A Sound in His Mind
by Steve Schlich

The new trumpet was polished and shiny, the most expensive thing Danny had ever held. Now it was his! Only rented, really, but if he could play it well enough to be in the school band, Dad had promised to buy it.

Danny held the trumpet up to his mouth. The horn was solid and heavy. The mouthpiece was cold and hard on his lips. He sucked in a great lungful of air and blew it into the horn.


The sound was terrible.

Danny studied the instruction book carefully. It had pictures of every step, and Danny copied them well. He set in his chair as they did in the pictures. He held the trumpet their way. He blew into the horn as they said. Then he blew into the horn every way he could think of, but the same sound came out.


"It sounds like a sick moose," his sister said.

This was wrong. Danny put down the horn and went to the record player. The Chuck Mangione record was already on the turntable. He turned it on, then sat on the couch end closed his eyes.

The trumpet on the record was making sweet, mellow music. Playing was like singing, Danny's teacher had told him. You sang, and the instrument was like your voice. Chuck Mangione's trumpet sang high and clear.

"I wish I could play like that," Danny thought.

He listened to the whole record, trying to feel the music with his body. The sound was so smooth, so clear, it was like singing. Danny squeezed his fists tightly, feeling the music. When the record ended, his hands hurt.

Danny worked the trumpet's valves and blew softly into the mouthpiece. He stared at the record player. The record was over, but Danny played it in his mind. It's like singing, he thought. He sang along with the record and put the horn to his mouth.

"Whaoooouuuuu! Whaooooouuuuu!"

It was the moose sound again. Danny blew harder. His face got red and his lips hurt, he thought, "Mangione" but only the moose came out.

Danny put the trumpet down again. His head ached, his lips hurt, and he hadn't made the trumpet sing.

His mother came into the room.

"You look unhappy," she said. "Is something wrong?"

"I can't play the trumpet." Danny said. He scrunched his face and squeezed his fists together. "I can't play it like on the record."

"You will, Danny," his mother said, and sat next to him. "You will, but not right away. The man on the record probably played for ten or twenty years to sound like that. You're only ten years old."

"It won't sing for me," Danny said. "Chuck Mangione makes his trumpet sing for him. Sis says mine sounds like a sick moose!"

"You'll make it sing," Denny's mother promised. "But you have to practice. Chuck Mangione practiced and played for along time. That's why his trumpet sounds so beautiful."

"Will it take me twenty years?" Danny asked.

"No." his mother laughed. "You'll learn to play much sooner. The moose will go away. You'll get better the more you play."

"But it's so hard," Danny said. "How did he practice for twenty years? Didn't he get tired?"

"Probably," his mother said. "He must have had a vision in sound in his mind, that he heard."

"Yes, like the record. But not someone else's record. She pointed to the record player. "Maybe he listened to that record in his mind."

A vision in sound. Denny thought about that. He tried the trumpet again, but only the moose came out. He thought about the record and the trumpet's sound, but it didn't work. The harder he blew, the sicker the moose sounded.

"Whaooooouuuuu! WHAOOOOUUUUU!

Practice! Danny looked at the horn. Twenty years! He thought of Chuck Mangione when he was ten, playing his first trumpet. Did he sound like a moose? Did he went to give up?

Then Danny heard ...something. The sound was soft at first, very far away. It was a trumpet. Danny sat very still to hear the sounds. It was like playing a record in, his head, but the music was not Chuck Mangione.

The trumpet played louder, The sound was sweet, like the record, but different, The melody was happy and the horn's notes clear and bright. It was beautiful music. Danny closed his eyes and listened to the sound in his mind. He knew who it was.

The trumpet was his. He was the player, years in the future. Ten? Twenty? It didn't matter.

A smile came over his race as Danny listened to his music, his! He would play the trumpet, and it would sing for him. It would happen!

Danny picked up the horn and blew into it again.


The sick moose was still there. Danny held the trumpet tightly and listened. The sound in his mind still played. Danny held the horn and felt himself in the future, working the valves, smoothly and making the trumpet sing sweetly. He smiled and put the horn to his lips again.


The moose was getting healthy, he was sure.


copyright (c) 2000 by Steve Schlich


The trumpet that I learned to play in the fourth grade (in 1960) did indeed sound like a wounded moose, at least for the first few months.  Both my parents even more patient than the mother in this story, and my real sister never said anything bad about my playing, at least within earshot.