A recurring theme in the Frank Nagler books that take place in Ironton, N.J. is the effort to rebuilt the city after decades of economic decline, aided and abetted by political corruption, and the washout caused by a hurricane in the first book in the series, “The Swamps of Jersey.”
This scene is from “A Game Called Dead,” the second Frank Nagler Mystery. The state has taken over the city’s finances, and the citizens are fed up.
In this scene, community leader Rashad Jackson rallies the citizens:
Rafe on lead called out the time and the metal drums rattled to life sending the crisp marching orders bouncing off the brick facades, tickling the windows, blowing past doubts and worries, stepping out in the lead, a clarion call that said, Come down, set aside your troubles, there ain’t nothin’ we can’t fix together.
Come they did. The lawn and streets at the center were filled two hours before the march was supposed to start. When the drums began it was like invisible hands opened front doors, grabbed folks by the collar of their clothes, lifted them from the breakfast table or from in front of the television and hauled them into the street where their feet started tapping and their faces smiling.
RatatatRUMBLERUMBLEratatatROLLROLLROLL. Then syncopation. One foot, one foot, two feet, one foot. Then a sound like the sky cracking as the drum line started a continuous roll from the deepest, baddest bass drums to the high-toned make-shift tambourines, a window-rattling, glass-shaking, calling down God Almighty thunderous extravaganza that would not be denied; a sound that gave you no choice but to heed its message, a sound that chased you down, found your soul and said It … Is …Time.
The air still, drumless.
“This is a shovel,” he yelled.
And the crowd cheered, and replied, “This is a shovel!”
Jackson continued. “This city was built by workers with shovels. They dug the canal and the great basin and the deep foundations for the ironworks. The erected the silk factory and Guenther’s grand mill, carved the hills to open railroads, dug out the streets and waterlines, planted trees and built houses. All with a shovel. There were no monster trucks or tractors and mechanical diggers. Those tools would come later, after the workers with shovels built the factories where they could be assembled, after the workers with shovels gave a place for inventors’ imaginations to roam free.
“We are here today to demand that the city and the state, which now runs Ironton, to put these simple implements of labor back to work. For the past two years, project after project has stalled, repairs have been delayed, even the debris created by the big storm has not been removed. They are closing schools, businesses are leaving and still our city fathers say nothing.
“So, then, here is the message: Come to us. Ask us to help. We have ideas and the willingness to help. This not your city, some trinket to show off at the next convention. This is our city. We demand a place at the table as the future is decided.
“We know how to rebuild Ironton. We built it before.” He waved the shovel over his head. “And we have the shovels.”
“A Game Called Dead” was published by Imzadi Publishing of Tulsa and is available at:
Bookstores in Sparta, Clinton and Boonton, NJ and several public libraries.
“The Swamps of Jersey” , published in 2014 is available at:
Also available at Barnes and Noble stores through their website and online at http://www.barnesandnoble.com