The Bridge

Today was Tuesday. Tomorrow’s Tuesday, too. We heard the news Tuesday night, in between Aretha Franklin and The Association. Daddy was behind the wheel of the Sausage Truck, so named because of its color. Vince called it the shit-truck once and Daddy made him clean out the whole laundry room for it and believe me that is not a job you want because Fat Cat lives in there and if Vince was looking for shit, that was a good place to find it.

Anyhow, I was on the other side of the bench seat carefully balanced one of Mrs. Hanover’s lemon meringue pies on my bare knees and singing along to the radio when I knew the words. The sky was that blue, blue, blue that you get at deep twilight when it’s just before night. Firefly time. After Aretha finished up, the DJ — Sixties McKay, he was called — the DJ said, “Now I’ve just had a bit of news come over my desk, folks. Tomorrow’s going to be a re-do, they say. That’s right, I’ve got it from the AP that tomorrow’s going to be Tuesday again.”

I looked at the side of Daddy’s head and waiting for him to say such a thing wasn’t possible. But he didn’t look away from the road. A firefly smacked against the windshield and left a bright green spot that slowly faded. Daddy said, “Dial up your mama, Trouble.”

I don’t think my name is properly Trouble. At least I don’t think I was Trouble from the very beginning. But Mama loses paperwork all the time, so my birth certificate is somewhere in the stomach of the house, and everybody’s been calling me Trouble so long I reckon they’ve forgotten my real name. It’s a little unfair, I think, actually, because I’m not that much trouble. It’s Vince who’s always having to clean the laundry room or stack firewood or change spark plugs for some transgression. Maybe I’ll name myself again when I’m 18. Rebecca or Samantha or something that would look better on the top of my locker at school.

“I really don’t feel like re-doing the goddam day when I did everything right the first time,” Daddy said to Mama. He was holding the phone several inches from his head (this is because of them giving you brain tumors). “So I guess tomorrow I’ll be splitting all that wood again, because the universe decides some damn fool out there hasn’t done it right.”
   
Because of the way Daddy was holding the phone, I could hear Mama’s voice quite clearly. “Well,” she said, “I’m not going to finish the laundry then. If I’m going to do it all again. In fact, I think I’ll read my new Ellora book. It’ll save me some time tomorrow.”
   
“That’s the damnedest thing I ever heard,” Daddy declared.

“Did you bring me a pie?” Mama asked. Daddy affirmed. “Did you bring one for Fazi?”

“Fazi can buy his own damn pies,” Daddy said. Fazi is our next door neighbor. Mostly he drinks, but sometimes he also drives a semi-truck which he parks in his front yard when he’s not driving it. Daddy says Fazi does this in order to make sure that our property value is so low that we will never be able to sell our house and move away, because he’s a useless bachelor.

“You can get him one tomorrow,” Mama said.

“Or he can get one himself,” Daddy replied. Then he had to shift gears, and got annoyed with holding the phone at the same time, so he said, “We’ll be home in a little bit. We’re ten minutes from the bridge.”

He grumbled for a little bit then, as we drove. I used to be alarmed by Daddy’s grumbling, because it sounds quite terrifying. He grinds his teeth and cracks his knuckles, and sometimes he swears, and he’ll mumble softly to himself while looking out the window. Mama says it’s just the sound he makes while he gets used to the idea of something. She says most people make that noise anyway, just inside their head, and Daddy takes less time to get a grip, because he says it out loud.

Sure enough, Daddy only grumbled for a few minutes, and then he pulled over on the soft shoulder of the road. The headlights stared into nothing.

“Why are we stopping?” I asked. I was tired of balancing the pie so that the meringue didn’t get smushed by the saran-wrap and I wanted to be home.

Daddy opened his door. “Come on, Trouble. Watch the ditch. Bring the pie.”

I raised my eyebrows but did as he said. It was getting to be pretty much dark, but Daddy came around the side of the truck and took my hand in his. Together we stumped along the side of the road until we got to the concrete edge of the bridge. The bridge is sort of famous, ever since Mark Cleverly threw himself off it four years ago, only to find out that a fifteen foot drop is not enough to kill you. He didn’t get anything but fish in his pants, Vince told me. Mark sells furniture, now, in town. Cleverly Made is the name of it. I’m not making that up. His logo is the bridge with a Jesus fish underneath it.

Anyway so there Daddy and I were on the bank of the little river below the bridge, and here, it wasn’t dark, because the last of the sun reflected on the shallow water like a mirror. The whole world seemed pink and purple.

“Now, let’s have that pie,” Daddy said.

I was scandalized. “What about Mama!”

“I reckon we’re just going to have to buy that pie again tomorrow,” Daddy said. He grinned, and we were partners in crime. Together, we swiped the meringue with our fingers and then scooped lemon up until our fingernails smelled of it, and when we were too sticky to eat any more, we stopped.

Daddy stood up and looked over the river, silhouetted in the last of the sun. He looked like a king then, my daddy, standing on the edge of the water and surveying it. Then he swiped his hand on the back of his jeans and held out a hand to pull me up. “I figure,” he said, “That today was just about perfect. Hard to imagine we could improve upon it tomorrow, Trouble.”

 I figured he was right in his figuring, but we were going to have to try anyway. I followed him back up to the Sausage Truck and we sat up there for a minute, doing our best with spit and drive-through napkins from the glovebox. Finally Daddy’s hands were clean enough to drive and so he pulled onto the road.

On the other side of the bridge, coming toward us, I saw bright headlights.

“Oh, Fazi, turn off your brights,” Daddy growled. “You’re blinding us.”
   
Sure enough, it was Fazi in his massive blue semi-truck, trundling rapidly over the bridge just as the Sausage Truck started onto it. And Fazi didn’t switch off his brights. I saw now that the semi-truck was weaving, and in our lane. Daddy didn’t have time to grumble because he was smashing on his brakes and trying to swerve out of Fazi’s way. But there was no where to swerve to, because we were on the middle of the bridge where Mark Cleverly tried to kill himself.

The Byrds were singing when Fazi’s blue semi-truck smashed into the left side of the Sausage Truck. It was so loud that there was no sound, and then we were falling, pushed over the side of the bridge. The whole world was pink and purple.

When I opened my eyes, I realized first that I was up to my knees in water, filling up the truck cab. The remainder of the lemon meringue pie was smashed all across the inside of the busted windshield. My daddy, too, was smashed cross the windshield, and I couldn’t look at him. I wrenched the door open and half-swam, half-waded to the shore I’d just been on. My sundress was soaked and the pattern was starting to run.

The world was filled with the singing of crickets and humming of cicadas. It was like there were no cars left anywhere in the world. I swiped my hands clean on my sundress. Climbing back up the bank, I bit my lip to keep it still, and started across the bridge toward home again.

Tomorrow I wouldn’t cry.

_______________________________________________
Author’s Note: An idea I’ve been kicking around for awhile.

image courtesy: theqspeaks

52 thoughts on “The Bridge

  1. Cool idea, having a retake for a day of the week…I wonder why they decided it had to be redone? I really like the exploration of such a unique concept by relating it to Trouble, and leaving the reader with questions regarding what would really happen the next day.

  2. It was such a BIG idea that I realized very early on that it either had to be a very short story or a very long novel.

    Enter Trouble.

    🙂

    I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Oh, I heart your narrator! Well done, Maggie. 😀

    Having just watched Groundhog Day, I have to admit that I pictured Bill Murray as Daddy. (Hey, we all know he’s capable of drama!) Hmmm, sort of gives new meaning to “Don’t drive angry.”

  4. Thank you! That was the part that I was most interested in, even more than the conceit behind the story.

  5. I support the suggestion of Bill Murray as Daddy.

    Also, nice voice, chica. Even if you hadn’t warned me, I’d have seen what you’re doing with Trouble. You’re already awesome at it.

  6. While I echo the above sentiments about Trouble being Scout-like, I actually overall found more of Steinbeck in this which I mean as a HUGE compliment, because Steinbeck is my all-time favorite author (followed closely by Mervyn Peake).

    Anyway, the reason I saw Steinbeck was because of all the amazing little pieces of life woven into the story, so it took me forever to read each line because I kept stopping to say “THAT IS SO TRUE!” or reflect that I’d felt something very similar before.

    I love the Fat Cat, I love the sausage truck, I love that daddy grumbles out loud which means he grumbles less overall, I love that that dude got pants full of fish.

    I think this story really augments my already very positive opinion of your talents because it’s so different from everything else I’ve read about yours. Different in style, vocab, content, everything. You have so many strengths! But of course your sharpie guitar is proof enough of that.

    I was dissapointed by the ending because I thought the story was strong enough to stand without the forced emotion of tragedy, but I can see why you wanted to end it in a startling way. I think maybe I would have liked the ending better if this had been a longer story, and there had been important long-term ramifications of Daddy’s death… like how socially impossible mourning would be in a world in which the day your daddy died never actually went by. Lots of interesting questions to consider… I’m definitely intrigued, and I definitely love Trouble.

    I also love “the stomach of the house.”

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. I too was completely drawn into the story by the little details- the discussion about pie for Fazi, Trouble’s lost name, the music. Great writing.

  8. This story brought three things to mind:
    1.) The song Trouble is a Friend of Mine came to mind when she said what her name was,
    2.) I love pie sans meringue,
    3.) This weekend an acquaintance found her son’s car on the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been found, and there are no do-overs.

    Not yet, anyway. Keep working on it.

  9. This is sort of the best comment ever. Because you got everything out of it that I could possibly hope for (and also because you called me on the ending). I originally was going to have it so that you couldn’t actually see a major affect on her life at all from having this repeated day, to emphasize how mundane magic could be if it was not for you, but in the end . . . I went for blood, because heh, blood. I also think I could’ve done this much much longer.

    So thank you.

  10. 1) I was listening to “Hey Trouble” and I just heard her voice pop into my head.
    2) I actually despise both meringue and lemon. I do like crust.
    3) Sigh. I’m really sorry.

  11. Just curious: is the day literally going to start over, a la Tru Calling? Or is everyone simply going to pretend it never happened, with nobody being held accountable for what they did, good or bad?

    Other than that, great story! I love the voice and all the little details slipped in. I especially like the part about the “sausage truck.” A friend named my mom’s car in a similar way years ago, and even now we all still call it the “candy-cane car.” XD

  12. Definitely literally starts over, or this story is a helluva lot different than I imagined. 😉

    And yeah, growing up, we had the Pickle Truck. Which come to think of it was not the color of a pickle. Huh.

  13. Wow, I missed the first part of the the story, and had to read it twice to get it. *headdesk* Lovely, lovely story! And the final line sells it marvellously!

  14. Man. I hope the do-over is like the movie Ground Hog Day, so Dad’s not actually smooshed all over the windshield.

    Good work, Maggie.

  15. *grin* Yeah, I can see how missing the first line would make things completely nonsensical! 🙂 Thank you so much!

  16. I agree, you pulled off Trouble’s voice really well. A few years ago I saw Terry Gilliam’s film Tideland, and I was really impressed with the way the story was told, visually, very much from the POV of the little girl protagonist. But when I read the book, which was in the first person, the voice was very adult, and past tense, and it took away the tension of whether or not this little girl would make it out of this crazy situation.

    Trouble’s voice, on the other hand, seems both authentic but also completely readable. I love the ambiguity of the ending, but I wouldn’t mind finding out more about her story.

  17. Thank you. 🙂 I think it’s a fine line in fiction to write a character who is adult enough to make the narrative intriguing/ complicated and yet youthful enough to seem realistic. I think we almost always err on the slightly precocious side, but heh, I was one of those growing up, so at least I know what it looks like!

  18. Oh, I feel for the author, he didn’t even try to make Jeliza-Rose sound young. She was clearly an adult looking back on something that had happened a long time ago. It just made it a different story than the one Gilliam chose to film, which wasn’t unexpected. I just found the movie’s story, the immediacy of it, very intriguing.

    Which is not unlike what I like about Trouble as a narrator. You could totally write a whole book about her, and you’d have my attention the whole way. 🙂

  19. i haven’t been reading Merry Fates for that long and was ecstatic when i commented on a couple of the story’s and you guys commented back! even if its a simple thank you its still one of my favorite authors responding!
    so, i loved it! it makes you really think and wonder about the story. it would be so strange being this little girl, would she wake up in the morning remembering that her father died but knowing he’s still alive now? or would they not remember anything from the day before?? crazy crazy story! i love it 😀

  20. Ouch. The perfection of a perfectly normal day, with all its little details and moments of camaraderie and unspoken love, mourned before it ended because it was just that good…and then the ending. Truly horrific, that, not the least because they obviously tried to change the way it had ended the day before and the father gave voice to hope that it was someone else’s bad fortune that required the do-over.

    Needless to say, I loved this.

  21. I loved the story…
    First, I read it, and I missed the bit with the re-do, and while reading, I kept going ‘What?’ because, without the beginning, very little would make sense… And then I re-read it, trying to make some sense, and I go ‘oh!’, and, then I felt kinda sad, cause Trouble, she’d have to watch her father die all over again, I guess… poor kid.

    Oh, and Trouble’s voice… (I can’t seem to stop calling her ‘the girl’ in my head)… It was very much a child’s voice. And also not a child’s voice. Both. If you know what I mean? It had childishness, definitely, but there was a lot of adult in… somehow. I don’t know how. She’s an adult-child… A little of both…

    And… loved the Fat Cat, The Sausage Truck, and Trouble’s name’s story…

  22. Yay! Thank you — and plus, tomorrow’s a re-do, so it might NOT be sad. She knows now what happened, so she could possibly prevent it, right?

  23. Thank you. 🙂 It started out as an exercise and I have to admit I’m really pleased with the results.

  24. So, Trouble would remember Tuesday, but would her dad? Would he remember dying? Would anyone else remember the previous day, or is it just her for some unknown reason?

    BTW: I really liked. The personality was great. Maybe I should have said that first….

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