The Old Man and The Bridge

The road is full, especially this morning as an old brown sedan crawls across it. It’s Wednesday, eight o’clock. But the old brown sedan doesn’t appear to have any particular place to be by any particular time. The motor sputters and backfires, while the shadow of the vehicle paints the cobbled road beneath it with a thick, lingering brush. As the clock ticks, the other drivers push wet bundles of frustrated energy from their windows, and the road leading up to the old narrow bridge is suddenly packed with cars; filling with blinking red lights. Blinking in the falling snow. The old brown car rolls on ahead of them all, a person’s head barely visible over the steering wheel. It’s wearing a corduroy hat. With ear flaps. Somehow, the car slows down even more.

Incredulous at the prospect of such a simple yet absurd problem, the others smash their horns in collective protest; they shout, as if to lift the sedan from their path.  Passing drivers flow in epileptic slow motion from a coagulated oncoming lane, consulting dashboard clocks and frozen speedometers. Before the snow gets worse just get me there, is their appeal to God.

A big bearded man in a big furry hat is twisting the wheel of his tow truck the way you would open a big jar of pickles. The bearded man peels off a glove and he points his fist out the window while he steers with the other, keeping pace with the old car. He wonders what the guy in the sedan would say if he knew what the bearded man had done to another guy with that same fist only yesterday. But then he looks across at the man and pulls his foot from the pedal, twisting the wheel again.

The horns become a rising chorus of disharmony, pulsing like off-kilter bells—each pushing, each struggling to stand apart from the desperate grating din of the other horns; panicking cars weave around and hurtle past as the clot of traffic tightens and constricts upon itself at the mouth of the bridge.

A truck door slams nearby. On foot now, the bearded man waves his hands over his head as he crosses the road. The noise increases now that the bridge is entirely blocked in that direction; the occupants of the cars in the oncoming lane grit their teeth and raise their eyebrows.

The old brown sedan rolls into a shallow pothole and stops; and with a soft thud that no one hears anyway, the old man’s head lands on the steering wheel. His sedan joins the chorus of honking horns; a feathery column of smoke rises from its tailpipe.

 

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