The Bridge

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I’d like to share another flash fiction entry inspired by JD Mader and the writing cabal at his blog, Unemployed Imagination, where he generously opens up his comment stream on Fridays for 2-Minutes-Go. (And, if you’d prefer, here’s the audio version of the story.)

—–

She knew where he’d be waiting. On the left bank of the creek, just over the wooden footbridge, a small hollow flanked by two old, bent trees. She checked behind her. No one had followed. Her shoulders tightened, nearly bracing the straps of her heavy backpack of their own accord, and her breath was labored, rough as adrenaline spiked through her, as it chattered down her arms and curled her small hands into fists. Again she saw the storm building in her mother’s eyes, felt the crack of the palm across her cheek. Another note from school. Another reminder that she wasn’t like her brother, would never be like her brother, that pious freak, yes ma’am, no ma’am. She could not sit still in a succession of dull as death classrooms and listen to her droning teachers tell her things she’d learned on her own years ago.

But her father understood.

He would take her away from this.

Her sneakers squished in the damp grass, the patches of mud, as she dodged and wove the familiar ground, the same rocks, the same tree roots. The creek ran high with the recent rains; she heard it before she saw it, and she followed the sound toward the old bridge. Here, she worried. The rushing water could cover anyone’s approach. The social workers. The police. But so far, nothing but grass and pale-pink sunset clouds and trees whipped by the wind. She knew where he’d be waiting. But something ahead didn’t look right. The bridge lay splintered, half in and half out of the swollen creek. No way to cross. No way to get to where he waited. With her new chance, her new name, her new life. Something flashed ahead—a whisper of movement or maybe the wind. A light clicked on. Clicked off.

She chanced the question. “How do I get across?”

“Wait there,” he said. “I’ll come to you.”

He appeared from behind a tree like a vision. Like a holy mother vision from one of her brother’s Bibles. Even in the dimming sun she could see his smile. The promise in it. The promise of far, far away, which felt like the only safety she could imagine. Hands out for balance, he stepped foot by foot down the bank. She gasped as his left leg crumpled, as he slid to the water.

“Dad!” She skittered toward him, barely catching herself in time to avoid his fate. Then, breath held, she stared. Legs weren’t supposed to bend like that. Blood ribboned out into the water. When she followed it back to the tree branch sticking out of his arm, she nearly vomited.

“Go.” His voice was a weak rasp wheezing from his throat. A faint, rhythmic whine broke through the rush of the water. Sirens. “Shit. Your mother must have—left pocket. Take my keys.”

To reach him she’d have to swim for it. And after that— “I don’t know how to drive!”

He drew in a shallow, shuddery breath. “Time to learn.”

Two-Minutes-Go Road Trip

writerWhile JD is wading some mountain stream in search of Moby-Trout, or at least that’s what he told me to say when the FBI come by asking questions about him, he’s entrusted our Friday flash fiction fandango to me. No Black Friday crowds here. Just a place to share some words.

Or, in a passage I stole from his website:

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON’T IDENTIFY AS ‘WRITERS’ – all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom!

Write whatever you want in the ‘comments’ section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds … no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send ’em here to read your ‘two’ and encourage them to play. 

Here’s one to start us off:

The air cooled a few degrees, and that’s when I knew she’d arrived. So I snuck up the back stairs, and at a safe remove on the balcony, I readied myself to eyeball the intruder. Rumors had been flying about her—her beauty, her feline grace and charm that belied a volcanic temper. But before any polite introductions could be made, before we could circle each other and stake our claims, I had to see for myself. Evaluate the potential trouble.

And she looked like trouble. Green eyes widening, she flattered the hosts while scoping out the room, hunting her next mark. I knew that game. My muscles went on alert, a ripple of tension beneath my skin, tiny hairs standing on end like tiny field agents reporting to command. No. Boundaries must be set. There could be no room for misinterpretation, here. This was my turf. I’d been deftly ingratiating myself to these people for years. I had them just where I needed them, each step of the plan clicking neatly into position, and I could not allow some slick interloper to get between me and what I deserved.

They were calling for me. I set my expression. Welcoming, but cool. Calm, but alert. One that spelled delighted to meet you, my dear, but no need to make yourself comfortable, because I’m sure you won’t be staying long enough to even learn what kind of soaps are in the powder room.

Ready, finally, because I would not be rushed, I sashayed down the stairs. And on the second from the bottom, I froze. She had her nose in my food dish. In. My. Food. Dish. The hairs on my back shot to attention. I did not care a whit how lovely she was. This meant war.

What Would MacGuyver Do?

MacGyverHappy Sunday! (Or Monday, depending on where you live.) Just wanted to share something I wrote for JD Mader’s flash fiction line dancing and Karaoke party on Friday. And also in celebration of “MacGuyver” being added to the Oxford online dictionary. Which I always thought should have been a word.

——

All you wanted was coffee. You’d run out and didn’t trust yourself to make the forty-minute drive to the nearest diner uncaffeinated, so you’d knocked on the door of the nice neighbor ladies, who’d been so accommodating in the past with their home-baked goods and offers to take in mail.

Two hours later, you’re diagnosing the wiring of a light switch, and all you remember from high school shop classes is that you need to turn off the power first. But you’re supposed to know things, know how to fix things, being a single man living a single life in a single-family house, and staring into the naked wires with the fretful, dough-soft face of one of those nice ladies hovering over your shoulder, you cringe at your inadequacy.

“Am I bothering you?” she says, hands twisting a dishcloth.

Yes. Yes, she is. She’s reminding you that your XY chromosome is a pathetic little sucker, a setup for failure, a condemnation of the Madison Avenue images your cohort was raised to emulate: the Marlboro Man, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and MacGuyver. Damn you, MacGuyver, with your chewing gum and rubber bands, making us all look bad.

“No, Daphne, you’re not bothering me at all.” The flat blade skips free of the stripped screw head and digs into the meat of your opposite thumb.

“I’ll get you a bandage,” she sighs, trying for a reassuring smile. “And some banana bread? Would you like that, Frank?”

Like you’re her nephew. But the words are soft and powdered and soothe your nerves.

“Yeah. Thanks.” And the moment she’s gone, you take a deep breath, search the web for repair tips, then reposition the screwdriver, asking yourself what MacGuyver might do when he’s at home. Probably call an electrician.