[Part III, chapter 4 excerpt from Buzz,
a short novel published in 2012]
"Night of the Bright Moon"
Summer days hinged on the appearance of the ice cream man.
Whatever game we were playing when we heard the first faint far-off
of his bell many blocks away was dropped as we ran home to beg
for a Space Shot or Circus Bar, the treats of choice because they
left you with
pieces of plastic to play with afterwards. Collect 'em all.
Who was this ice cream man? My grandmother didn't trust him. I'd
find her in
the kitchen pounding meat with a wood mallet. She'd only grudgingly
loose change from her purse and exhorted us to get a receipt. "Get
writing!" was almost all the English she knew. That and "Don't trust
One day there was no truck.
When it grew dusky and the street lights came on automatically we
went to our
stoops and waited sullenly, counting and recounting our money,
losing it by
My sister dealt with her disappointment by trying to make me
me that the ice cream man wouldn't come until I went to bed, and if
I gave her
my money she'd buy me something. I wasn't fooled.
The moon came up over the housetops a brilliant red.
As it rose it grew pink and then a shining white, brighter than
anyone in the
neighborhood had remembered seeing it--not even Upstate where there
places night sat fat and impenetrable, undiluted by streetlights.
The moon erased the few stars we could see. Families moved off their
and into the middle of the street to get out from the moonshade of
One of the photosensitive streetlights winked off. At first we
thought it had
burned out, but as the moon rose higher, growing brighter, more
off in the false dawn. Every time one did we cheered.
Drinks were passed among the adults. No one went in to watch TV.
We kids ran from house to house turning off all the lights, well
by now, beneficiaries of an unspoken bedtime amnesty.
All the doors were unlocked and we ran through houses of friends and
strangers alike, up and down stairs, into kitchens and bedrooms and
bathrooms, turning off all the lights. No one said stop.
For once in their lives the adults trusted us, a roving pack of
for moonlight, and nothing got broken, everything turned out fine.
Someone claimed they saw the moon smiling.
We stopped playing and the adults stood in a semicircle beneath the
shining streetlight, swirling reflected moons in their glasses. The
moon was at
its zenith, glowing brighter than anyone remembered.
Everyone was anxious, afraid the moment would pass and the
would start coming on without ever having attained the perfection of
out street washed in silver.
No one noticed Jerry had slipped away until he returned carrying a
flashlight he'd assembled himself, all bulb and battery bound by
He trained its beam on the streetlamp's sensor.
The moon seemed to burn with its own light.
We held our breaths.
Jerry told the kids they'd have to blow it out like a birthday
candle. Even my
sister blew. I could see some of the adults discreetly puffing. The
off and nobody spoke until the last of the orange glow died in the
“You really are an engineer!” one jocular neighbor enthused.
A cheer, a toast to Jerry who kept the light at bay until
shrouded the moon in a luminous blanket and the yellow streetlights
back to life.
Since then the streetlights have proliferated, replacing trees in
lovers and thieves used to commit their crimes.
So many now the pools of light overlap so that walking under them at
you cast two shadows, one ahead and one behind.