Apr/May 2012  •   Fiction

Do You Play?

by Leah Erickson

"My old records." Gordon said this softly during a lull in the conversation, when there was only the sound of drizzling rain in the eves. They had been talking, as they always did, about music. "Where are all of my old records?"

He had only been talking to himself, not expecting a response, and so was surprised to hear the answer, "They are at Mom's house."

This was from his adult daughter China, passing through the room, searching for and finding the pacifier for her baby. "I found them all there when I visited last spring."

For a moment he could only look at his daughter, a tall big-boned blonde with narrow Slavic eyes of icy blue. Through her, he could see the ghost of his first wife. A woman he remembered only in outline. Like a glimpse of a girl from an old song or a commercial, that he can't quite remember but his heart has memorized nonetheless.

"No kidding? Did you play them?"


"How did they sound?"

"Pretty good. A few scratches. I just listened to a Van Morrison and an old J Geils."

Did he know this daughter? Was she happy? She had married a Navy man who was frequently at sea. She had two kids. She had tried, and failed, to start her own business making DVDs for babies, back when "brain development" was the trend. There were now boxes and boxes of these DVDs in her garage.

Gordon had one of the DVDs. It wasn't bad, he thought. There were images of puppets. Fields of blowing grass. Goats. Dancing balls of light. All set to New-Agey keyboards. It calmed him. And yet puzzled him. It showed an imagination and whimsy he had never seen in his serious, all-business daughter.

The moment passed, and he was back to the present. Sitting in his own living room. Surrounded by his high school buddies, now old men, who had come for Gordon's end-of-summer cookout. They had all played in bands together when they were young and still kept in touch, playing jam sessions in Gordon's sound-proofed basement once a month.

When they weren't playing music, they were discussing it. They spoke of concerts. Bootleg albums. Chord progressions. Musicians they loved, alive and dead.

"The thing of it is?" said his friend Bob, who now had a white beard and a shiny bald scalp, speckled with age spots, "The music gave you a feeling you couldn't describe. A sense of... anticipations? Urgency?" Bob was buzzed off three beers. He had been a drummer back in the day, and his movements were still quick and antic. "It was an incredible sense of... the now. It was like first love. Over and over and over again."

"Here, here!" said Gordon smiling, raising his bottle of root beer. But underneath, something nagged at him. Some darkness at the edge of his awareness, something without a name but making him anxious nonetheless. Especially when he was alone.


He was driving home from the hardware store. He had bought weather stripping, calk, and insulation. He planned to spend the week weatherizing his house for winter.

It was a cool, foggy morning. The oncoming headlights on the interstate were softly hazy. He kept the radio turned off. There was just the whoosh of his tires, an occasional jangle from the box of nails he had bought. He thought he would put in new storm windows next year. He thought maybe he should plan a trip, maybe for January. Maybe go to the islands. Get away. The winter could sure get him down... a man had to do something to get through the days. That or die...

On the shoulder of the road up ahead, he could make out the figure of a person through the fog, walking. A young man, dressed as though from the days of Gordon's youth. Faded bell-bottom jeans. Fringed suede jacket. Dark wavy hair to his shoulders. Carrying a guitar case. Back then he would have offered the kid a lift.

He gave wide berth, swerving to the left. And what happened in the next five seconds he could not explain to himself, no matter how many times it replayed in his mind: the figure of the young man slid into his path, as though he were an image from a film projector swiveled to the left; his feet continued their motion of walking forward, but the image slipped into the car's path in one swift, smooth, sliding motion.

Gordon screamed and slammed the brakes as he came upon him. The boy turned and looked over his shoulder: there was no face, just a shadowy blank. Then the apparition seemed to flare up hugely for a split second, to the size of a billboard. Gordon heard a roaring in his ears, and felt a sensation of his body being pulled inside out as he drove into the image; his car passed right through it as though it were made of air.

Blinded by panic, Gordon felt the car fishtail and leave the road, then roll down a low grassy embankment. As he came to a stop he could only gasp for breath, his hands shaking uncontrollably.

The boy. He must find the boy. He jumped from the car and hurried up the hill, skidding in gravel, breathing through his mouth raspingly.

"Hey!" he called out, looking to the right, looking to the left. Nothing. But there had to be... .something. His mind reeled, scrambling to make some kind of sense of what had just happened.

He ran across the median and into the scrub of woods on the other side of the interstate. It was hushed and dark with a small creek burbling through. He cried out again as he was startled by a sudden flash of a deer as it crashed through the brush, inches away from him. He recovered himself and stumbled on. He found a shoe, but it was a woman's pink canvas sneaker, crushed flat. Empty beer cans, a cracked cell phone, dead. But nothing else.

Gordon dashed back across the lanes of traffic, back to where his car rested at an askew angle, down the embankment. Surely, if he had struck a person, there would at least be a dent? But there wasn't. He got in, put his face in his hands, breathed, breathed, breathed. Then put the keys in the ignition and made his way back, up onto the road's shoulder.

Easing his way back into traffic, everything seemed as before. His bags from the hardware store were still in the trunk. People were still driving wherever they had to go on this Monday, late morning, in late September. Slowly his heart rate returned to normal as he made his way home. I will call the police when I get home.

He pulled into his driveway and again closed his eyes and took a breath. His clothes were damp from sweat. He would take a shower and maybe lay down, and then he would make that call. Easy. Easy.

When he opened his eyes again, the air in the car felt different somehow. Charged, as though someone had just shouted. He glanced around, then into the rear view mirror.

In the backseat sat the boy. He was different than the flickering apparition appearing at the side of the road. He was solid, real, sitting slouched down with his gangly legs spread out, his guitar case beside him. His aureole of frizzed hair caught the weak autumn sun starting to break out. And instead of that terrifying blankness he had a face, smooth skinned and young, with large sorrowful brown eyes not looking at Gordon but out the window. Contemplating, as though gazing into a great distance.


"Dad, what's going on?"

"What do you mean, hon?"

"Well, I thought you were coming over Sunday night, and you didn't. We had just been talking the week before..."

"Oh, I'm sorry, China. Slipped my mind."

"And you've been so... quiet. Is something wrong?"

He sat alone in his living room, phone to his ear. True, he hadn't spoken to a soul in the past week. And yes, you could say something was wrong. But how could he communicate to anyone what things had been like for him since that day? He experienced the boy's presence, always, though he only saw him in hallucinatory fragments. One time he awoke in the early morning to see the boy sitting on the edge of his bed, only to fade away a moment later. Another time he about jumped out of his skin when the boy suddenly barged into the kitchen and began opening all cabinets and doors, furiously looking for something. And then he was gone.

Gordon had been living in his house stiffly, silently. He felt claustrophobic. He felt waves of nauseating paranoia. The boy was not here to hurt him. He never even acknowledged him. But his very presence seemed a kind of reproach. He felt the boy could see the inside of his head, and judged him. Judged his whole life, such as it was. Judged its ordinariness, its not-quite-enoughness. The smallness of his once grand and generous soul.

"I'm fine, hon. Your old man can take care of his own."


Enough, he vowed. He would no longer live in fear. He would return to living his life as he had before.

First, he would insulate the attic trap door. He retrieved his toolbox, set out the materials, the stripping, the insulation. That goddamn kid would not make him feel small. Let him hang around, sure. But Gordon would no longer give a shit. He had things to do. He would insulate his house. He was a competent craftsman. He was a mechanical engineer, thirty years, retired. Long before that, he had lived on a hippie commune in the hills. He'd rigged up that falling down farmhouse with all new wiring. They called him Handy Gordy. He wore overalls and no shoes for months on end, his hair grown long and wild as vines.

He went about his task deftly, but his mind was elsewhere, musing. To be honest, the kid reminded him too much of his second wife. Because she, too, had been a kid when he married her. Twenty-one years old, beautiful as morning and birdsong, but goddamn what had he been thinking? It was craziness. Obsession. It was like he was drugged. He left his young family for her. And after he married her- she judged him. Just like the boy. Looked at him sidewise. With that knowing, smug look only the young and self-possessed have. Oh, he had made a fool of himself for sure, a thirty-five year old family man who should have known better. What a nightmare he had unleashed, on everyone.

When he was all done, he pulled the trap door down, closed it up again nice and tight. Satisfied.

He went to the bathroom cabinet, shook out a couple of aspirin and chewed them up. Looked at himself in the mirror as he did so. Moved his face slowly from right to left. He was starting to resemble his own father, dead for many years. Heart. He had always been a red faced, angry man, full of repressed passions. He had supported the family by managing a shoe store. Smiling away his days, one at a time.

That night, Gordon lay in bed, an unread magazine spread across his chest. For a while he lay in a stupor, listening to the night sounds of wind-blown branches tapping the wall. The scuttering of a dog or raccoon in someone's trash bins. He looked at the bedroom window, which reflected back him, a large, pale, old man, looking weak and alone. And beyond, the infinite blackness of the night sky...

He started to dose, fitfully. And in that twilit time, at the edge of his consciousness, a new sound started to emerge from underneath what was familiar; first it sounded alien, a high keeling like a bobcat, or some other dangerous animal. But as it grew louder, it grew more nuanced. It had emotion. It expressed pain. It felt organic now, like the ringing of his ears or the rush of his own blood. Like it was inside him.

It revealed itself as an electric guitar. Someone was playing it, and playing incredibly well. It was still faint, but it looped and soared and rippled. It was coming from somewhere else, but he felt it keenly in his breastbone.

Fumbling for his glasses, he stood up from the bed, magazine sliding forgotten to the floor. He had to follow, to get to the source. Down, down the stairs, to his own basement rehearsal room. As he got closer, the music was tearing away at his very soul. He didn't know if he was coming down to hear more or to smash that guitar in two with his bare hands. The music swelled, it was heartbreaking, it was weeping. It kept rising up, inexorably, up up up, asking some question, some unanswerable question. Pleading. It seemed to be asking, Why must this be?

Red faced now, he yanked the door open, breathing hard through his mouth. The kid was standing in the middle of the room, playing a beat up Stratocaster, standing straight and tall as a boy soldier. His back was to the door. He played one last note and then stopped, but the sound reverberated endlessly inside Gordon, like a ripple on the surface of deep water. He could only be still.


In a way, life started to fall into soothing habit. Kind of like family life, as Gordon remembered it. Like a tape loop on repeat, the kid always seemed to run through the same motions. Rummaging through doors and cabinets, frantically searching for something.

One day, Gordon lay in wait. He had things to say. He learned to recognize the frenetic disturbance in the air before he appeared. Here he comes... now!

He followed the boy as he ransacked the pantry, knocking cans to the ground. "Hey!" he pleaded. "Why won't you ever look at me?"

No response. The kid looked so anxious, whatever he was searching for clearly meant life or death. His full curly hair smelled of outdoors and autumn leaves. His denim-clad body gave off a raw chill. He wore a chunky turquoise ring on his young, pink, big knuckled hand.

"Hey!" Gordon stepped right into his path. The boy swerved around him distractedly. "Look! Look at me! This is my house you're in. And I really exist. I am here!" He had to chase behind the youth as he went up the stairs, and stood there as the apparition opened his chest of drawers and began to toss Gordon's polo shirts around the room.

"It's not what you think," Gordon muttered for some reason he did not know. The boy was searching the clutter on his bureau top. The old receipts, his breath mints, the ID card from the health club, the recovery tokens he'd collected from years of AA; he brushed it all to the floor with a sweep of his arm.

"It's not what you think!"

The boy stood lost for a moment, not knowing where to go next, his thick dark eyebrows puckered worriedly downwards at the corners.

"Why don't you look at me, damnit. I am here!"

As Gordon bellowed these words with all his strength the boy started out of his reverie and regarded him with startled eyes. At the same time, he seemed to flare in brightness, standing out intensely against the rest of the room. Then, as he had that day on the road, his body began to morph and shift, becoming suddenly huge as though someone had poured fuel on a flame. He was like a photograph blown up beyond recognition, all light, shadow and quivering pixels.

This all happened in an instant. Gordon, terrified this special thing that had chosen him would now leave him forever, lurched forward, into it.

There was a soft roaring as of flames, and all encompassing brightness. And Gordon left himself behind. He couldn't remember his name, couldn't remember his history, or where he was, or what he was doing. It all happened in the space of two seconds, but in those two seconds he felt as though the old Gordon been annihilated, burned to the ground, and then born again. Clean. Immortal. One with the universe and everything in it.

Afterword he stood, alone, stunned and blinking like a newborn, looking with serene clarity around this room as though he had never seen it before.


"Dad. Did you hear me?"

"Huh?" He was holding Emma, the baby, as three-year-old Colin jumped into the huge leaf pile in Gordon's back yard. The little boy's dandelion head blazed in the autumn sunshine as he flailed and shrieked with pleasure. Gordon had been looking into the baby's dark blue eyes, jostling her round little body up and down. Admiring the wavy plumes of hair on her head like dollops of rich cream. It was a miracle, these children. New life. So pure. His blood. Lately he could look at them in wonder, fall into a trance...

"I said, when is the last time you had you cholesterol checked?" China's skin was glowing pink with the cold. In that moment she looked like her eight year old self.

"Why? Do I look fat to you?" He smiled at her. The girl had always been too watchful, too cautious.

"No. I mean, there have been heart issues in the family and I'm just wondering if you're keeping an eye."

He said nothing, but just looked at her for a long time, considering. "Honey?" He tried to word his thoughts carefully. "Do you think you worry too much? In general? I mean, there's only so much you can control." He began to stutter and gesture. "Are... are you afraid of death?"

She looked at him quizzically. He blushed, but went on.

"Because... what I'm coming to realize is... there is no real death. We get so caught up in these identities. These problems. If we can just let go and just be... I mean... there is a whole other dimension out there, something so awesome you wouldn't...

"Dad?" Now she was looking concerned.

"Oh, pshaw." He waved his hand dismissively, smiled again. Quickly he changed the subject. "I still watch those DVDs you made sometimes."

"Oh, god, why?"

"They're good! You have a talent, you know. You could make... other kinds of film. Push those boundaries! I could see you going into art."

"I don't know about that," she muttered. "Besides, who has the time."

"That's just what I was trying to say!" he sputtered, "There is all the time in the world!" He stroked the baby's cheek. "Time... is all in the mind."

"Was that someone looking down from that window?" China was frowning up at the house, shading her eyes. "Don't tell me you have a roommate!"

Gordon started to open his mouth, but then hesitated. Would it be possible... .?

"When I was little you were always bringing all kinds of characters into the house. Giving them the spare room. Taking them to meetings. Trying to save them." She shook her head. "You always were attracted to broken people."

He shut his mouth and turned away.


There were days, beautiful tremulous days, when the boy would stay with him. Coexist with him. If everything was just right, if Gordon was perfectly open minded, perfectly at rest, enlightened and in sync with the world and himself, then sometimes in the studio they would even play music together.

As the boy's guitar soared and sobbed, Gordon improvised riffs on his old Les Paul, finally settling into a dotted eight note delay. The feedback was decent. He let the delay make the repeats of the notes, until it started to build. And build. And build.

The wind blew the night clouds through the sky. The moon shown bright and round as a lucky silver coin. And the two guitars seemed to be having an exchange, question and answer, point counterpoint. They would end up playing all night, until Gordon's fingers bled, and later he slept as peacefully and forgetfully as a child. It was like heaven.


But then, there was a period of sickness. It began as a tingling in his fingers, a rashy heat spreading through his body, driving him to his bed. Light dazzled his eyes, so the blinds were kept shut, his bedroom taking on a dim, twilit, under-water atmosphere.

Why does this always happen, he thought blurrily. His life had always been full of these peaks and valleys. If there was a period of excitement and high energy and enthusiasm, it was inevitably followed by a period of exhaustion. An enervated stupor. And if he went to the doctor, they found nothing wrong with him... It's like somebody is making me pay.

For five days straight he stayed in his bed, getting up only for the bathroom or a slice of dry toast. Even his thoughts were sluggish, his emotions buffered down to a dull flatness. Day was night and night was day. The newspapers piled up on the porch.

Sometimes he heard the boy, in the other rooms of the house. Going on his searches. Rattling through the closets, knocking things down, making a mess. Why is he never ever satisfied? Thought Gordon, though he couldn't say he cared either way.


There came a day when he felt well enough to get up again, though he still felt a little shaky and vulnerable. Colors were too bright and sounds too loud. But he showered, dressed, and gathered up the newspapers, emptied his bursting mailbox. He had to go shopping. He had to pay his overdue water bill. And he had to send out emails to his group to make sure they were still coming over for their monthly jam session on Saturday.

They had had the group for several years. All men in their sixties, as it happened. Some he knew from high school. Some responded to his ad in Craigslist. A ragtag group of amateur musicians. Each would bring Xeroxed copies of whatever music they wanted to play. They would jam into the night, frequently breaking for drinks and talk.

Gordon always looked forward to the group, and was proud of the soundproof basement studio he had put up himself. But that day he was restless and irritable and couldn't seem to relax.

And it almost seemed as though the boy were trying to avoid him. He saw him less. And when he did see him, standing in a corner or sitting on the edge of his bed in some unknown hour of the night, Gordon would quietly draw near to him, to try to really look at him and feel like he knew him. And when the boy responded by disappearing it made him so angry. Once he even shouted at him, to try to startle him into flaring up, so he could enter that wall of light once again and feel good and whole again. But when he tried to shout his need, it came out as a feeble whine.


The night was bitter cold, but the basement room was bright and warm and rumbled with talk and laughter of the five men who were there to play. Three guitarists, a bass player, and his old friend Bob on the drums. Steve and David answered the Craigslist ad four years back. And Mark, Gordon had met through AA during one of the bad times.

"What are we playing?"

"I brought Summertime Blues."

"Mustang Sally!"

Clinking of bottles, the tuning of instruments like a clearing of the throat. Miscellaneous talk about sports, politics. Gordon nodded, laughed, drank his Diet Coke. But he was quieter than usual. Part of him remained alert. Vigilant. Listening for something in the distance.

"Hey, Guy," Mark said to him quietly. Mark had a long sullen face and graying curly hair. But his eyes, though set in deep shadow, were twinkling and humorous. Kind. "How's it going? Haven't seen you in a while. Things okay?"

"Yeah, yeah. A little under the weather recently. S'alright."

"Yeah, you look a little peaked. Beginning of the long winter. And so it goes." He fingered his bass, nodding philosophically.

"I... I've also had a house guest. He might comedown in a bit. He's shy." Gordon shrugged, but his pulse quickened as he said this. Because he had decided, just last night, that now was the time someone else met the kid. He wanted someone else to be witness. He couldn't be the only one, not anymore.

The music cued up. They started off playing tunes by Moby Grape and The Yardbirds. The sound they made was graceless and loping, but built up in momentum until they achieved a ragged coherence, the old men smiling and whooping, exchanging smiles, red faced and damp.

Thus loosened up, the talk was louder and rowdier between songs. The flow of the music made them all feel young and alive. Talk turned to the past. Drugs they had taken. Roadtrips. Headtrips. And girls, girls, girls. The ones they got. The ones they didn't. It was all in the chase!

All this time Gordon kept to himself. It turned him off somehow, this talk of youth. Because once he had had the experience of enlightenment, it just all seemed so silly. This lifetime of constantly chasing things. Anticipating things. He had done that all his life. But then in one glorious moment, he had realized everything was perfect just as it was.

That moment was fast slipping away, though.

He closed his eyes and hoped the boy would appear. And then, maybe, these old men would learn what he did. He concentrated, lulling himself into a deep calm. Emptying himself out so he was clean and pure. I am a vessel, he thought, I am a vessel.

The door opened, and heads turned. There was a friendly, magnanimous feeling in the room, and the men smiled and greeted the young stranger. He walked right past them, saying nothing, his brown curls shadowing his face, his suede fringe swaying. Guitar in hand.

"That your houseguest?" asked Mark into Gordon's ear. "Looks like a character from around Beacon Hill back in '69!"

Gordon did not respond, he was hardly listening. He was gazing at the boy, smiling hazily. His private apparition now made public. It made him feel giddy, almost euphoric. Validated. Look! He wanted to say. There's more to life than you have yet imagined in your tiny brains! There is so much more than just being born, scrambling for a few pleasures, and then death.

But he said nothing. He helped the boy drape the strap around his narrow shoulder. Plugged him in. Handed him the pick. Then turned to his guests, his eyes alight and eager.

"This is..." he hesitated, shrugged. "This is... a friend. He plays." He looked around the room, nodding. "He plays."

There were alrights! and slaps on the kid's back.

"So what are we doing next?" asked Bob from behind the drums.

"Well," said Gordon, folding his arms, "I thought I'd sit this one out. You all play with the kid. The kid can play. But he doesn't do sheet music. You gotta let him improvise."

"Yeah, but what..."

"Just follow!" Gordon spread his arms out, smiling, generous as a rajah. "Just... go with the flow!"

The boy, impervious and solitary, began his song. It started as a gentle thrumming. Then it began to ripple out, the notes like smoke rings, growing larger and than dissipating in the air; the vibration, from the strings to the pickup to the amplifier, seemed to resonate through a person's very marrow. The past is in sound waves, Gordon thought. Someone had said that to him once.

From there the tune began to deepen, grow stronger and darker. It was like an estuary feeding into a broad murky river, its momentum pulling them in and not letting go. Every so often Bob would try to improvise a slow steady drumbeat, but he lost heart. Mark could not finger a baseline that fit. He couldn't follow the tune, it kept changing too quickly.

It grew faster, louder, with spinning little eddies of sorrow and longing. The boy's eyes grew bigger, his mouth tight and gaunt with the effort. He was not seeing the room, he was unaware of the people in it. He was standing as though perched on the edge of a cliff, he looked so alone. One by one the men were beginning to feel such emotion was hard to take. It was almost unbearable. The looks on their faces had changed from ones of exuberance and joy to ones of slowly dawning fear. All but for Gordon, who was rapt, who was ready and eager to follow wherever this was going.

When the music began to break away into bright peals like crying, Steve actually walked out of the room. The rest of the men couldn't look at each other. The room felt like the inside of a light bulb, the very particles of the air quivering with too much life. Too high of a frequency. Too high. Too high...

Until it just stopped. The tune ended abruptly mid note because the boy disappeared. In the fraction of a second he was simply not there, leaving nothing behind but a reverberating echo.

There was a shocked silence as the men stared at the empty space. Then, the sound of drumsticks being hurled to the ground. "Goddamn it, Gordy!" shouted Bob in a strangled voice as he stormed from the room.

"What? What?" Gordon looked imploringly from Steve to Mark. Steve shook his head stiffly back and forth as he put his guitar back in its case and hurried out.

"Doesn't anyone have an open mind anymore?" Gordon yelled at his retreating back.

He turned to Mark. Maybe not his oldest friend, but surely the closest. "C'mon, Mark. I don't understand. What is their problem?"

Mark stood, considering, staring into space. He was a good man. He had been homeless for a wile, a drunk. He lost everything before getting himself together. But he was still a good man, in spite of it all.

At last he sighed, shook his head. "I think..." he scratched his ear, blinked jerkily. "I think a lot of guys... like to talk around the past. They don't want to see it, point blank. It's too much." He looked at Gordon a moment, a wild, helpless look in his eye. "That was just too much." He put a hand on Gordon's shoulder, a consoling gesture, and then he, too, was out the door.



"Hi Dad, it's me. I got your message."

"Well, hi hon!"

"I thought I told you, I took the kids to visit Mom for a while and I just got back. Are you okay? In your message you sounded..."

"I'm fine. Fine. I'm feeling much better."

He had been slowly getting his bearings, returning to normal. It had been difficult to get used to living alone again. The kid had not come back after that night. And for a while it had almost felt as though Gordon had been in mourning. His life felt bereft of magic, of that added dimension of being he had once experienced. His life felt ordinary.

"How is your mom doing?"

"Oh, you know. Getting a little older. It suits her. She's mellowing out. Less... angry."

He nodded though his daughter couldn't see it. The mistakes he'd made. For the first time in a while, he could actually see his ex-wife's face. As a young girl. Thoughtful in repose as she performed some household chore. She was most beautiful when she forgot herself in her dreams.

"And are you really feeling better, Dad? Doing your jam sessions?"

"I don't know. I may take a break for a while. Sometimes I like to just sit on the couch. Thinking." He said this jokingly, but it was true. For a while he had been preoccupied with his own mortality. His own eventual absence from this world, and how it would all carry on afterword as usual. The thought shook him to his core.

But increasingly, since the kid was absent from his life, he had felt more and more solid. More real. It was the world around him that seemed more transparent. He could look at a table and see right through it. He had stopped suddenly once and looked down his own hallway. It was as though he could see through each wall. Through drywall and insulation and siding, through trees, through power lines, through the atmosphere. Straight through it all, into something deep and fathomless. He couldn't look away. He was looking at it still.

"Well, if you want your old records, I have them now. At my house. I kind of like them. I listen to them in the evening. They make me think of you."

He laughed softly, his eye still trained on that infinite vision.

"How do they sound?"