Robert Herbst ~ Do I Have to Spell it out for You?

The first thing I noticed was the pink house with white columns. Bonsai trees lined the sec­ond-floor bal­cony like pot­ted, dis­em­bod­ied limbs, and out­side the front door flew the biggest American flag I’d ever seen. In con­trast, the win­dows were all black, an air of aban­don­ment. The car drove past, and my neck craned back­wards. The fact that I would find a house like this, and to find it here of all places! I knew this wouldn’t be our neigh­bor­hood; ours would be much small­er. The fences would be chain link, not that nice wood­en type, and the neigh­bors would have lots and lots of chil­dren. I point­ed out the bon­sai house to my mom. “Mom,” I said.

We aren’t there yet, Bailey, I thought I just told you,” she said. I thought of say­ing some­thing mean in return, but instead I just sat qui­et­ly in the front seat. Dad would under­stand about the house, anyway.

It was a pret­ty town, just as I’d been told. Forests fringed the roads — my mom had told me there were lit­tle paths that we could walk on. She empha­sized we. Above cul-de-sacs and tidy lawns loomed a great hill, almost a real moun­tain, with a blink­ing anten­na on top.

I was right about our neigh­bor­hood; there were no pink hous­es any­where as far as I could tell. They most­ly were this morose shade of dark blue, like water after the sun has set. Our neigh­bors did not bring over any wel­come brown­ies, which my mom fumed about loud­ly. I could tell she was glad to have fod­der to com­plain. I watched my dad to see if he had the same com­plaints. He said noth­ing, only smoothed his hair and gave one of his laugh-sighs. His hair seemed gray­er than it had last month. I knew this because I could remem­ber the way he looked exact­ly six weeks ago, specif­i­cal­ly when I saw him climb out of the mini-van and rush to hug me. I remem­ber how his stom­ach felt, bulging a lit­tle on the sides, but not in an uncom­fort­able way.

For the next few weeks, when I’d lie awake at night and try not to dream, that’s what I would think about. The way his stom­ach felt, his Oxford shirt untucked; the way I had hugged him, too. My face in his chest. My eyes clenched shut against the strob­ing ambu­lances. The sobs around me fad­ing, until all I could hear was my breath­ing against the thud of his heart.

I had to take the bus to school in this neigh­bor­hood; not a nor­mal school bus, but one of the city busses. The peo­ple wore scrubs and polo shirts and played games on their phones. I lis­tened to my music and stared out the win­dow. My phone was so old that it could only hold one album at a time. Currently, it was an album called “Ethiopian Jazz” my dad had giv­en me. Something about the sax­o­phone paired the right way with the neigh­bor­hoods and strip malls that passed by. This was impor­tant to me, that stuff paired the right way.

At school, every­one want­ed to know things. They asked stu­pid ques­tions like “do you like it here? How is it dif­fer­ent from your last neigh­bor­hood? Your last school?” They want­ed to know if it could hap­pen here. It made me angry that they had to dance around the point.

I wouldn’t have been able to answer their real ques­tions, any­way. What I said was that the stop­lights here stayed yel­low for a lit­tle longer, and the cof­fee shops didn’t have the hazel­nut cof­fee that I liked, and the neigh­bors were all younger than my par­ents. I said that the sun­sets were blue, like my house; I said that the teach­ers here smoked between class, on the oth­er end of the park­ing lot. This con­fused all of them, espe­cial­ly the last bit, which I had made up. The oth­er kids were baf­fled; the teach­ers were even more so. Which is what I wanted.

At the same time, some nights I imag­ined meet­ing a some­one, maybe anoth­er girl, who lis­tened with wide eyes while I told her about the cof­fee and the neigh­bors and the street lights. In this fan­ta­sy, Ethiopian Jazz was play­ing on speak­ers some­where, and I was stand­ing next to those stunt­ed pine trees near the school entrance. As I told her all of the things I’d noticed, more stu­dents gath­ered around with con­fused looks. But she ignored them, right until I was finished.


My mom would ask me who my new friends were at school. Specifically, she would say “when are we going to meet some of your friends?” Which meant “have you made friends yet?” which meant “why haven’t you made friends yet?” And that meant “didn’t Dr. Green say it was impor­tant to make friends at the new school?”

I learned how to be qui­et in the face of these ques­tions, which was more effec­tive than my old method of shout­ing and argu­ing. My mom was good at argu­ing but ter­ri­ble at silence. This was some­thing I’d learned from my dad; how to use your silence to shut some­one down in that chill­ing sort of way. Sometimes, this feel­ing made me want to smile, but I’d keep my face total­ly still.

Then there were all the things I couldn’t prop­er­ly say, so I stayed qui­et, lest they col­lapse under the weight of the words. I kept a men­tal list of those times — one would be that day in the park­ing lot; anoth­er would be the day this sum­mer when we left the old home, our ranch at the end of the block. I’d found my dad stand­ing in his bed­room, and it was small and sad with­out any fur­ni­ture. If I had to clas­si­fy that feel­ing, it would go some­thing like “look at how quick­ly we made this place not a place any­more! Look at how per­ma­nent­ly we can dis­ap­pear!” But instead of say­ing that, we were just qui­et, and that was better.

I nev­er got a chance to ask my dad about the Bonsai house, which looked just like His house. I mean, just like it. Decorative shut­ters, ped­i­ment above the entrance, the sin­gle dormer win­dow in the attic, like a third eye. The over­all impres­sion of a dec­o­ra­tive box, gar­ish and sinister.

That’s what I dreamed about, if I was­n’t care­ful: that house, with its huge American flag. It was like an awful omen of some­thing. I guess, in those dreams, I thought I could still stop what had already hap­pened. Like if I could explain what it was about that house that was so trou­bling, then I could make it go away. You could say that was how I felt about every­thing then; if only I could find the exact words for what I thought and felt, then my thoughts and feel­ings wouldn’t both­er me. Instead, they flit around name­less­ly; the woosh of wings in the dark.

After a few months of school, my mom got con­cerned about my grades and stuff. She made me see the coun­selor, Mrs. Beale, a sleek woman who remind­ed me of a thor­ough­bred horse, even though I wasn’t entire­ly sure what that meant. She just had this pow­er­ful, lean look to her. When she asked me ques­tions, she would stare inter­mit­tent­ly out the win­dow, as if she missed the wind and sun. That’s not to say she was bad at her job — she was actu­al­ly very good. When she looked at me, she put the entire­ty of her gaze in her eyes. When I told her about the hazel­nut cof­fee and the stop­lights, I would almost believe that she under­stood. But then she would glance out the win­dow, and I’d know that she didn’t quite get it. For her to get it, she would have to feel the same way that I did when I looked out the window.

How did I feel when I looked out the win­dow? Like I’d left my body, like I was drift­ing up and away in a bal­loon. I’d watch the town dwin­dle, and I’d feel a lit­tle sad, but I’d also feel like this was the nat­ur­al course of things. Some peo­ple were meant to run on the play­ground and hang out with friends at the Sonic and be hap­py near­ly all the time. I was just meant to float in this bal­loon, and one day I’d be out of sight of the town. Up and up I’d go, like smoke from a chimney.


Around this time, I start­ed hav­ing all sorts of opin­ions. Specifically, I found myself hat­ing a lot of things. Like this town. It was sup­posed to be bet­ter than our old town, safer, but every­one who said that had to be nut­so. This place was a shit stain! The bush­es that grew shag­gy over each side­walk; the tor­na­do sirens that ran test drills on Saturday morn­ings; the way the air felt sat­u­rat­ed with some­thing sour and rot­ten that gagged me. It was noth­ing like the dry sum­mers we’d left behind, the sky stretch­ing elas­ti­cal­ly to cov­er the hori­zon. The dusty toads that would sit in the roads, ready for a car to come by with a sick squeeeelch that made me shiver.

I hat­ed the way my hair looked, flat and plain, like a stick fig­ure draw­ing. I hat­ed my name, which my mom would say over and over and over; “Bailey! Bailey! Bailey!” It sound­ed like a farm tool. I want­ed an old-fash­ioned name, some­thing hideous like “Gertrude.” I want­ed a buzz cut. I want­ed tacky nails to click on deli coun­ters while I chewed Bazooka Joe bub­blegum. I want­ed these thing with such a feroc­i­ty, it scared me. Like I’d spent the whole day starv­ing and only noticed it when my stom­ach rum­bled like a thunderclap.

I still thought about the hypo­thet­i­cal girl at school. In these fan­tasies, I would stand and con­fess every­thing on my mind. Now, though, she looked just like I want­ed to, tall, with a beau­ti­ful bald head and elab­o­rate fin­ger nails. She wore a pair of com­bat boots. “Do I have to spell it out for you?” she would yell at the gap­ing onlook­ers, “or do I need to kick your face in?” And she would kick the air men­ac­ing­ly. The thought made me crin­kle my eyes tight, blush­ing in the dark.

At the same time, I had dreams again, my first real ones in months. I’d dreamt I was in my old class­room at school. Everyone else was asleep, even Mrs. Chatfield, who dozed on the pro­jec­tor. I sat bolt upright. I scanned the room, mem­o­riz­ing the order in which every­one sat. I don’t know why — in these dreams I just knew, knew, that my only chance to save them was to remem­ber the pre­cise order of the desks. So I’d start — Melissa, Terry, Liam, Jessica — those four I knew for sure. But who sat behind Joey? Was that Becca in the cor­ner, or Talia? I was run­ning out of time, and I couldn’t turn my neck. The taste of Sulphur made my tongue thick and immo­bile; loud foot­steps grew clos­er in the hall­way. When I’d wake, I’d hear the odd crick­ets that made such a rack­et in my neigh­bor­hood, taste the air’s weight. I guess this was the only time I didn’t mind these things. They’d clean me of all doubt.

Kids at school had stopped ask­ing dumb ques­tions. Mostly they just ignored me. In our ses­sions, Mrs. Beale spent more time star­ing out the win­dow, gaz­ing at the hill over town. I bet she ran up that hill, thick legs pound­ing the mud, strong lungs pant­i­ng for air in a thrill as she crest­ed, the whole town unfurl­ing below.

I had grad­u­at­ed from Ethiopian Jazz to old Country songs. “Ring of Fire” went per­fect­ly with the hard-back bus seats, the gray and used peo­ple who sat across from me. A few times, I tried death met­al, but it caused me to cringe and I’d turn down the vol­ume. I want­ed to like it because it seemed like the kind of thing she would like – the girl in my day dreams, that is. I fig­ured that if I kept lis­ten­ing, even­tu­al­ly it would open up to me. With Ethiopian Jazz, the sax­o­phone would croon in that crooked, spiky sort of way, and when I lis­tened it coursed from my head­phones to the base of my spine like an elec­tric cur­rent. When I tried to explain it, the words seemed flim­sy and insub­stan­tial.  Ethiopian Jazz sound­ed like all the secret cor­ners of my brain, and the sounds proved that I wasn’t alone. That there was some­one else I didn’t have to spell it out for.

Sometimes, I felt like scream­ing, but I knew that it would come out wrong. I would scream as loud as I could, if only it were the cor­rect sound, pri­mal and sav­age that every­one would understand.


Eventually, I did shave my head. It hap­pened one after­noon when my dad left his elec­tric razor out in the bath­room. The idea was sud­den­ly so deli­cious­ly pos­si­ble. I tin­gled as I felt its buzz over my head. At first, it was uneven, and pan­ic crept in. I worked at it, though, fin­gers trac­ing a new ter­rain of stub­ble, my mouth half open in aston­ish­ment. It was incred­i­ble, I thought, how a head doesn’t quite look like a head with­out hair. At the same time, all oth­er heads with hair seemed bash­ful and ashamed at their own head-ness. Mine was naked, proud.

I was trem­bling when I faced my moth­er. Her hor­ror washed over me in waves of plea­sure. For the first time, I thought I was get­ting some­where. I jet­ti­soned the fin­ger­nails and bub­blegum. When I found them at the cos­met­ics counter at the drug store, they just didn’t look right. What I need­ed was anoth­er girl, I thought, who would give me her old ones, hav­ing moved on to a more exot­ic color.

For a while, things were bet­ter at school. Most peo­ple gawked at me like a zoo ani­mal, but a cou­ple weren’t phased. Jared, in social stud­ies, grinned and gave me a thumbs up. We had nev­er spo­ken, but I winked at him. My Spanish teacher, a tall woman with lus­trous gray hair, glanced at me while we did our work­sheet. Her mouth twitched like she was sup­press­ing a smile, and it seemed like she was in on it, too. And when the cool girls con­front­ed me at lunch, say­ing “cool head, Bailey,” I just looked at them and said “bite me.”

It seemed like things were going to be OK after all, if it weren’t for that day in February. So far, February had been the worst month, objec­tive­ly speak­ing. The rains had a sick sort of damp to them. Everything felt flu-like and rot­ten. My bun­dle of scarves and hats made me look like a can­cer patient. On the pub­lic bus, I’d stare at the oth­er pas­sen­gers, mulling whether I should just skip school, take the bus to the ter­mi­nal at the end of town.

Social stud­ies was about halfway through; I was prac­ti­cal­ly drool­ing on my desk in bore­dom. The alarms, when they sound­ed, stung my ears. Reeeeh Reeeeeh Rip. The after-shock rip­pled my ear drums. Everyone else seemed dazed, more or less like they weren’t get­ting it yet. I felt mad, real­ly angry, that they couldn’t tell that the noise in their ears meant fire, meant poi­son, meant drown­ing and dis­em­bow­el­ing and a hor­ri­ble chill in the pit of your stom­ach. I clamped my ears shut, but I want­ed to smack some­one — wake up!

We climbed under our desks. Mauve, one of the cool girls, fin­ished send­ing a text before she crouched on the car­pet. I hugged my knees, forc­ing myself into a tight ball, the sort of thing that noth­ing could get into or out of it. Then we heard a gun­shot. Mauve made a lit­tle “O” with her mouth.

The next part in my mem­o­ry is just this — the breath one takes when it’s very impor­tant to inhale, then the breath out, which rush­es too fast. A numb­ness every­where else, my limbs faint and light like those of a song­bird. The dun col­ored ones that used to sit in our win­dow box at our old home, spear­ing seeds and flap­ping away with a look simul­ta­ne­ous­ly dumb and clever.

I stayed that way, balled up, light and blank, until a pun­gent smell brought me back. There had only been the one dis­tant shot. The excite­ment in the room died down. It was replaced by loud sniffs, then sti­fled gig­gles, then an awful whis­per­ing. It was only when I smelled the odor that I returned to my body. I felt the heat in my jeans, wet and sticky on my thighs and butt. When I glanced down, the den­im was almost black with sat­u­ra­tion. Mauve had retrieved her phone, tak­ing a pic­ture. She wasn’t the only one. I remem­ber Mr. Williams, always late to the joke, giv­ing a lit­tle grunt and say­ing to him­self, “what’s that smell?”

The drill went on for six more min­utes. And it was a drill, ulti­mate­ly. The gun­shot I had heard was just a car back­fir­ing. I ran straight to the nurse, my face wet and flushed. My dad picked me up, and nei­ther of us spoke the way home. These drills were very com­mon, I learned lat­er, espe­cial­ly after what hap­pened at my old school.


I let my hair grow past a true buzz. At night, I could no longer con­jure the oth­er girl, the one who’d defend­ed me from all the onlook­ers. I for­got what she looked like. They ignored me again at school, but I knew that they called me “piss girl.” I punched Jaime N. in the face one day at lunch. I got sus­pend­ed, and for three days I had to lis­ten to my moth­er. “Bailey, Bailey, Bailey” — the sound of a trac­tor that wouldn’t start.

The hunger had van­ished. It was as if that sense of want­i­ng and know­ing were sealed with­in a glass dis­play case. I could look on those sen­sa­tions, but I couldn’t touch them any­more. I couldn’t become absorbed in notion that the things around me were wrong. I still knew it, but I had lost the right to real­ly feel it in my gut. Lost the right because now I was piss girl.

When it was warmer out­side, I took long walks across town. I’d walk all the way to the Bonsai house, the one with the pink façade and big white columns. Beneath tree canopies the col­or drained. Instead of a house, a tomb; instead of pil­lars, exca­vat­ed bones. Not once did I see a paunchy dad mow­ing the lawn. Nor did I see lit­tle girls play­ing bad­minton on the lawn, or even a house keep­er tak­ing tidy steps up the side door. The Bonsais didn’t move in the breeze. The flag hung limp, like a wet rag. The win­dows remained dark. It was, alto­geth­er, a black place, sym­bol­iz­ing nothing.

I thought about his house, the iden­ti­cal one. Such a strange house to pro­duce a killer. The thought would have both­ered me once, but now I let it echo across my thoughts. Strange, strange, strange. The word emanat­ed from the house, which might be breed­ing a killer just like the boy I once knew. But it kept rever­ber­at­ing across the street. Strange; the elm tree right behind me. Strange; the stop­light down the road, which stayed yel­low too long. Strange; the whole town, with its hill like a bur­ial mound, with its gawk­ing peo­ple, with its aller­gy to any idea of home, com­fort, safe­ty. Strangest; Piss Girl, the one who still woke up in blind ter­ror at night, who now had to check her crotch to make sure she hadn’t pissed her­self again. That was what I thought about on those walks, which some­times last­ed until the cold sun­sets of ear­ly spring.

It was around then that my dad appeared in the car­pool line at school. “Hey bud, need a lift?”

I nod­ded.

The front seat of his old Saturn was uphol­stered in peel­ing leather. I picked at it as we drove in silence. We lis­tened to the one radio sta­tion the car could get; the knob had long since fall­en off. In our old town, it was a Classical chan­nel. Now, it was Christian Rock. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! the radio insist­ed, right as we missed a turn.

Um, Dad?”

He tapped a fin­ger on the wheel unrhyth­mi­cal­ly. “I fig­ured we might get a bite to eat.” He didn’t quite make eye contact.

We drove to the end of town, where the road become a two-lane high­way. They played that Jesus song on the radio again, and I felt antsy. Eventually, we eased into the park­ing lot of a big chain restau­rant, the kind with huge lam­i­nat­ed menus and sassy wait­ress­es. I was bugged out by the whole thing. For one, we nev­er went out of town. Let alone right after school, and let alone to a ran­dom restau­rant. Plus, I’d been spend­ing so much time walk­ing around, it felt weird to be on this high­way, half way out of our town and into anoth­er. As we walked across the park­ing lot, a bub­ble of dread swelled in my stomach.

Mom was wait­ing for us at a table near the entrance. My dad seemed sheep­ish, and I shot him a look that went some­thing like why-did-you-drag-me-here-what-the-f-is-going-on. The Jesus song was play­ing again, though in that moment (piv­ot­ing back and forth between par­ents) I real­ized that they could all be dif­fer­ent songs that just sound­ed the same. The wait­ress bus­tled over, and my dad said I could order any­thing on the menu. The whole thing was like 20 pages long, so I ordered the crab cake sand­wich because it was the first thing I saw and it was expen­sive. But once she was gone, the dread bub­ble only enlarged. Because I’d nev­er had crab cake before. Because what if I hat­ed it? What if my mom want­ed to order me some­thing else? What if the wait­ress tried to get the chef to make it again?

I real­ized that there didn’t seem to be any win­dows in this restau­rant. I real­ized that all I real­ly want­ed was to be out­side and alone. Not just for an hour or two, but maybe a week. A week seemed like the right amount of time.

I wait­ed for my dad to say some­thing, but of course my mom spoke first.

Bailey, sweet­ie, I know it’s a lit­tle odd for us to all come here.”

She paused like she want­ed me to con­firm that every­thing about this sit­u­a­tion was weird as shit.

Well, real­ly we want­ed to ask you some­thing, and it just felt like the sort of thing maybe we could talk about while hav­ing a nice meal.”

Did they kill the crab here? What part of the crab do you eat? I imag­ined a fat chef, vying with a pinch­ing claw, cleav­ing it from its right­ful own­er, the last elec­tri­cal impulse going dead.

Bailey.” My dad now. I looked at him, a sad­ness sparkled in his eyes. I squirmed in my seat. “Your moth­er and I were talk­ing, and if you’d rather move some­where else, we would be OK if that. If that’s what you want.”

Where would we go?”

Anywhere, well, almost any­where,” my mom said, “our old home if you want.”

We just want you to be com­fort­able. We want you to be happy.”

A cool hand touched my arm. I swung around. My mom’s face was still. I noticed a new set of wrin­kles. Parentheses around her lips, and a fur­row between her eyes. And that expert way she touched me — my mind leaped to a day in Kindergarten when she walked me home, the sun blind­ing, her touch just like this.

These things didn’t make me feel good. They made me want to vom­it or cry or both.

So often rea­sons are not rea­sons at all, but a crab cake sand­wich, or Jesus on the radio, or an incin­er­at­ing feel­ing that makes you want to jump out of your skin. Nevertheless, once you’ve decid­ed some­thing, you become that deci­sion. When my par­ents asked me if I want­ed to leave, I wasn’t think­ing about rea­sons. I was think­ing that maybe a month would be a bet­ter amount of time to be alone.

Years lat­er, when my mom sud­den­ly turned to me on a car ride home and asked me about that day, I didn’t have an answer. I just reached out and touched her arm.


Toward May, I’d inched clos­er to a pix­ie cut. I missed the bald­ness, but it was nice to feel the light down on my scalp, almost like feath­ers. Only a few kids still called me piss girl and I didn’t mind quite as much.

In March, anoth­er girl had trans­ferred from a school in Idaho. It sound­ed so exot­ic, like some­thing scrib­bled on a post­card. I caught myself star­ing at her in Math. She had sandy hair and chewed her pen­cil. She always wore a jean jack­et, and each day after school her old­er broth­er picked her up in a Pontiac GTO he’d rebuilt. She wore round sun­glass­es in the car, just like John Lennon. Her name was Dot.

One day, I was eat­ing my lunch at my nor­mal spot under a spruce tree, out of sight from the rest of them. Dot approached me, cut­ting a straight line across the grass. She’d tucked a Ticonderoga behind her ear. I tried to see the teeth marks.

You’re Bailey,” she said.

I nod­ded. “You’re Dot.”

Why are you always out here eat­ing by yourself?”

I brushed my hand through my hair, feel­ing its soft spring. “The oth­er kids call me piss girl, so I don’t talk to them anymore.”

Is that because you pissed yourself?”

I shrugged. A half-grin flick­ered across her face. In the future, I would remem­ber that smile, which always pre­cip­i­tat­ed some­thing for­bid­den, some­thing the two of us would steal with sud­den hunger. “Fuck them,” she said.

On the last day of school, I decid­ed to walk home instead of tak­ing the bus. Clouds filled the sky like huge car­go ships. I passed beneath them on a side­walk bust­ed by tree roots and spiky weeds. My steps seemed easy and insignif­i­cant. The flow­er­ing trees were about to lose their blooms, and every so often a breeze would grab fist­fuls of white and pink petals and dis­perse them in wild swirls. I caught a thin bough. It was qui­et on the sub­ur­ban street. The leaves on the branch were oily, and I start­ed to pluck them from their joints. Everything seemed right at the tip of my tongue. It was the kind of moment when you real­ize you can’t just go home. Or, more accu­rate­ly, you real­ize that your home isn’t in the house you are walk­ing to — it’s some­where else. Something was wait­ing for me, beyond the hori­zon of every­thing I had lost.

Flinging the door open, I rushed into my gym shorts and ten­nis shoes. I left the house and set out at a trot, head­ing for the hill that rose over town. Soon, I was out of breath. But the day was cool and fresh, unusu­al for May, and I had nowhere to be. The path was emp­ty, just like I had hoped. I walked. I halt­ed to catch my breath. I start­ed run­ning again. I can’t quite explain that feel­ing, both hav­ing some­where I des­per­ate­ly want­ed to be, but also not mind­ing the wait­ing. What would you call that? My hair puffed out with each step. If it made a noise it would have been metal­lic. The clat­ter of pans, star­tling the birds in the trees, scar­ing those fur­ther up the trail. It would rebound and dou­ble, and for miles would be heard this bril­liant clang­ing, the dumb noise of my hair.


Robert Herbst’s fic­tion has been pub­lished at Scoundrel Time and twice received the Thompson Award for Best Short Fiction from the Center of the American West. His sto­ry, ‘A Standing Offer,’ was recent­ly nom­i­nat­ed for a Pushcart Prize. In 2016 he grad­u­at­ed cum laude from Dartmouth College, where he won the Erskine-Caldwell Prize for Best Short Story and the Grimes Award for Best Creative Work from a Senior. In 2019, Robert received his Master’s in Violin Performance from the University of Colorado at Boulder. In his pro­fes­sion­al life, Robert is a vio­lin­ist, play­ing in orches­tras in the Boulder area and teach­ing pri­vate­ly. When nei­ther writ­ing nor mak­ing music, Robert enjoys run­ning, climb­ing, and read­ing in all the beau­ti­ful places Colorado has to offer.