to the truck. The vehicle is weirdly broken at its rear but okay up front. I climb inside the cab, turn on the air con.

Time slips from me. I move my stare from the glass piano, glistening as sun rays travel it, to around the valley, and back to inside the vehicle, searching the dash for some sort of sign.

Sarsaparilla brings me round and the hours provide a freshness in lowering light. My senses return, at least enough for me to persuade myself that I need to get away from the place. I grab what I can from the truck and leave the vehicle behind.

Walking out of the valley, I take a glance back every now and then, until the lone piano is lost to my sight. Stars rise over dead roads.

Weary, I hitch to the coast and find the way back to the house. Gino’s car is out front, returned by Joely. She stands on the upper balcony of the main building in early morning light, dressed in a cream jump-suit with black edging, as if in anticipation of my return.

I shift around while looking up at her, everything failing me, and my body returns to stillness.

“It’s okay,” she says, “I know he’s gone.” She wrestles with her right jumpsuit pocket and pulls something out of it. “Here,” she says, and throws the object down to me. Gino’s car keys. “He wanted you to have it. The papers are in the glove box. Take it.”

“Wha…I don’t understand. I don’t get any of this.”

She smiles, and puts on large mirrored sunglasses that have been hanging from the v in the neck of the jumpsuit. “Safe journey,” she says, and retreats into the building, swooshing shut a dark glass door.



About the Author

Rebecca Gransden lives on an island. She is published at Tangerine Press, X-R-A-Y, Expat Press, Muskeg, and Ligeia, among others. Her books include anemogram., Sea of Glass, Creepy Sheen and Figures Crossing the Field Towards the Group.


Photo by Morgan Von Gunten on Unsplash