The Bridge at Restitution

By on Nov 16, 2020 in Fiction

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Covered bridge with dark smudges

 “Get back here, sweetie-pie!” Jip shouted, but Pugs was undeterred.  He was the first kid I’d ever seen ignore our leader, but our leader had not been born to be invisible. Our leader violently yanked the pistol from his pocket and raised it straight up. I was frozen. Fear made up my DNA. Jip had blown my book open to a page I had never wanted anyone to see. I always knew I didn’t have what Jip had, but now I realized I didn’t have what Pugs had either. Jip lowered the pistol.  When Pugs got down the hill, he slowly walked out onto the bridge floor. The chubby kid then stopped, pulled a flashlight out of his mom’s coat and raised it high, almost imitating Jip with his gun. Pugs then turned on his light and shot a beam out to the heavens. Jip cupped his hands over his mouth and yelled so loud he broke his voice.

“I’ll kill you on the spot, coward!!!”

Pugs didn’t flinch His face was taught as twine. Suddenly, something came out of me. I couldn’t believe it. I said: “Kill me, too.”

It all felt like a dream. I really wasn’t sure if I’d actually said it or just thought about saying it. I knew something, though, right at that very moment. I knew that some people have dark in their souls, and some people have souls of light. It’s impossible to know whose soul is dark and whose soul is light, until you know. Then, it’s impossible not to know.

Jip looked at me. Both his eyes sparked. All the funny stories were sliding down his cheek. I wanted for my old friend to be standing there again, but I knew that guy had just been a creation of a fertile mind. Jip had survived by walking around with ghosts on leashes and showing ghosts instead of what really lived inside. I knew this.

“You’re with him?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

I nodded. I was so scared I thought my bones would break apart.  It took all the courage I had just to remain vertical. I felt lightheaded, but then I felt ice melting somewhere inside, felt my book flip to another page, a page I didn’t know was in my book. I looked at Pug’s light.

Jip then quietly turned and started walking away. He walked like the convicted. He stopped at the edge of the precipice overlooking the Black River, waited a second, then jumped – jumped out into nothing.    At first his body just hung in midair, like he was Peter Pan; then he dropped straight down – straight down toward the water. Then there was a call of a nightingale and Jip, still falling, managed to fire a single shot in the direction of the bird’s song. I prayed that the bullet didn’t hit its mark. I believe God watches over His natural world, especially when it’s dark. My belief was tested. I never found out where the bullet landed. It took a few seconds, but we heard something hit the water, hit it hard, smack it like hard leather. I heard a grunt. Jip was a great athlete, but it was so far down. Me and Pugs were cemented to the Earth. We couldn’t speak. We could barely breathe. We thought we heard somebody walking on the bank.  I also thought I heard the words: “You’ll never know, kid, and I’m glad.”       

It could have been the wind. I know now the wind talks.

I made my way down to Pugs. Me and the great boring boy worked furiously to pull up the nail boards. A bottle of perfume fell from Pug’s coat. We both smirked. 

After, we gathered up our things and tossed the boards into the river. We watched them float through air, and then we watched them float down river.   

Me and Pugs walked the shoulder of County Road #4 home, not the woods. On the way back, we would stop, laugh a little, then walk on.  We didn’t even know what was so funny. I suppose the Ferret must have reached the Bridge sometime after.  He never knew how close he came to being an answer to a crime question.  That’s the beauty of this life.  We never know.

Jip stuck around for the rest of that summer, but we hardly ran into one another. He fell in with a different crowd. He no longer cared to hold court on the porch steps for a bunch of cigar-smoking believers.  We stopped once in the street and shook hands, then went our own ways. We’d always be friends. It’s just that we were different.

Sometime that September, Jip and his family disappeared, every one of them including Canary; the dog; and Jip’s lizard, Butch. They left nothing behind, not a speck of dust. We heard banter about witness protection and contract hits, but nobody really knew. Everybody is a wizard. That’s how us regular folks make the world look interesting. 

I never saw Jip or his family again. I think of them sometimes when I’m lying awake at 3 a.m., contemplating my safe life. My gray now looks like the wood of old covered bridges. The bridge is still there, still the God of the Black River; the Black River where all our stories have made their way downstream, only to turn into wild flowers along the banks. You can see them from the bridge on sunny days. They’re brilliant. They sway in the breeze like they’re dancing. Maybe they are.

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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.