The Bridge, a short story by James Marchiori at

The Bridge

The Bridge

written by: James Marchiori



It’s morning, isn’t it? Yeah, the classic morning to think, where to consider facts and circumstances. The very time where to get sunk, never a part of my daily game.
First task is to have a look at my bridge. You what? I’m sure you’re asking. My bridge.
I was never and currently am not fond of the present. I will explain better. I never trust the modernity and the stuff it represents, in a blatant and insidious way. I always feel the need to escape this nightmare, which is my personal view of the present. Thus, I enter my bridge, and I’m sure I will be pleased by the extra dimension. Early seventies are typically the place where I land.
Am I delirious? Not at all. How can I enter a bridge? Let me tell you.
Now, at my bedroom’s window, on a sunny day, I’m looking at the path in the garden where my bridge is parked. Yes parked. What I call my bridge is a 1970 green and black Plymouth Cuda. An American muscle car. Almost impossible to find here. I found it in a friend’s father barn, in the countryside. Apparently, my friend’s pop used to live in the States. Then he came back here on the island, choosing the splendid countryside for his retirement, and brought here the only tantrum he allowed himself to have.
The man gave up the car in the barn after retiring. He found it difficult to drive with the opposite side steering wheel, and he thought the car had something weird, demonic. His family treated it as an initial manifestation of dementia. They didn’t know whether or not it was true, but I can confirm his theory. For this reason, the son who firmly believed the old man’s superstitions left me the car almost for free.
After the restoration, I drove it with the enthusiasm of a kid at a fun park. Powerful, noisy and with a blade shape. A rocket. Everybody had their heads twisted in my wake.
One day, speeding up on some desert roads down in Kerry, I experienced for the first time the unlimited car’s power. Literally, I had been catapulted into another dimension. Yes, the car made another of my dreams come true. I found myself in the early seventies, in a country same as mine, but not totally. Finally, I examined the differences between the two eras, identifying which one could be better. I had my family there, or very resembling to mine.
Susan, my wife, is a graceful smoker there, with a grand passion for white wine. She has other wives as friends that use to come and go for a drink and a chat at the kitchen table. The Wednesday meetings with the fortune teller and the Fridays with the Avon vendor. They are a group, a club, a squad. Me, meanwhile, at the pub, with the husband’s team, drowned in rivers of the best single malt and nicotine’s cloud. Just a few beers to flush out and the darts business to carry out.
When I’m here in the present Susan is not sunk in conversations with friends, but alone on the comfort of the sofa, the one with the foot recliner. Doing what? Watching her phone. Three different tabs simultaneously open. A blog about some famous housewives, the health app with calories and steps counter, and the steady social media.
Follow, unfollow, looking at the neighbor’s garden pics on her feed, when it would be enough to look out of the window.
Suddenly, like a madwoman, she jumps off the coma yelling it’s late. For what? Pilates my friends, yes, the second lesson of the day. In all of this, not even a hello.
Did I already mention Kerry? My daughter… There in the seventies she is a rampant, bubbly teenager, with dreams. She’s always in our garage or in her bedroom with Molly, her best friend, playing the last single of her hairy idol. Kerry wants to become a human rights activist and a psychologist. To be honest with you, she is working hard to achieve her goals. I’m just frightened when she takes part at those sit-ins of hotheads.
Here, Kerry is a motionless presence. A ghost always sulky. She never asks about anything, because she doesn’t care. TV is gross, radio is old, her top aspiration is to be a TikTok entertainer. She constantly checks her app to know how long she’s on the phone daily. The dissolving normality she is carrying tells her she is seriously addicted, so she needs to check. I can see her facial grimaces when she notices she’s passed seven hours on it. At school, she is perpetually studying business and management. It is not known what results have been achieved so far.
Last time I asked the sleeping beauty, Susan invited me to mind my business.
No sports or outdoor activities. Only an eternal and strict diet, considering the fact she hates food, except for some Greek yoghurt. She’s very young, but the Botox already landed on her face. Her teeth, although perfect and healthy, had been completely reconstructed and improved to look like a guard for boxers. Obviously, the entire work was on me, and it cost me an arm and a leg.
In the seventies dimension, I asked Kerry about Glenn Miller, and we instantly started a conversation about jazz, and the strange way Miller disappeared. His plane just vanished crossing the Channel, possibly crashed because of carburetor icing. She was so into it, being inspiring, suggesting plenty of conspiracy theories about his disappearance.
I tried the experiment with Kerry in modern days. She laconically replied, she is not interested in alcoholic beverages. Probably she thought that Glenn Miller was a Whiskey brand, or a bloody cocktail.
From my window, I admire my fireball parked. We have other three cars, the one I use every day, the SUV for Susan, and a BMW for the internet fairy. I use a bloody Fiesta, if not my special Cuda, the rest is just a means of transport. Today she is waiting for me on the driveway, and not in the garage because we have one of our adventures planned. It’s my day off, I will have a look at how my family and friends are doing there. I’ll take a shower now; I don’t need fancy clothes or anything else. My ‘Cuda bridge’ will look after everything, transforming me in every way.
The last glance to my bridge is disturbed by Susan’s passage, every two minutes, busy in her sprint running exercise, her hair ridiculously put up to preserve the thirty-nine euros blow dry. Of course, the makeup done.
I’ll better occupy the bathroom before Ben Johnson gets back from outside. After the shower, in the bedroom, I’m dressing up myself, while she is running up the stairs to the shower, for the conclusion of the first workout of the day. I would ask her when she works, but I’m scared about the answer.
She approaches the upstairs landing, looking for some towels and her bathrobe. When she and her daughter have a shower, the number of towels, bathrobes and the condition of the bathroom left, make you assume you’ve just hosted the entire team of Manchester United after the daily training session.
“Susan, are you ok?” I ask, “ok, thanks” she yells from the other room. She undresses in the bathroom to turn out in the bathrobe, waiting for me to get out before getting dress.
Ok I am ready, she has done, I can’t hear the water running anymore. Why do I have to wait? For the bland smile of a mummy?
Downstairs, the situation is baleful. The house seems abandoned a long ago, there’s no dust though. Thank God. I move through the reception room, and there we go! The ghost is there, in the recliner.
I can see the Botox enhancing her lips; that’s why she was away yesterday afternoon. During the day, she goes out either to get her nails done, or for endless sessions in her favorite hair salon. And she may even be unhappy after breaking the bank.
“Hi Kerry, how are you today?”
“I’m grand.” She is completing her first moment of phone-track-sinking after a few hours’ sleep, that makes her look more pale and ghostly. Wait. Pale on the face, the rest of the body is orange because of the fake tan.
Waiting for Susan, in a monastic silence, I think of the chance we’ve just blown. Having Kerry completely sunk in her things on the sofa, the first floor all for us, the turmoil of the shower, in and out, noise. Ergo? We could have some intimacy. Am I asking for the moon? We are strangers in a common land, and there is nothing to do about it.
Susan is now downstairs, with another pair of leggings, and another tech-shirt.
“Are you working today?” I ask.
“No, I’m off, I told you yesterday.”
The third day off in a row… weird. My wife is working for a sort of group that offers services for companies, financial support and territorial monitoring. “An accountant firm?” I dared to ask once. “No” she replied. She tried to explain, saying nothing comprehensible, and then she stopped, saying that talking to me was pointless. Do you believe me If I say that this group has no name nor headquarters, or, apparently, it was in Tallaght, then moved in Blanch… but that is another not worthy situation for her time to be spent enlightening my goat brain. So, I don’t know what my wife does for a living, and I must admit that I’m probably ignorant.
Do you know what? I’ve had enough.
“I’m going for a drive, see you later, girls.” A bland bye. It’s near lunchtime and none of the two mentions the remote possibility to eat together as a family.
Ok, I will go there, with the heart full of hope. The journey, looking for humanity, won’t take long, I’ll be there soon.
The Cuda starts at the first try. I don’t know, when I enter the other dimension, what happens. I mean, what an onlooker can see. Probably the Cuda disappears, or it turns black and white… I don’t know, who cares? Just fantasies.
To avoid any nosy witness, I sorted a special isolated place to use as my private runway.
Once there, I shift into first, releasing quickly the clutch and the beast moves her tail like a furious rattlesnake. After a few meters on the isolated straight road, the magic happens and now I’m here. Nearby home, just forty-eight years before. It’s not all the same, almost completely different I must admit, but I know I’m home. The street’s name and the blueprint of the place are the same. Some buildings are not there in current times, some benches removed. Five new cottages replaced the delightful park we had. I’m parking in the little pathway when Kerry out on the threshold is weaving at me, welcoming her father.
“Hi love, are you ok?”
“Yes dad, I missed you a lot.”
Hugging her, I confirmed it was the same for me, while I was away.
Inside, the smell is supreme; the house is steamy with life. Entering the kitchen, Susan is cooking one of her almighty stew. I can smell the flavor. Can you believe it? She looks at me saying, “How are you? Have you been busy?” I don’t know what to say. Have I been away for long? Who knows? What day is it? So, I improvise. Best thing to do. Just in case I will manage.
“Oh, Jaysus, I’ve been up to ninety since early this morning.”
“Oh, my poor boy, take a glass and poor yourself a drink,” a bottle of her favorite white is on the table, a sort of appetizer while she’s cooking. Kerry and I are helping with dishes, tableware and all the rest. We joke, pulling back pieces of bread, making Susan mad, but happy. Here we are, a family.
“I’m going to the loo, for a minute, I’ll be with you in a second.”
“Wash your hand, then!” She is joking with me more than ever, and I smile eventually. There is no comparison with the modern time.
“Did you buy the smokes?” She asks me, just back from the loo. I have a moment of doubt. Then automatically my hands go in the jacket pocket.
“There you go, ma’am.” Done.
“Good boy! Light one, honey.”
I can barely recall how to smoke, I quit a long time ago, in the other dimension. But the warmth of the situation, the unrestrained freedom and this engagement. This natural and beautiful involvement. I let myself go.
Communion is a must in the era where I’m now. Here I feel my family, they are with me, I’m for them. We are together. Priceless simple facts. I can feel the energy.
Just after we finish the amazing stew with veggies and mash, Kerry jumps up standing. Holy Moly, I’m surprised by the vitality of the seventies Kerry’s identical twin. She has to go; she says anxiously, an afternoon party, no, a car boot sale, and maybe even a vinyl discs fair. She’s like a tornado, collecting everything, jacket, bag, scarf and the keys of her Beetle. She kisses us passionately all the time she leaves, she’s a good girl.
What Susan and can do is to finish the bottle of wine, enjoy a couple of single malt after lunch and a smoke each. We’ve already washed up the mess of dishes, wiping the floor with the old broom. The stairway to heaven and then our bedroom, finally alone, behaving like two students for the first time in bed. Banters first, and then love, passion. Everything simply natural. Again, priceless emotions that make me feel appreciated, needed, and meaningful.
The afternoon is the laziest ever. Today, Sunday I noticed, nobody is working and for me is the day to wear my tie. Normally I wear the same stained dungarees from the garage where I work as a shop supervisor. Great job I have, good money.
We are ready now for the Sunday afternoon, a last kiss and the temptation to dive in bed again. Susan is magic in her flower dress and brown knee-high boots. Lady Chatterley is my first thought, followed by a laugh.
The event today is the seasonal market in a vast parking lot and then the park. If I get it right, at the end of the park, there is a sport hall where the vinyl fair is hosted. We are walking hand in hand, everybody is looking at our Cuda arriving here, curiously the car has shown no signs of its powers, because I didn’t speed up that much.
Susan is radiant, looking at every stall, food or clothes, tableware, and shoes. She is literally dragging me here and there, and I’m happy about it. I can tell by my own eyes that we are living two universes. This is an injection of vitality. Flowers are more colored, the air fresher, and sausages are cooked into lard, creating the unmistakable cloud over the vendor’s van.
We have a sausage, then an ice cream, why not? When do we ever have an ice cream during the week? Then my eyes trapped a vision. A pub, there on the fair border, on the sidewalk. “Can you see it, love?” Susan nods, swallowing the last spoon of ice cream. There we are, in the beer garden, a couple of pints of bitter and a fag. The afternoon is going great. I think I saw Kerry. She was crossing the field behind the beer garden. Let her go, poor thing. A day of freedom is rare. At her age, I had no shoes to wear.
Obviously, the pints multiplicate themselves, and the fags as well. The weather is incredible, a summer prelude to a late autumn afternoon.
Back in the car, I have the impression that something is not working properly; the ignition is not responding, as it is supposed to do. The car struggles a bit to start… It might be the dump or the battery that needs to be changed.
After a while it starts and slowly, I made it home. Slowly. Imagine if the thing happens with the seventies’ Susan on board? Jaysus, two Susans, one the opposite of the other. A bloody mess.
Home sweet home, I can’t wait to eat what remains of the lunch stew, Susan is placing some chicken bites in the oven.
“Something to drink, love?”
“In a few minutes hun, I have to go next door, Daisy left a note. Something horrible happened, I’m afraid.”
“On the threshold… I didn’t notice it, Susan.” In the other place a text message arrives normally, I’m not accustomed to valentines under the front door.
“I’ll be back soon, love.”
“Go ahead, no bother.”
While I’m waiting for her, I have a look around. That damned black mold everywhere in the kitchen is not safe. How could it be? That’s the reason Kerry is always sick with cough and colds. And the windows have not double glazing, shit that’s why being in the kitchen is like sitting in the garden. The carpeting on the floor is stained and burned all over in the living room. I must do something. Oh, Susan is back, sighing.
“What’s wrong, love?”
“Poor Daisy, her husband passed away, yesterday… terrible, poor little thing.”
“Who Jeremy!?” The last image I have of him is in the other dimension, polishing his Tesla.
“Yes hun, he was a good man, very polite, he wasn’t that young, but it’s a shame, anyway.”
“Susan, you seem not disturbed, I’m frozen from the news!”
“Sure look, hun. What do you want me to say?”
“How come he was old, then?”
“I didn’t say old, not young, over forty-five…”
“Jaysus Lord, he was a young man!” I’m incredulous, for God’s sake!
“As you wish, love…” Susan sadly answers back.
“What killed him?”
“Don’t you remember? He suffered for one of that bad lung illness…”
“A cancer?”
“Shush!! Don’t say that word love! For Christ’s sake!”
“He underwent a surgery, which didn’t go well enough?”
“No, love, they did that terrible treatment, but it wasn’t enough. What surgery are you talking about? They don’t do surgery for that type of stuff.”
“What?! Of course, they do! First the surgery, then the treatments!”
“In your ideal world, love. They attempted surgery sometimes, after treatments, but they didn’t survive.”
My head is blowing, what the hell is she talking about. I must go there, in the new millennium and see Jeremy, I need to see how he is. He looked great last time. I have to ask something else first, for what it means.
“Did they say what it was caused by, more or less? For what it means, of course.”
“No, they don’t know. Daisy said that the head of the department invited her to stop smoking. He is sure it was the cause for the poor Jeremy. I said to her to leave that bollocks between the walls of that place of suffering; they do experimentation in there. Fuck, my father lived until ninety smoking and drinking, all bollocks.”
My heart is beating so fast, I have to go, she’s now scaring me. I’m probably too sensitive, but I can’t look at her. After news like this, she is smoking and drinking to calm down. Madness.
“I’m going for a drive.” I have nothing more to say.
“Ok love, get something at the pub, relax yourself, I’m sorry for the bad news.”
I can’t say a word, I’m petrified. Sitting in the Cuda, I try, then re-try, and then again. Nothing. Dead. It is the battery and I’m sure of it.
Damn car, I must go back, or probably forward. I don’t know; I need to go to the other dimension and find Jeremy. I need to go, suddenly I’m not comfortable anymore. Jeremy is not my best friend, but it doesn’t matter, I know him from a long time, and I can’t believe what I heard from Susan. To say the truth, I can’t stand the way they treated him, and the relaxed way Susan took the thing. Resignedly.
This damn car won’t work, I need to take Susan’s, go to the garage and come back with a battery. What car has she? Shite. “Susan, love, I need to take your car, I must go to the garage for a battery, or tomorrow I’ll be on foot.”
“No problem, love, they keys are on the coin tray at the entrance,”
I’m outside now. I’m counting on the door button on the key, the flashing of the turn signals, car spotted, job done. This is an iron key though, and we are in the seventies, no door opener. It’s dark under the lamppost, I’m desperately trying to see something, a car make sign. Here we are, Leyland- Austin, what bloody Leyland, though?!
She is probably suspicious; she can’t hear the car engine start. In two secs, she’s on my back.
“Have you been to the pub already? That you can’t find the car!”
“Sorry love, I can’t see it!”
“There, the red Marina! Can you see it? It’s always the same!”
I smile at her, she loves me back, looking at the windows upstairs, “another round, later?” She whispers. “Oh yes, my pleasure.”
The Leyland- Austin Marina is a bloody nightmare, no power steering, the clutch is marble, and the seat is like a park bench. Once at the Garage, I’m more and more surprise, quite disgusted. The door is locked with a lock that looks like the one used for the luggage, no alarm, just a piece of wood to help and keep the door shut. Safety first. I get the battery and like a lightning I’m back to the Cuda. “C’mon darling, do your miracle, c’mon!” the carburetors are probably flooded from the previous attempts. At least I get it, she’s alive and kicking, not at her best, but ok. Reverse gear straight away, off I go. I can see Susan coming out from the door, she is shouting something. I’m terribly sorry, darling, I’ll see you in the other dimension. You won’t be so upset there.
With a limping engine, I’m able to reach the right speed. Jump. I’m there.
The neighborhood is calm, I’m parking. The first glance is to Jeremy’s house, nothing seems strange. I’m exhausted, the seventies are free and maybe more relaxed, but I felt overwhelmed. Too much of everything.
Inside, home is home, beautiful as always. Welcome is not tradition here, though. I can already see a stockpile of Amazon’s parcels in the hall. Everything is marching normally. In the living room, Kerry is paved on the sofa, as I knew. Susan is going out again, still dressed in a tailleur, probably back from her mysterious work. Another appointment. She is talking with no one in particular. I listen to the order, like a soldier. This is a real barrack; who is in command talks with nobody, an order to the platoon. Everybody seems to listen, but nobody does for real.
“Susan, have you seen Jeremy, recently?”
“No, I haven’t.”
She’s always so dry, I hoped to have a conversation with her, like in the other dimension. It seems impossible. I need to get out and see what is going on with Jeremy.
Outside it is silent, much more than ever. Silent, nearly creepy. I need to approach quietly to his house and not hiding too much. It will look suspicious. I don’t want to ring their bell, why? It looks strange if your neighbor, in the middle of your evening, rings at your door to know how you are. I’m looking at the mobile and, no, I don’t have his number, I’m sure I never had. Ok, let me approach slowly, the lights are on inside, if they see me, I will just say that I’m out for a walk, and I was looking at their beautiful garden and flowers. And that’s true, by the way. They have an amazing garden; Jeremy is a master in maintaining it healthy and attractive. Maybe it might be the only suitable occasion to know if Jeremy is ok. Probably he will come at the door. So, I’ll better be not too much undercover.
My eyes straight on the purple peonies, beautiful and lush. The more I go closer, the more I feel like a nosy idiot, but there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s stronger than me. That story in the seventies impressed me so much. They left him to die, Jaysus! Ok, another era, another knowledge.
Anyway, I’m here in this desert neighborhood, looking for somebody who allegedly died in the past. Mad, aint’it?
The roses are beautiful as well, I’m looking intermittently at the flowers and inside the house. I can’t see that much throughout the curtains, everything seems to be quiet, no movements. I go closer to a bay window to admire the tulips. Nothing. Lights on, but no movements.
I give up. I can’t stay the rest of the night here, spying on them.
From the pathway, another thing makes me shiver. Where is the Cuda?! Bloody hell! I parked it on the driveway ready to the garage; it is not there anymore!
Shite! I have to go! But shite again. As Jeremy’s door opens, Daisy is on the threshold wearing a bloody surgical mask.
“Hi Daisy, sorry I was looking at your wonderful flowers while breathing some fresh air.” I move forward to shake her hand, but she stops me with a gesture of the hand. I feel awkward, what’s the matter with her?
“Are you painting? You have that mask on… how is Jeremy by the way?” I feel clumsier than ever, so clumsy that I forget about the Cuda.
“Stay behind, John! Have you seen the TV, the papers?”
I don’t know what she is talking about, anyway yes, John is my name.
“There is a virus John, apparently it spread first in a Chinese market, it’s all over the world now, they said. Because of it, we will have to wear this mask everywhere. Supermarkets, shops, everywhere there’s people, to avoid the infection.”
I was probably too much into time traveling in the last few days; I didn’t pay attention.
“Why are you wearing it at home, then?” I ask, it seems stupid relying on what she said.
“Jeremy, John, he is in bed presenting all the symptoms of the new virus.”
“Shite! Are you for real?” I’m incredulous.
“Go home now John, you see that nobody is around? It’s not safe! Go home!”
I’m running, frightened, I just stop on my pathway, the Cuda! It had been stolen, for Lord’s sake!
Once inside, Kerry is eating yoghurt on the sofa, Susan is in the armchair, with some Thai food basket around.
“Girls, have you heard of this new virus?”
“Yes, I forgot to tell you, apparently we are locked in the house, prisoners, God knows for how long.” Susan is connected.
After a week, I discover Jeremy was affected by the virus, and he died yesterday for the consequence of it. We are currently in the so-called lockdown, where we are forced to live together. I’m sure it will end up like in the movie ‘Highlander’, there can only be one.
The Cuda has been stolen; the Gardai are working on it. No news for now. Hence, I can’t go in the 70s.
Now I have a thought. I’ve been lucky enough to compare the two situations; what it was and what it is now. Not using memories of the past. Living with the both, so a real comparison.
My question is: was it better when it was worse? We were stupid, reckless, shameless, with no means but a lot of hopes, and a good value for feelings. At least that is what it was said.
What are we now?
Just prisoners, unable to love, incapable to consider. Well, a good excuse.
Both platitudes. In the past and in the present.
We are not ready to face the best friend we have. The future. Unprepared as we are, the future is just the big unknown. We need to see the past as a capsule of wellbeing. The good old days, precious in everything, cheap, easy, free, maybe scary for health matters. Maybe better today. Yes, until something comes out from the unknown, making everything worse, even what we thought we’d almost conquered. We think we have the control, but there is always something able to defeat us. It is nobody’s fault. It’s the reality. Things sometimes are bigger, stronger, but the matter of fact is we are always too small to reach the only thing we need. The truth. Everything is in the truth. It is just hidden somewhere, for the someone else’s will maybe, the same who is blocking our future, making us ignorant. What we have is what we made, so no complaints about the way we choose what to carry from the old place to the new one. Without truth, there is no light, knowledge and progress. End of story.
Now I can say, we are just prisoners. I’m sure you will understand why.

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