Throwing Things off Bridges: A Brief, Perturbed Memoir


I’ve never thrown anything off a bridge my son said to me fondling the dirty old Heineken bottle he had found on our walk through the woods. It was one of those pure, crystalline autumn mornings when the sun was beginning to round off the edges of the season’s first frost. We were bathed in pure, warming, unmitigated daylight but still his words shook me, sent a shiver through me that felt like an overloaded 18 wheeler Peterbilt rumbling over the WPA Bridge over St. Joe’s crick, its driver in his 13th hour as the yellow jackets swarmed at his fingertips.

It was a lot of fun growing up in the 70’s back in PA. School sucked but summers lasted longer. Bullying was still in vogue and either toughened you up or thinned the herd. We hardly met anyone who didn’t look like us and if they did they moved along in a few years if not months. We threw anything and everything off bridges. And when I say anything and everything I mean lawnmowers, toasters, crayfish, Huffy five-speeds, GI Joes (Kung-Fu Grip© my ass, see you Hell, Soldier Boy…) and lemon pound cakes. If the occasional urchin or incorrigible miscreant crossed our path over it went. Sometimes we lit things on fire before subjecting them to gravity. Not the urchin or miscreant though. We had boundaries but were fierce like some kids were well-raised.

Then one day after hurling a particularly perfect shaman over the rail Cardigan and McCorduroy began an exchange that rumbled through our skulls like a tanker car on fire through a tunnel. Big-time. It was what one called a paradigm-shift back in those days. Should a dream have wings or a parachute?

Diploshevski asked, What’s a dream? And before Herman the German could light his untied shoelace like a fuse and cup his hands as if offering our boy a leg up into the saddle I waved him off and implored Plato and Aristotle to continue their discourse. If I was Cassandra I couldn’t have seen where this was going any clearer. More clearly.

And it wasn’t until that perfect fall morning that I recalled that day of reckoning. But it was like cracking a peanut shell only to find the nut inside withered and hard and inedible. I rued the day we asked questions vowing to only welcome the new day that brought the answers.

I guess it just sucks how much times have changed. I mean, what kind of world is this where a kid can get to be 11 years old without ever having thrown something off a bridge? So we rode over to a bridge spanning a rocky stream and he chucked the bottle. It smashed into brilliant green, glittering shards on the wet rocks below emitting a pop like some tiny universe contracting backwards into nothingness. He was delighted. I was proud. Dreams need neither wings nor parachutes.


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