Tambourine Moon

Story Time

November 14, 2001|By Joy Jones

* Editor's note: On a starless night, music shines the way to safety.

Granddaddy and I are walking at night. The city streets are dark. The shadows of the parked cars are as huge as giants, as gray as rats and twice as creepy. The houses all have mean expressions on their faces. I keep hoping we'll get home soon, but Granddaddy stops to look at the moon.

"Y'know, when I look at the moon, Noni, it makes me think of down home," says Granddaddy. "That's an Alabama moon -- round and deep and low in the trees. Down home, people love to look at the moon and stare at the stars. They say the moon works the night shift so that the sun can get some rest."

There's a car coming up the street we're walking along. The headlights look like two miniature moons riding on the front of the car.

"I guess the moon is like a headlight in the sky," I say to Granddaddy.

"Yes, I guess you could say that. 'Cause when there's no light in the sky it's a mighty dark and scary night."

"Scarier than a night in the city?" I ask.

"It's a different kind of scary, a lonesome kind of scary. Here in the city there's always a home or a store nearby. But out in Alabama country, there's nothing around but tall grass, trees and red dirt."

I try to picture the city with nothing but forests, fields and spaces -- no buildings, cars or telephone poles.

"Ooh -- look at the stars!" I say.

We stop to count the stars. I see them blink and twinkle like tiny silver earrings.

"Once I was walking home on a night with no stars for light and no breeze for company. Somehow I had gotten turned around and I found myself lost. It took me a while to realize it, but it turned out that the piece of road I was on led by the Baptist church.

"Now, Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church was having a choir rehearsal. The Star Fire Choir, they called themselves. Practiced every Wednesday night, but it didn't do them no good. They were known as one no-singing choir. Even barking dogs sounded better.

"Anyways, I could hear them singing, off-key as usual, sounding like rocks hitting a rusty can. Then the group stopped and out rang one lone voice, doing a solo.

"Ah, that voice was mighty beautiful! Low and deep, and full, just like a brook in the Alabama woods. It rippled over the trees, floated through the branches and made that empty night sparkle. Right then and there I knew I had to see the lady with that mellow night-magic voice. Pretty soon, choir practice lets out and everyone comes outside and right away I knew which woman was the one."

"How could you tell?" I ask Granddaddy.

"When she came out the church door she had this big yellow tambourine in her lovely brown hands. You know who that woman was?"

"No, who?"

"That was my Ismay." Ismay is Grandma.

"Did you all get married right then?"

"Oh no, we still had to get to know each other," says Granddaddy. "The first thing I did was walk her home. I carried her hymnbook and big yellow tambourine. We laughed and talked and had a good ol' time. We even sang songs together -- Ismay with her pretty voice, me with my voice like a rusty nail. I patted the tambourine to keep rhythm. But then it came time for me to leave her and head back to my place alone.

"With Ismay gone and the night even darker I was feeling more afraid than before. I had gotten about halfway home," says Granddaddy, "when I realized that I still had Ismay's tambourine.

"I started singing and patting the tambourine, thinking maybe it would keep me from feeling so scared. But my voice was shaking and, of course, that made the tambourine rattle.

"The tambourine shook so hard, my whole arm shook with it. Instead of me shaking the tambourine, the tambourine was shaking me. Then all of a sudden, the tambourine jumped right out of my hand! It shot itself up higher, higher, higher till it settled in the sky. That big, yellow tambourine just hung there, glowing and pouring light all over the night like butter running down the sides of a hot biscuit.

"Well, once that tambourine lit up the night, I didn't have to be scared of the dark. The light guided my path and I walked home singing and thinking of Ismay."

Excerpted from the book TAMBOURINE MOON. Copyright (c) 1999 by Joy Jones, illustrations copyright (c) 1999 by Terry Widener. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. All rights reserved.

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