The Timber Pass Bridge bristled as two boys pushed their bikes across its deck. Under the supports, the cliff walls cut jagged edges toward the bottom where, over four hundred feet below, they framed a narrow river and its rocky bed. From this height, the deck muffled the sound of the bubbling water to a whisper.
One of the boys asked the other, “You watch the game last night?” Squat and pudgy, the boy waddled across the deck, his double-rolled belly squeezing into a tattered pair of jeans. Dark stains marked the pits of the shirt stretched across his chest, and an exclamation point of sweat soaked the center of his back.
The second boy said, “Yeah, man, the homer Rodriquez slammed in the ninth was awesome.” Compared to his porky-pie friend, this one was taller, thinner, and better dressed.
Baseball. If it weren’t excited about the prospects of two more victims, the bridge would have groaned. The boys had all of creation spread out before them—grasshoppers buzz-sawing across the meadow, birds singing merrily in the trees, not to mention the beautiful fifty-year-old wooden structure beneath their feet—and they wanted to talk about sports?
The bridge slowly shifted its frame.
The skinny one stopped. “Hey, you feel that?”
The fat one looked over. “Feel what?”
“It felt like it moved.”
“Ah, that’s only the wind. Nothing to worry about. This thing is just old.”
The skinny one looked over his shoulder. “Maybe we should go back.”
“What if it collapses?”
A grunt. “Don’t be a wus.”
“I’m not a wus.”
“Yeah, you are.”
The fat one bent over and picked up a beer bottle. It had been left by a drunkard who happened along two weeks earlier. Barely twenty yards across, he stopped and set the beer down. Then, he unzipped his pants and sent a stream off the side of the Bridge. The way he swayed, all it took was a shudder and the man was never seen again.
Porky-pie inspected the bottle, the contents long evaporated. He said, “Hey, watch this,” and chucked it. Both boys pushed their bikes to the edge, watching as the bottle performed a graceful series of summersaults down into the mouth of the canyon. At the bottom, it hit a boulder and exploded.
The fat one pumped a fist into the air. “Awesome!”
The Bridge was about to send a shockwave across its deck when the boys turned their bikes and resumed their walk.
“Hey,” the skinny one said. “You hear Danny Ekstrom went out with Teresa Jameson?”
Another grunt. “They ran into each other at the county fair. Hardly a date.”
“Well, I heard they rode the ferris wheel and kissed at the top.”
“What? Who told you that?”
“And she saw it?”
“She was at the bottom watching.”
The fat boy stopped walking. “Edie wasn’t even up in the next car or something?”
The skinny one didn’t respond.
Porky-pie shook his head. “Doesn’t count.”
“There’s no way she could have seen them well enough in the dark. Danny was probably just whispering something in Sarah’s ear.”
“How do you know? You weren’t there.”
“And neither were you.”
The skinny boy stood there for a moment. Then, “Ah, I get it.”
“You got the hots for Teresa.”
The fat one’s mouth dropped open, but nothing came out.
“You got a big ol’ flaming crush on her.”
“Shut your pie hole, or I’ll throw you over the edge.”
The bridge liked the sound of that. Little Porky-pie Toby might actually save it some of the trouble.
The boys stood in silence, staring at each other. Finally, the skinny one said, “Hey, it’s cool. I think she’s good looking, too.”
The boys resumed their walk. Halfway across, the Bridge shifted its frame again, this time not so subtle.
The fat one stopped. “Whoa.”
“You see,” the skinny blurted out. “This thing’s not stable.”
The Bridge held still as a breeze cut across its deck.
The fat one looked around for a moment. When nothing else happened, a small chuckle escaped his mouth. Color returned to his cheeks. “You’re such a jerk-off,” he said. “Now you got me acting all scared.”
“No way. This thing moved, and you felt it.”
“It was just the wind.”
“You kidding me?”
“C'mon, let’s just get off this thing.”
The pushed their bikes another twenty yards before the fat one spoke again.
“I wonder how many people have actually taken a swan dive off the side.”
If it could, the bridge would have told them the answer: fourteen. Sixteen after today.
The thing was, hers wasn’t even intentional. A young girl, after enduring months of jokes and tricks and criticisms about her red hair, her freckled homely looks, coming down to cry it out. Only the wind decided to play a game too. Taken by surprise, she screamed as she fell, but nobody heard. And nobody came. Not even her mother.
Afterwards, her spirit turned bitter. She vowed that nobody would ever walk over her again.
“So, you think Sarah would be interested in a guy like me?”
The fat boy’s voice broke the reverie. They were now two-thirds of the way across and still the conversation was about them. Them. Them. THEM!
The bridge’s structure popped as it shifted harder this time, twisting beams, dropping one side down.
The fat one screamed. “The bridge is collapsing!”
The thinner boy dropped his bike and ran as the bridge sent another jolt and dipped its deck further. Wood splintered along the causeway. This time, the fat boy fell to his knees and cried, “Wait! Wait for me!”
Before the bridge could shift again, both boys gained their footing and made it to the other side. They turned and watched in horror as their bikes slid off the edge.
Slowly, the bridge righted itself, cracking up and down like a stiff spine.
The thinner boy said, “Wh-wh-what just happened?”
The fat one boy shook his head and quickly turned, running as fast as his legs could take him.
The bridge groaned in disappointment at its loss. But that was okay. Sooner or later, someone else would happen along.
They always did.