by Ruth Draves
What happens when you're not paying attention.
“I don't like the sound of that,” I said as I lowered the handbell from my shoulder to the foam-covered table. The bell had not rung with its usual clear tone. Instead, I felt an unwelcome buzz course up my arm as I rang it. The bell sounded dead, as if someone had dipped it in quick-drying concrete.
John lowered his bells. “Ring it again,” he said. With my gloved hand, I picked it up, letting the weight of the casting settle against my index finger and thumb. I focused on the movement of the bell in my hand as I swung.
“You're right,” John said, moving around the table. “”I don't like the sound of that, either.”
I handed the damaged bell to John. As he looked down into the mouth of casting, I began to mentally tally the cost of repairs. A broken clapper assembly? About $80. Cracked handle block? Probably cheaper, but not likely. No, the most likely source behind that buzz was the one problem all bell ringers dread the most. The mere suggestion that anyone would be so careless as to crack a casting is considered an insult among ringers. And the bill of over $300 for the replacement does nothing to soften the blow.
I watched as John rang the bell again and again, producing a weird solo of buzzes, clunks, and dings. We both listened for that tell-tale break in the overtone series that meant a crack in the thin metal wall of the bronze.
John looked once more into the casting, sighed, and pulled something out of the bell. “Seriously, next time keep the jewelry to a minimum, O vain one,” he said as he handed me my hoop earring that had fallen in the bell.