Excerpt from Cool Nation

This is the third section from the fourth chapter. All other excerpts are on the sidebar, lower right.

Lives Forming

Midnight was a game that we only played in the summer, that we never played until after dark, and then played it only in the D’Agostino’s yard, since theirs was one of the few unfenced. A whole group of us Durrands, Schultzes, Drummonds would gather on the front drive and yell out the o’clocks from one to twelve, always shouting midnight at the end. Then in a scared pack we’d run off into the backyard, where Jamie D’Agostino lay in wait.
At sixteen Jamie was already larger than most men would ever be, and stronger than most. I often used to ride his shoulders across the deep end of the Indian Heights pool, he taking one great breath and walking the length of the swim lanes while I rode atop. He was huge and powerful and capable of great harm, if harm had been in him. It was not. Jamie was as docile as a collie pup. He was also slowly going blind. But he never complained of it, and anyway he knew his own backyard in his growing darkness better than we knew ours in light.
As we began to circle through the yard he would eventually leap out from the forsythia or spirea or from behind a walnut tree, and block our passage, then huge as Frankenstein descend on us to tag out whomever he chose, until finally, after succeeding rounds, he had tagged us all. He never tagged Keith Drummond though. Keith was a halfback on the junior high team, and would fly through the yard dodging trees and kids and Jamie until winding up safely on the front drive again.
One night though he forgot about the concrete bird bath, or maybe in the darkness didn�t see it, or maybe he was already getting high by then. Anyway he slammed into it at full run, we heard his screams, and the game stopped.
The bird bath weighed close to a hundred pounds, and he had hit it at his waist, knocking it over, the big basin falling on his legs. He lay there twisting and whimpering, and Jamie bent over him, and we watched in the darkness as he carried Keith through the backyards, across the creek, and up the hill to the Drummond house.
It was like that scene out of To Kill A Mockingbird, when Boo carried Jem all that long distance down the street to the Finch house, and safety inside. Or this at least was the scene I envisioned, having seen the movie for the first time that year, my mother proud that such a movie had finally been made, my father surprised, my brothers, sisters and I engrossed.
The day after the accident Jamie moved the birdbath up close to the house, and the next week the game resumed, but Keith wasn�t able to play for the rest of summer; it took that long for the fracture to heal.
No lawsuits were ever filed. No one was ever blamed. No lawyers were brought in to protect us from ourselves. It was life, and as long as no one was maimed or killed, we were allowed to pursue it for all we were worth.
In the game of Midnight Jamie D�Agostino was our protector, and in our own way we each needed him, we each loved him. The only thing I regret is that none of us ever told him, but of course as kids we couldn�t.

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