(Author’s Note: I originally wrote this piece in first person based on a dream I had in 2009. Published as a flash fiction called “Stop for Repair,” it appeared in an anthology called Wild Edges, edited by Monika Rose and F. Ted Laskin; Manzanita Writers Press, volume 6, 2010, pages 124-25. It is a story that is appropriate for the task before all of us today. I decided to rewrite it. As a writer, I wanted to practice writing in a gender-neutral point of view. As a blogger, I feel we must all be building and repairing bridges between each other. Let’s repair the bridges that span between us. Now is the time.)
Early afternoon rain tamped down any dust the wheels could have kicked up. Oak trees painted shadows that swayed across the road, which was more wagon trail than safe passage for a car. In front of Charlie and Sam, a rickety wooden bridge stretched across a bubbling stream.
Charlie stopped the car and stared at it.
Sam looked at Charlie; Charlie looked at Sam and shrugged.
“Well,” Sam said. “Do we turn around?” It was not the first time they had impulsively followed a rainbow through these hills, been stopped by some obstacle or another, to then retreat.
Charlie’s left eyebrow rose and a little smile wrinkled the corner of their mouth as they cut the engine. As Charlie slipped out to look at the bridge, the familiar twinkle of their eyes sparked just a little more. They scratched their head.
Sam watched warily as Charlie turned. When they caught each other’s eyes, Charlie’s expression did not give away any plan, though Sam knew the twinkle that resided there.
Charlie sauntered to the back of the car and opened the trunk. What were they up to?
They closed the trunk gently and stepped up to the passenger window.
Sam rolled it down.
Charlie said, “Come on. We have work.”
Work? What did they mean? That’s when Sam noticed Charlie held two hammers in their hand.
Sam glanced at the bridge. Hammers in the trunk – a coincidence? No way.
Charlie pushed the larger hammer toward Sam, who grabbed it, then fumbled and dropped it onto their hipbone. “Ouch.”
When Sam looked up, Charlie was walking toward the bridge.
Suspicious, they got out and followed them.
Charlie ambled across it, testing their weight here and there while Sam stood watching; waiting. The bridge rang an old song with each of Charlie’s steps. Charlie bent over and slammed the head of their hammer onto a board.
“Come on,” Charlie said, and began to pound nails.
Sam stepped onto the bridge and squatted to look for nails. The hammer dangled in their hand as they glared at Charlie. Would the car tires have fallen through the decking? The two of them could have chosen to walk across with no danger. Why did they stop to repair it?
Sam whacked the head of a nail below them. They heard a voice in their head ask, “When did these nails start loosening?” They hit another nail. Protest rose up in them. Sam wanted to argue…but words, suddenly erased from their mind, left them wondering. They looked at the brook dancing beneath the bridge. Was this bridge so old and tattered, it was wearing out? Was it dangerous?
Sam smacked another nail into place. Did Charlie see this bridge as their relationship: old, comfortable, and worn? Was it wearing out?
Was this relationship in danger?
Sam attacked loose nails in earnest.
The two worked together, pounding nails into an old bridge that needed tending.
The sun gently warmed their backs as they hammered, repairing that old bridge nail by nail.
As Charlie stopped to wipe sweat from their brow and lashes, a scrub jay swooped, surprising the two bridge tenders, scolding their noisy adventure.
They both jumped and then, laughed.
Each subsequent strike of a hammer pulled them closer, mending something indefinable. They tapped each board into place until the bridge, safe and sound, spanned comfortable between them.
As Charlie pounded the last nail into a weathered plank, Sam smiled.
Charlie smiled back.
Together they sat side by side in the middle of the bridge, dangling their feet over the edge, admiring their handiwork.
The sky blushed in rich golden reds. A silky evening breeze clattered through the leaves in the oak trees on the other bank. They stood and walked back to their vehicle.
Before settling in, Sam caught Charlie’s eye across the top of the car and smiled. Today was a good day.
Charlie nodded affirmation, and then threw Sam the keys.
Another bridge spanned between them.