The Bridge at Restitution

By on Nov 16, 2020 in Fiction

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Covered bridge with dark smudges

True definition is impossible – at least that’s what I’ve heard.  Each pair of eyes defines the world their own way.  To my eyes, it was about Jip and The MC (The Motley Crew).  To others, it was more about “the times.” Some people are tailor-made for the times. All I knew was Jip came to our school. and it seemed he was instantly an important piece of our puzzle; and we were a puzzle. Jip fit us perfectly: the funniest kid anyone had ever seen and a natural-born leader for natural-born followers.

Our times?  It was the end of June and the end of a road for us, as well as the end of innocence in a lot of ways. Graduation day, we found ourselves all lined up and ready to be drop-kicked into the world. We were fair game. The world could gnaw our toes off. Our diplomas made us prey. That summer would be the final act of our circus, and Jip was our ringmaster. 

A week after graduation, we began a ritual. Followers are fond of rituals. Every night, after sundown, Jip led us to the back of the school, where he would hold court on the back steps. What a word-carver! He could make a trip to the laundromat exciting. The boy and his way with words made us feel good, made us forget, gave us the freedom to laugh. That’s how you laugh — when you know nobody can touch you.  

The back of the school was where time stopped, where we could smoke our cigars in peace and where we could throw off our father’s time pieces and warnings. The back of the school was ours.   

Jip unraveled his portraits for us each night. He painstakingly weaved pictures of the many characters he’d met as his family moved from town to town. He made them all come to life for our eyes. Picture this; absolute black — and in all that blackness, 10 red-orange cigar tips, like stars but just one star moving, the one between the ringmaster’s lips.  Picture that.

We all knew the kid was different. That’s why he became the leader. When you’re young, you don’t need to vote, you just know. One big difference was the rest of us had regular fathers — not Jip. Jip’s father was Canary Carl, Tweety-bird to his criminal buddies. People far and wide feared The Canary.  No one would ever be afraid of our fathers. Canary was one of those guys who didn’t have a job yet always carried wads of money. He had perfect hair, and it wasn’t yellow. It was jet black, like the wet back of a black cat. It wasn’t strange to see Canary driving up the street in a flashy new car almost daily. We could never figure out how he did that. Well, we knew, but we also knew to say it could be deadly. The first time I learned the word “aura,” I thought about Canary. He had an aura to him, and a couple of guys who looked like they could chew railroad spikes.

At the ball games, Canary always sat by himself. The other fathers were scared to sit nearby. Jip, on the other hand, was one of us from the very beginning. Close your eyes and look at a portrait of the Motley Crew; Jip is smack in the middle. Picture-perfect. 

The stories that floated around the neighborhood about Canary could make a pirate blush, but we only believed the ones Jip told us, in the dark, on the steps of the Smoke Saloon, as Jip called the back porch.

It was in the Smoke Saloon that Jip first told us about what “The Ferret” had done to him. The Ferret was Hector Ferris, the gym teacher at our school; a guy who hated kids only a teaspoon more than he hated sports. The Ferret’s real love was confrontation, and he reserved a special hatred for Jip. Apparently, by the end of the year, he couldn’t hold it in any more, and on the last day, Jip told us, the Ferret yanked him aside and told him he was nothing but a spoiled mobster’s brat. He also told Jip that someday, someone would teach him a lesson, and he’d clap when that happened. Now Jip being a spoiled mobster’s brat was undoubtedly true, but at that point in our maturity, truth wasn’t a welcome commodity. 

We all agreed, the Ferret had some mayhem coming to him. We were always up for mayhem, always hungry for new ways to give the world the finger. It must be said, though, that we did not condone evil.

All proposed mayhem was filtered through our own, personal evil meters. My evil meter didn’t have too far to go to reach “too evil.”   Jip’s evil meter was more tolerant. French Stick Louie, he shouldn’t have even have had an evil-meter. No act of mayhem was too evil for Frenchie. Frenchie was a scary kid who promised to turn into a scarier adult. 

Jippity laid out his mayhem proposal for us. The Ferret, he said, would be going to the athletic booster dinner on Wednesday night. The booster dinner always ended at 9, so “Earl the Custodian” could catch the end of the Sox game. Now, the Ferret, being like every other ferret, lived in the woods; a “fork in the road” village called Restitution. As a side note, we didn’t believe any human being had ever been beyond Restitution. Restitution, to our minds, was the true end of the world. Beyond here, lies nothing. The only way into the village was over the bridge at Restitution; a rickety, near-ancient covered bridge probably used by Moses once or twice. The Ferret, Jip told his adoring audience, would be reaching the bridge between 9 and 9:30. It was guaranteed like the dawn. Now for the mayhem part.

Jip’s proposed justice would be delivered to the Ferret by a couple of planks laid on the bridge’s floor, with a few choice nails sticking up, resulting in two flat tires, courtesy of the Motley Crew.

My evil meter immediately went to “appropriate,” as did all the other Motley members. Turns out only three of us would be executing Jip’s plan, though, the others being just too lazy. It would be me, Jip, and Pugs McPherson, who would deliver the mayhem that would just keep on giving.

Pugs was a different kind of kid.  His only claim to fame was being the most boring person on Earth. Pugsley literally had no hobbies, no interests, no personality to speak of, and on top of that was going prematurely bald with a rather distinct fence-line appearing. Pugs was only participating, because it was the first thing he’d been invited to do in five years. Why I volunteered was a mystery to me. If I had been called a name, it wouldn’t have bothered me at all. Maybe, I figured there were only a certain number of mobsters left in the world. and we needed to preserve them. That’s the best I could come up with.

(continued on page 2)

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Joe Ducato is retired from the Human Service and IT fields and currently work part-time in a school system. He has been writing for many years, and his publishing credits include; North Dakota Quarterly, Floyd County Moonshine, Lost Lake Folk Opera, and Strata Magazine, among others.