The second Frank Nagler story is called “A Game Called Dead.” This is a scene when Nagler, a city cop in Ironton, N.J., visits a local community center:
“Nagler could hear the sound a block away, a steady thump like the sound of a hidden machine turning, rolling, then landing. Thump, then turn, then thump, then turn. Soon, as he drove closer, in between, a lighter sound like rapid chattering, like a hundred shoes tapping, a string of beats in two and threes, then a rapid roll of sound, rising, echoing off nearby walls, catching itself on the rebound, then bouncing again, the waves passing around and through each other to make the air shimmer with tempo.
When he arrived at the center, he found the source: A line of twenty or so kids with sticks and mallets and sometimes just their hands playing not formal instruments, but industrial metal drums turned upside down, plastic cans and buckets, window frames lined with tin, make-shift washboards, Mason jars filled with marbles or tiny rocks – anything, everything that could make a sound.
Nagler smiled and watched in wonder.
Thump, thump, thump-a-thump. Then, tap, and tap, taptaptap; then thump-a-thump, then crash crash; thump-a-thump, then crash crash. Notes between notes, sounds between silence, then a flurry, uncountable birds rising from tall grass, a thousand wings, chaotic flapping. Then the tempo shifting faster; so many hands and sticks, the sound in layers, colliding, then rising, engulfing the air, swooping in and out, the source obscured – one, maybe all – then in a moment the syncopation lost, the notes combined, one atop the other, rising, rising, louder as if passing through a pipe, sound with a single reason to be, pausing, then bursting out the end and shattering into a thousand single notes and beats and sounds, breaking, exploding, sprinkling back to earth to be gathered again by busy hands, shaped into something new and sent skyward one more time; then a voice, a single “Oh, oh.” Then another, “Oooo, ooo!” Three, in harmony. “Oh, Oh-oh, hey!” Oh, Oh-oh, hey. Thumpa, thumpa. Then Hey, then Oh; then Hey-ho. Then five voices singing Hey, and five others, Ho; then underneath a rising “Ah,” stepping up the scale, each Ah higher and louder, till twenty voices found a note and wordless, carried it on; just sound, harmony wrapped in harmony, song wrapped in rhythm, voices grabbing music from hard streets, moving, moving forward, pure sound, celebrating itself, celebrating life; joy.”
“The Swamps of Jersey” is published by Imzadi Publishing, Tulsa, OK. www.imzadipublishing.com
Available for Kindle and in paperback at Amazon.com
Paperback available at barnesandnoble.com. Soon for Nook
Available at Clinton Book Shop, Clinton, NJ. Info at http://www.clintonbookshop.com/
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