Turns out the very heavy cold I had for the past week was Covid.
It was like being in a waking coma. Everything shut down to a narrow focus as my immune system attacked the virus. Real time didn’t matter—light and dark passed, the dog got walked, but everything beyond that narrow focus didn’t exist.
My mind was set on reserve power, low wattage to protect the guts of the system, but all real energy was put to other uses like survival and healing.
Then it was gone and the fog lifted.
What showed up was a key part of a tricky scene I’m writing into the sixth Frank Nagler Mystery, NAGLER’S SECRET.
I don’t recommend this as a way to get past mild writers block.
At their core, the Nagler books tell the story of healing for the city of Ironton, N.J. and of Detective Frank Nagler, wrapped in page-turning, intense mysteries. NAGLER’S SECRET is about finding a piece of the detective’s past that leads to the modern killer.
The scene takes place in an old theater that is under renovation as the symbol of the city’s economic recovery.
The Frank Nagler Mysteries are available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Audible.com, Applebooks and at Book & Puppet Co, in Downtown Easton, Pa.
The scene (Note: Lauren is Lauren Fox, Nagler’s companion and acting mayor of the city.):
He spun away and launched himself, damaged left ankle protesting, to the lip of the stage and sat resting forward on his palms while scanning the dark dimensions of the theater’s ancient walls.
“How many more lives does this place have, ya think, Lauren?”
He continued before she could answer.
“How many more times can Hamlet die here, or the Music Man strut or Willy Loman pack our sorrows into his sample case? How many more times can Indiana Jones slash across an 80-foot screen to burnish our dreams, or Thelma and Louise sail into immortality? Will it live to see the day when an Ironton High School sophomore will suck the oxygen out of the place with her kneeling rendition of Maria on the playground spilling her love and anger over the concrete, or a bu
He spun and stood, his back to Lauren.
“Will Romeo reach again to Juliet?” as he reached to the stage galleries. “Will Hamilton, Jefferson and Washington be here to dream of a great nation, or ageless bluesman with a guitar and beer bottle slide peel back the dust of time” as he air-guitared the moment. “Or a Christmas pageant that has Santa and Jesus Christ step-dancing to Bill Monroe. Will a comic leave them rolling in the aisles before some nine-year-old who mashed Mozart has the audience wash away her tears with a wave of applause? Or is it the fading light of a strip tease that leaves the audience wondering if the dress actually came off before the spot light faded?” He stepped to the center stage and spread his hands. “Or will this just be the place in its last act that a 14-year-old kid with paint cans tried to tell us the story of her troubled, hunted friends, begging us to end the pain? Or worse, is it the closing act of a broken down cop, tripping over his own heartache and frailties who could not help her?” “Nagler’s Secret: ‘These kids are like water, Frank’” ‹ Michael Stephen Daigle — WordPress
“Frank.” Lauren’s sharp voice shattered the silence.
“Isn’t that what we ask ourselves every day in this city, this godforsaken city? What else can go wrong? You ask yourself that every day as cop. But what do we do?”
She paced the orchestra pit. “Something. We do … something. I told you about my first day as acting mayor, sitting in Ollivar’s chair pinned under the weight of all he had done, grieving for his death and just so pissed that for once in his slimy life he couldn’t have done the right thing before it was too late. Was that too much to ask?”
Frank exited the stage, crossed to Lauren and offered her an embrace. “I remember that,” he said. “I …”
She stepped back and spun way, holding out one arm.
“You know what I did that day? This is the part I didn’t tell you. After begging state officials for funding, firing of the last of the Dragony sympathizers who were carrying matches ready to ignite it all again, and getting hung up on by corporate types who were so fucking full of their know-it-all bullshit and could not be bothered to invest here even at the steepest damn discount they were ever going to be offered, I hung up the phone, crossed to the window and after smacking the glass a few times, I noticed the flowers in the parking lot planters were badly limp. I couldn’t call public works because I had fired most of them. You know what I did, Frank, that first day, the day I was supposed to begin saving Ironton? Turns out some smart person years ago built a metal cabinet on the side of the building with a faucet and for a hose just to water the plants in the parking lot. I couldn’t fix anything else that day, so I watered the flowers.”
She crossed to him and touched his face.
“Watered the flowers. So, no more tragedy, no more drama, Frank Nagler. If Maria Ramirez was here, she’d pat your cheek twice and tell you to suck it up.” She kissed him. “But first shave, then suck it up.” “Right,” he said.
Before he could say more, the side door was yanked open and a bleeding Destiny Wonder stumbled in.