gimcrack bassist I’d known, but he also had a funky way of giving a grunt here and there. Our first song left me hungry for another. Tyler cracked the seal on a fifth of Brennan’s

Irish Whiskey he’d taken from Ed’s daypack and, after a pull, wiggled it in the air. “Anyone?” Ed took it first, then I. And with that we struck up a medley of bright modal tunes. Ed kicked up the tempo when he needed to, and Tyler broke into yodels. We began to mesh and congeal as a trio. By the time we lit on our next offering,

the high lonesome sound of a straight bluegrass set, you wouldn’t have known we’d never played together before. Everyone who’d left seemed to have come back with ready claps. Between songs, while we thought on what to play next, the whiskey circulated. People howled and stomped. The coins and bills were pouring in as fast as new faces appeared in the narrows we filled with night music, our sound echoing off the banks of windowed granite cresting over us. “Let’s ratchet this up a notch,” I said.

“How’s that bottle doin’?” “No harm in imbibing on the job a little,”

Ed declared, “seeing this ain’t a permanent position. Sláinte!” He drank, scowled, and pushed the whiskey my way. Just before drinking, I asked, “How

long you been a busker?” I had just learned this word—from buscar, “to search” in Spanish. “Me?” Tyler said. “I don’t know. Like,

fifteen years. You?” “Oh, about a few weeks.” “I been doing this shit too long’s all I

know.” The tips of Ed’s digits were wrapped with 30

bandage tape so the string wouldn’t cut into them when he plucked. “In fact, as of right now, it’s a thousand and one nights to the night. Sláinte!” He tilted in another all-loving swallow, grimaced fiercely, and held the bottle at arm’s length for someone to take away from him. I volunteered. I was having too much fun,

and had already had too much to show restraint.

“The only word on the street was that you had to hear this runaway fiddler.”

I’d forgotten all about the scream that no one hears. No rumors that I was lost or astray, or even on my way down, were flying, as far as I knew. The only word on the street was that you had to hear this runaway fiddler. I still hadn’t seen any actual signs of the presence I’d sensed earlier (not that I’d have recognized them if I had). And I genuinely liked these musicians. Clearly they’d brought nothing ominous, but rather, only goodness to the party. Death hides in confined spaces, even inside acoustic instruments no doubt, but I’d have felt it had anything along that line been inside theirs. There are a lot of things you don’t feel, but the presence of the dead returned is not one of them. The feeling that I was being watched arose

again, however—with much more intensity— during our next number. Of course, I was being watched, by about twenty people by then, but the gaze came from other quarters. Looking back, I suspect it was on me throughout the whole song;

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