Rusty metal bridge stood ‘tween me and what lay over yonder. This side looked an awful lot like the other, jest I was ON this side, not the other. The same long wide grasses on the small river bluff, the same sticky stringy muck grabbin’ onto the cattails along the slipp’ry red clay bank, down to the water’s edge. The same evenin’ sun shined shadowy amongst the oaks and lindens and beeches and sweet gums, tossin’ paisley prints across the moss. Same white sparkly gravel approach to the grayed and weathered wooden planks, houndstooth patterned nearly all the way across, nailheads made shiny and smooth by traffic, motored and otherwise, since Grandpap was a pup. Hear him tell it, he pounded in a few of them nails his ownself before gettin’ on down to the mill.
Lettin’ the last few warm rays dust my cheek, I hazarded a long slow breath. Cleaned me out somehow, ever time. The stillness was full, like a sticky sweet puddin’. Not even a whistle of a birdsong to poke a hole. Ever’thing purt’ near stopped, and this one moment was all just for me. I liked it that way. I live in some purty tight quarters. Brothers and sisters and cousins and cousins of cousins a’poppin’ outta nearly ever door and window and chink in the rotted walls.
Contemplatin’ the familiar ol’ bridge spannin’ the Little Red, it had held up sturdy and strong, servin’ its purpose since long before my time. Weren’t no reason it wouldn’t continue to do the same. Never did have a name, though, it was just the bridge from here to there. Then there to here. Most folks didn’t pay it no mind, unless a worn out hole opened a view to the speedin’ little river below. Then folks squawked and pointed and howled ’til the county truck rumbled down the little lane hauling them itinerant workmen and more nails and boards. Never did see the same fellers more’n once.
Seemed a little sad, somehow, folks didn’t care enough to recognize just how valuable and important that little bridge was. Seemed arrogant, somehow, like the two sides was just deservin’ of passage.
Now if it was left up to me, I’d of had a grand ol’ party, balloons and an offset marchin’ band. (Ever’body knew marchin’ in step ‘cross a bridge would bring her down in a ragged, jagged heap!). I’d a’bestowed on her a name like what some powerful mayor or town councilman might have. A president’s moniker, even. Something like “The Randolph P. Scott Memorial Bridge.” Or how ’bout, “The Montgomery Chase Concourse.”
I just might go hogwild and make it a her, like them hurricanes out to the ocean. She might be “The Alexandra Bing Bodsworth Byway.”
I am a wild one, ain’t I?
Funny when I can make my ownself chuckle. Funny times two. Funny squared. Seems like a grand way to get along in this world, findin’ a laugh for myself when I need one, or a smile when they ain’t another’n to be found. Seems the less I rely on others to do for me, and others doin’ the same, the better off all of us’d be. I’ll just save them gifts from friends and family for the things I cain’t or won’t do myself. Like shoein’ Grandpap’s roan Ol’ Willie. Or skinnin’ a rabbit.
Now, don’t be thinkin’ just because I contemplate the unusual and unthought ever so often I’m adled. I ain’t dim. Truth be told, if I do say so myself, my own folks and teachers and not just those who love me like their own, and me, all of us recognize I fall pretty soundly on the bright side of the line. I KNOW this big ol’ world don’t stop spinnin’ ’round. I KNOW allowin’ a chunk of daylight for my head to run its own way don’t change much at all. ‘Cept maybe me. But right here, this slice right now, this was just for me. And frankly, I don’t give a rip snort what may be a’passin’ me by! I allow myself to fill right up to my brim, breathin’ in and loud through my nose. More senses engaged that way.
And so, here was the bridge, coverin’ the gap ‘twixt this side and that.
Then, whomp! If an idea was a meteroite from outer space, I’d be squashed flat! Even the thinkin’ felt like a rap right upside the head!
Durned if I ain’t the “Alexandra Bing Bodsworth Byway” my ownself! Ain’t I just? Amongst all them family members and hangers on and passers by, wudn’t I just the one who spanned the gully and brung them all together?
And didn’t none of them pay me no mind, most days?
Well, now that was just too self-piteous a musing for my concern right now. I’d save ponderin’ that for another day. Heavy laden contemplation and consideration was for mullyin’ durin’ bright daylight, not for when the sun was so low in the sky.
Besides,my heart and most my insides was fillin’ up with anticipation, near burstin’ with a newfound idea. Nearly jumping, I always got this when something new painted itself ‘cross my brain. Never knew where it’d land me! I was on a roll now!
Take big sister, Luce, all prickliness and splinters and hateful attitude, like to be readin’ herself to blindness near ever’ night under the covers. Her meanness was due to them big feet. I know it is. I tol’ her over and over not to pay them no mind. Just made her pricklier, somehow. Still, she’d shared a secret now and then, and listened to my advice once or twice. She’d hang close during Sunday School, even though she was the elder, so’s not to be left alone during the fellowship circle.
Then there’s the twins, they was goodness and light and perfection. Speakin’ and squealin’ in their special twin talk. Happy and exuberatin’ most days and plump enough for squeezin’, at two and one half years, they was still babies and happier for it. Mama couldn’t have no more children, I’d heard whispers, so I know she lived for their baby ways, keepin’ em young as she could as long as she could. And they was joyful beyond compare, and, truthful, they’d allow most ever’one a big ol’ hug. Was just the light inside, no doubt. But me, I got them special long squeezes. They’d not a care in the world, and I’d vowed I’d care enough for them both, and for Mama.
‘Course Liam, he was nearin’ young manhood, all responsibility and justice and googly eyes over Alice Jonelle down the road a way. Still, my youngest big brother, he was just a little too serious for his own good, rallyin’ to the side of the downtrodden and weak. It was useful havin’ him around time of trouble, but I often tol’ him he needed to go his own way once in while, step out and away. He’d look at me sideways, but I can tell when he’s a’listen’. And sometimes, he was.
Them two biggest of the big brothers, though, like to give me a heart attack most days, why just yesterday….!
Lord, I was for it now, Daddy or Grandpap, or even worse, Mama, was a poundin’ on the worsh tub out to the back porch. A warnin’ sign it was gettin’ late and ever child within’ hearin’ distance best be fixin’ to gettin’ to haulin’!
Bein’ I was near the fastest runner amongst the kids, I reckoned just a couple more minutes wouldn’t hurt none, truth be told, they was needed to ease myself into gettin’ after it.
Lacing my fingers behind my back, I stretched big and long, finishin’ off with a shiver-ette and a stomp. Jest a thing marking the end of one minute and the commencement of a new one.
One foot in front of the other, I hoped momentum would overtake me and leavin’ my revery would be just a matter of movin’ along. Rocks and sticks crunched under my leather buckled shoes, one size too small. I’d took care o’ that right after limpin’ home from school, usin’ my birthday pocketknife and Mama’s can opener.
I’ll deny that and flat face lie, if anyone was to ask, just so you know.
Anyhow, it’s settled back in its place in the skinny space right of the junk drawer, carefully laid just so, exact position from which it was purloined. Mama’d throw a fit. Proof I’d succeeded in my endeavor would come lunch time tomorrow when Mama’d be opening up a can of pork’n beans for Grandpap, his favorite. I’ll admit to a faint current in my belly. Time’d tell.
Dawdlin’ a pinch more, I skipped a stone or two across the darkening water. One right good, six, seven skips. Wish you coulda seen it. One sank right quick. Glad you didn’t.
Time to go. Home lay over there on the other side. Unworshed bedclothes and a unswept porch was waitin’ and I ‘spect losin’ patience.
Turns out my feet was takin’ me home. And that was fine, too.