I wrote this short story for a Creative Writing class at George Mason. The images are from a covered bridge close to Frederick, Maryland. The story continues after the second image.
Just one more bridge. That’s all, I told myself. Just one more bridge. I smiled as my mind filled with bridge clichés and Hallmark Coming Home movies and Prodigal Son stories but none of them is what I’m feeling now. My smile quickly faded. I’ve been sitting on this rock in the ditch looking at that bridge for an hour. Looking at it, hoping for a sign or any indication of comfort or familiarity. I mean, for crying out loud, the bridge should know me! For 18 years I’d been carried over, walked on, or driven over that rickety pile of boards and nails. I hid underneath the damn thing to escape the rain or the enraged football rivals from just over the county line. I remember thundering tires, creaking beams, swirling dust, and dripping mud. But all mine! This was my bridge. The gateway to my childhood home.
Becky and I would sneak out of high school every chance we got and then head for my bridge. Once away from the school we walked slowly, held hands, and picked daisies. When we were riverside, we made a wish, threw the blossoms into the water, and watched them swirl away. We imagined doing that same thing with our lives, swirling away and finding a new place together. One day we did swirl away. Just not together.
River under the bridgeUnder the bridge selected to accompany the fictional short story Dad would take me fishing under the bridge. He liked the bridge’s shade and told me the fish liked shade too. I doubted they did; I think in the ten years we fished under the bridge, we caught only five fish! I’d get quite frustrated about the lack of action and want to head somewhere else. He’d always say, “No, let’s give it a little more time,” and then he’d start to talk with me again. Even on the hottest summer day, it was always comfortable under my bridge. I asked him once why we didn’t fish at sunrise or sunset when it was cooler and a better hour to catch fish. He answered with a smile, “We aren’t here for the fish.”
My mom taught me to drive in a 1957 Rambler station wagon with a three speed stick on the column, a very, very manual transmission. I didn’t know then and I don’t know now, how the magic of car mechanics happens but I do know this Rambler did not have power steering. I was only 14 and barely able to reach the pedals. Turning the beast while changing gears and accelerating or decelerating was a challenge. Of course, right over on the home side of the bridge the road curved sharply, way sharply; you had to slow, change gears, turn, straighten, accelerate, change gears, turn, slow, accelerate, and then NOT hit the bridge! I’m willing to bet the marks from my first three Rambler bridge crossings are still visible.
Even the Hallmark Channel admits you can’t go home again. I haven’t been back here in decades. I left in a huff...angry, hateful words stinging and sticking between us. I hadn’t seen him since that night’s fierce battle and I’m now realizing I never will. I just missed him, only one day late. Time to head over the bridge. Well, maybe there’s a little time for fishing.