Note from Ray: I entered a flash fiction contest the other day. The guidelines said that the story had to be 500 words or less and that it had to have a bridge in it. I found out about the contest a couple of days before it ended, and quick pulled a couple of stories out of my ass. They aren’t great, but I didn’t think they were all too terrible, either. They weren’t good enough to win, apparently. And although there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t have won anyway, I feel like I should mention that this is the contest where I submitted my stories and then found out that the judge writes children’s books for a living. Anyway, here’s one of them:
Her house was two miles away from mine, which is pretty close for a neighbor, when you live in the country. The bridge was halfway between my house and hers, and we used to meet there to begin our adventures.
Five, six, seven years old, I don’t remember when our parents first let us play together unescorted. We always met at the bridge. We had homes, but the bridge was our home base. We had a fort built underneath, just up the hill from the stream, hidden unless someone was really looking for it. As far as I know, no one ever found it.
Almost all of my childhood memories begin and end at the bridge.
When we were children, we pretended to be criminal masterminds, or monster hunters, or explorers. We chased down the bad guys, we saved the world, we solved mysteries.
As we grew, our agendas changed. As we grew, we began to explore each other instead of the miles of familiar land surrounding us. We began to focus on the mysteries of our bodies more than the ones in our imaginations.
Our first kiss was under the bridge.
Junior High, our kisses matured with us. We met up to study, and although our parents must have known that we did more than study, they never intervened. We met under the bridge, and taught each other what we knew.
High school, and although there were dozens of other places to meet, we still found ourselves under the bridge on more nights than not, sprawled on the grass beside the stream, unraveling the secrets of the world.
We spoke of goals and dreams, we gave each other strength and we gave each other love.
When we graduated, she went to college, I stayed home. In the beginning, we met each weekend, always under the bridge. Then, every other weekend. That summer, she didn’t come home as she had planned—she had a job, she said, and couldn’t just take the summer off. Commuting sixty miles wasn’t feasible.
And then I went to surprise her, and another man opened the door. She was too flustered to explain as I walked back to my truck, but the look of guilt explained enough. I drove home, teary-eyed and broken-hearted, confused by a pain so deep. The darkness of the back-roads and the torrents of rain made it a slow drive, so I didn’t arrive back home until well after my folks had gone to sleep.
The bridge burned that night. Most people thought it had been struck by lightening during the storm.
Sometimes I wonder what she suspected.