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Heart in the Highlands

By Wilson Krause

Highlands – Bob Dylan (It wouldn’t be right for me to talk about my near-and-dear music without him)

The night I slept in the inn that sat between the two tall hills, I dreamed about the saints. The inn has its back to the heather of the moors, which grows tall and purple like the robes of kings. The board above the door calls it the Aberdeen Arms, but I call it a bed and a breakfast. Or a breakfast and a bed. All depends on the time of day you get there. 

For me it was three o clock in the afternoon, right after stopping by the pawn shop to buy back my watch. I checked in and got a little key strung on a cord of twine with a tiny swatch of leather embossed with my room number. I went up there to the room above the kitchen (I could tell from the grease smell wafting up; I swear it was in the air, beading on my nose like sweat) and that night I dreamed about the saints. Not the ones my mother taught me about neither… not one bit. New ones. Angry ones. I could tell they were saints because one of em was skinned alive and another had his head rolling around like some big ol soccer ball at his feet. Martyrs are always saints if you give em long enough, and they looked a whole lot like martyrs to me. But you can never be sure.

Highlands clocks in at sixteen minutes and thirty-three seconds. Bob only tops it with Murder Most Foul, and I gotta say I prefer this one. He’s set it in a 12-bar blues, key of E, pared-down, the simplest it can be. But put up against some of the other blues you hear (Mannish Boy, anyone?) and the lyrics are in a whole different universe. It sends me for a ride every time he growls out “She says ‘You don’t read women authors, do you?’” But he says he reads Erica Jong, and I almost believe him.

I was waiting at that inn for a woman. She said she was flying in from Heathrow Airport in London that night, and she’d get a cab to the inn. It wasn’t until three drinks in that I remembered there were no cabs in this town. But maybe she’d hitch; she was the kind of person who could hitch without a scantling of fear. Hell, even I got a little butterfly-ridden in the stomach when I sat in a stranger’s car. But she was a real firecracker and I wasn’t worried.

She came in around ten-thirty. We didn’t say hi but she sat down anyways and got herself a drink. I caught her casting her eyes over to the wall clock. She knew we said nine. But neither of us really minded. 

Imagine writing a song that’s sixteen minutes long. Sixteen minutes and there’s not a single verse that’s the same. That’s a real doozy of an achievement. I don’t think I could write a song half that length at that quality. “I’m crossing the street to get away from a mangy dog / talking to myself in a monologue / I think what I need might be a full-length leather coat.” Almost convinced me to go buy a coat of that sort on the spot. 

We sat there on those hard-backed wooden chairs with our glasses between us and we read. She had brought those magazines that you can only get in London; the really local ones that they sell on the street and nowhere else. I paid for the both of us, she covered the tip. Stuck a couple bills to the table with a pushpin. I caught her eyes before she left, for a whole ten seconds (I counted by the heartbeats) and I knew I would have a hell of a dream. My head’s laying down in the Highlands and my mind’s in the clouds with those men who pray to God and take their executions on the chin. 

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