Crossing The Waters
by Zen McCan
I believe things can happen that change your whole
life. . .
I first saw her on the old railroad bridge south of town when
I was fourteen. Coming back from fishing the muddy river I took the wood planked walkway
that paralleled the train tracks on the steel bridge.
She was standing midway across, hands resting on the rusty
waist high railing. She watched silt choked water swirl slowly past feet below. The town
was small, so I would have known her unless her family was new or she was visiting.
The girl didnt look up until I was beside her, staring
dumbly at her like she was some circus freak. I was at that point in my life when the
opposite sex occupied a great deal of my thinking but I was at my worst advantage as to
what to do or say.
She looked at me with violet eyes from under heavy dark
"Hi." I stammered.
"Hello." She flipped a long braid of raven hair
over her shoulder and down her back.
In place of the usual summer teenage uniform of jeans or
cut-offs and T-shirt she wore a dress.
"Im Josh . . . Josh Riggins. Just coming back from
She looked at the pole and tackle in my hand. "I could
tell." There was just a hint of teasing smile at the corners of her mouth.
"You must be new in town because I know pretty much
everybody. Its hard to be a stranger around here. Ive lived here all my life
so I know about everybody."
She turned and leaned an elbow on the rail. "I
didnt think anybody came here."
"They dont much." I pointed down river to
where automobiles crossed the river. "Since we got the bridge."
"Why are you here Josh Riggins?"
"Short cut. Wanted to get home theres a baseball
game on. Royals and the Cards playing a three game series."
"Im Amanda but everybody calls me Manda."
"Its nice to meet you Manda. What are you doing on
this rusty bridge?"
The girl looked back to the river. "I like to watch the
"That dirty old stuff. Its more mud than water. I
think all the fish choked to death on that liquid dirt."
When she smiled her eyes crinkled up at the corners.
"The water looks like a painting thats always
changing. If you stare at it long enough its like youre moving instead of the
I looked down into the slow moving eddies, so brown and
filthy that it cast no reflection other than some glints of sun light.
"You just move here or something." I asked as I
watched the water and got the disorientating feeling that I was sailing along on the worn
out old railroad crossing.
I looked up at her and lost the feeling of movement. The
sudden stop gave me a dizzy feeling.
"Im here visiting. Im surprised you were
"Whats so strange about it?"
"I was expecting someone else thats all."
That made it pretty clear at least to me. "Oh, a boy
friend. Ill get going, I understand. Pretty girl waiting in a sort of secret meeting
The girl laughed hard at me. So hard that it brought spots of
color to the pale skin of her cheeks.
"Im sorry." She gasped. "Im not
laughing at you. Just what you said. You complimented me, belittled yourself and found a
way to duck out of our conversation. Thats pretty good use of words."
"I still need to get going."
"Im not waiting for a boyfriend. Please stay, it
might be awhile before they show up. I dont get much chance to talk to people my own
age. I travel a lot."
"Okay, for a bit. But I want to hear the end of the
"Its a deal Ill let you go by then. Nothing
is going to happen until the ninth inning anyway."
"Nothing. Why dont you try your luck off the
bridge." She nodded toward my pole.
I shrugged and baited my hook then let the line drop into the
"So who are you visiting?"
She was quiet for too long.
"Johnsons? Theres just Mr. Johnson since his
wife got killed a couple months ago. Rammed her car into a tree down on the quarry
"Thats him, Tim Johnson."
"See I told you I knew everybody around here. What is
he? Like your uncle or something?"
"Yeah . . . on my moms side. Whats school
"It sucks . . ."
We talked for the longest time. At least I think it was a
long time because the next thing I knew the sun was sliding down the horizon. Amanda asked
questions about everything and answered none. Every time I asked about her she quickly
changed the subject.
"I dont think whoever you were going to met is
coming." I finally told her.
"I guess not today." She answered looking up toward
town. "You should probably go if you want to finish listening to the baseball
I had forgot all about it. I reeled in my line and grabbed my
"What about you? You could walk with me."
"Ill wait here for a while, just to make sure they
dont show up. You better hurry that game is about over. I think the Royals can win
I went past her toward town. Once I was to the end of the
bridge I called back to her.
"Will I see you again?"
I could she her smile. "I would like that Josh Riggins.
* * * *
Two doors down from my house my friends Danny Correll and
Pete Landry were in the garage drinking sodas and eating potato chips as they listened to
the game on a radio.
"Where have you been shitbird? The Royals are getting
waxed." Pete acted as if my presence could save the Royals from yet another
I pulled up a milk crate to sit on and grabbed the bag of
chips from Danny.
"I went fishing. Whats the score?"
"Its three to one Cards bottom of the eight. I
dont see any fish. You never stay fishing this long if they arent
"I met a girl." I told them around a mouth full of
chips. "Got any more sodas?"
"A girl. What was she a mermaid?" Pete laughed.
"Shed have to be half catfish if you caught her in
that muddy water. Probably got long whiskers like an old mud cat." Danny said coming
back from the old refrigerator and tossed me a can of RC cola.
"Actually she looked kind of like Elizabeth Taylor in
"Well thats nice since you look like Mickey
Roonie." Pete smiled.
"Where did you find this girl?"
"She was on the old railroad bridge." I told them.
"What was she doing there." Danny asked stealing
the chip bag back from me.
"She said she was meeting somebody there."
"Her boyfriend. Im surprised he didnt kick
"She said it wasnt her boyfriend, doesnt
matter they never showed up."
"Who is this girl anyway?" Pete asked.
"Ive never seen any lonely beauty around here."
"Her name is Amanda. Shes here visiting her Uncle
"Tim Johnson, that crazy bastard aint got any
family since his kid drowned and his wife wrapped herself around that tree." Pete
told us with authority.
Petes dad was the local mortician. By close proximity
Pete had a very casual attitude toward death and the dead. According to his stories filled
with graphic details he had seen numerous dead bodies in all manner of disrepair.
"At the funerals for the baby and later for Tina Johnson
there was about ten people. All of them friends of the family. She was an orphan and his
family all croaked years ago."
"Why would she lie?" Danny asked.
"Maybe her family is close to Mr. Johnson and she just
thinks of him like an uncle."
"I dont remember seeing any girl like youre
talking about around for the funeral. Why anybody would claim that guy is beyond me."
Pete shook his head. "Hes been wigged out ever since his family bought the
"That guy is off the deep end dude. He looks like
hammered shit, he doesnt work just sits at home all day or out at the cemetery. My
dad says it some kind of weird that the guy hasnt punched his own ticket just like
his wife did."
"Guys shut up." Danny screamed. "The Royals
got two men on they can tie or win it."
She had said the Royals would win. Well, not so much would
win as could win. I guess theres a difference.
* * * *
That evening I walked ten blocks out of my way to look at the
Johnson house. The grass was overgrown and there was only one light on in the kitchen.
There were no vehicles parked in the driveway or at the front curb. If Tim Johnson had
company they were gone now.
Before I went to bed I called Pete.
"How did Tim Johnsons kid die?"
"It was a baby. The mother left it in the tub for a
minute when the phone rang or something and it slipped under the water."
"What about Mrs. Johnson? You said she killed herself. I
thought she had a car wreck."
"She smacked a tree out on the quarry road doing about a
hundred miles an hour, no skid marks, no swerving to avoid it. Hit dead on. My dad says
the grief was to much for her."
"Did you go visit your sweetie?"
"I walked by. The place looks barely lived in. I
didnt see anybody."
"I told you. She lied to you for some reason. Maybe
shes a gypsy or something casing the town for the rest of her band so they can rip
off the unsuspecting citizens."
"You need mental help Pete." I hung up on him.
* * * *
The next morning I was up early. I rode my bike to the
Johnson house. In case Amanda and her family were staying at the motel in Hobbs Corner,
the next town over, and that they would be back today.
When I rounded the corner there was a car pulling out of the
drive. I put my head down and kept pedaling as it passed me, watching it out of the corner
of my eye.
The driver was the only occupant, Tim Johnson. I turned
around and followed. It wasnt hard to do in such a small town. Once he turned and
started out Sunset Street I knew where he was going, the cemetery.
Mr. Johnson pulled to a stop, got out of the car and walked
to a pair of graves that were new enough that the grass hadnt grown back over their
raw surfaces. There werent even real grave stones, just those little metal markers.
I stopped my bike on the far side of his car and waited, hoping to talk to him when he
left the cemetery.
The minutes passed and I started to get impatient. I
concentrated my gaze on his back trying to get him to return to his car. The harder I
stared the more obvious it was that his shoulders were shaking. My ears strained for sound
and finally it came to me, faintly at first and then stronger. The braying sobs of a man
with no care of discovery.
I walked toward him across the dewy grass trying to make some
natural noise to warn him of my approach. I was as silent as a ghost the one time I wished
He was drawing in great gulps of air and releasing them as
tear soaked breaths.
"Mr. Johnson are you alright?"
He turned his face to me not with a start from fear or shock
but with a resigned sigh.
"Who are you?" He asked with a soggy sniff to clear
"My name is Josh Riggins Mr. Johnson."
He looked closer at me.
When I looked back at him it was much like looking at a dead
man. His skin had the tint of ash and was much thinner and more deeply lined than a man
his age should be. His hair was in need of a cutting and hung greasy and limp around his
face. But it was his eyes that shook me the most. It was like glimpsing eternity. They
seemed to be bottomless and unfocused. Almost as if there was nothing but pain behind
"Youre Jack Riggins boy?"
"What do you want?"
"I saw you here sir and I wanted to make sure you were
alright . . ."
"I am fine. If you could just leave me alone." He
said turning back to the graves.
"Actually sir that was a lie. I followed you here to
talk to you."
"What? I dont even know you, I barely know your
father. Just leave me alone." His voice sounded as hollow as his eyes looked.
"Mr. Johnson yesterday I talked to a girl her name was
His back stiffened.
"I met her at the railroad bridge. She said she knew
He didnt look at me but his voice seemed to be drying
up a little, taking on some life. "You must be mistaken, I dont know any
"She told me you were her uncle. That her family was
visiting you. I came by last evening to see her and it didnt look like anyone was at
He was wringing his hands in front of him. "I dont
know why youre doing this but I dont know any Amanda and there is no one
visiting me. Im trying to spend a few minutes with my wife and daughter if
youll just let me be."
He walked rapidly back to his car. Before he got in he turned
"If she were visiting me why would she be way down at
the railroad bridge?"
"I dont know sir. She said she was waiting to meet
someone. Im sorry to have bothered you. She must have been lying." I stood with
my hands shoved in my pockets.
"If you see her again let me know."
"I will sir."
* * * *
I rode my bike to the railroad bridge for some reason
thinking that when I got here she would be standing in the same place. The bridge was
I walked down to where we had stood the day before, hoping
that something in the air would give me answers. Why would she lie to me, was she a run
away or some kind of criminal like Pete had suggested? Had she simply picked a name at
random and been lucky enough to pick a name I knew? I didnt think any of my ideas
were any truer than what she had told me.
The trip home took me by the grade school playground. There
in one of the swings was the girl, Amanda. She was watching me as I rode. From this
distance, I could just make out a small smile on her face. This morning she wore jeans and
a sweat shirt with the sleeves cut off. She pointed at something and I followed with my
eyes just in time to avoid crashing into a telephone pole.
I stood with my feet on the ground straddling the cross bar
of the bike. Amanda got up and went to the see-saws motioning me over. I left my bike at
the curb and went to where she stood.
"Get on." She said choosing an end of the see-saw.
Once I was on she lifted her feet but nothing happened. I out weighed her and so
controlled the balance. I pushed slightly with my toes to start the teeter-totter motion.
"Did your team win the game?" Her hair was loose
today and it billowed out around her face.
"Yes. How did you know?"
"A lucky guess."
We traded high and low points in the cool morning air.
"Did your friend ever show up yesterday?"
"No. I might have better luck today."
"I went to Mr. Johnsons house last night."
She didnt seem surprised. "Did you find what you
were looking for?"
"You werent there."
"You came to see me? How sweet." Her smile was a
constant thing, her eyes never leaving me.
"I talked to Mr. Johnson this morning. He said he
doesnt know you."
"Mr. Johnson has been under a lot of stress lately. He
sometimes doesnt know what hes saying or doing."
"Ive never heard anybody call their uncle Mister
She hopped off her seat when she was at the top, landing
nimbly like a cat.
"Lets do the merry-go-round, come on Josh
She grabbed one of the bars and started running. Once she had
it going to a satisfactory speed she jumped on and lay down on her back.
"Make it go faster Josh."
I grabbed the bars as they passed, flinging each away from me
with all my strength, pushing the carousel faster and faster, unsure of how to continue
our conversation. My curiosity demanded I question this mysterious girl but a kind of fear
kept me from it. I was afraid I would frighten her away by asking too much.
"Get on. Ride with me." She called.
I jumped on and laid down. Our heads almost touching.
"You dont even know Mr. Johnson do you?"
"Thats not true I do know him. Im just sure
he never expected me."
"Youre not traveling with your family are
you." Some strands of her long hair fluttered across my cheek.
"Not really." Her voice was very quiet.
"Are you a run away?" The clouds overhead
were spinning like pinwheels in the powder blue sky.
"Sort of." There was a pause. "You wont
tell on me will you? At least until I see who I came to see. Because if you do we
wont be able to see each other anymore."
I had no reply. There were too many thoughts in my head.
"Where do you stay?" I finally said. Asking what I
thought of as a harmless question.
"I found a way to sneak into the school. Dont
worry I wont tear anything up. Foods not a problem . . . I have money."
"Will you keep my secret Josh?" She pleaded.
I thought about it. "For now."
She reached over and took my hand in hers. "Thank
"Why dont you just go to whoever it is that you
are supposed to meet? Wouldnt that be easier?"
She rolled over and propped herself up on one elbow her hand
still grasping mine.
"Youre smart Josh and I know youre curious.
But you have to promise no more questions, or we cant see each other anymore.
Im taking a terrible chance as it is, but I like you and since you came along on the
bridge I figure what can it hurt."
"Okay Manda, no more questions."
She sighed. "I have to meet this person at a certain
spot. No place else will do."
I knew she had told me more than she felt she should, trying
to satisfy my questions.
I jumped up and started pushing the merry-go-round.
"This train is slowing down and we cant have that. Hang on Manda here we go,
faster than light."
She sat up laughing. Laying her hand on top of mine again on
the metal bracing.
"Woo, woo." She imitated a train whistle.
Again we talked away the hours as we played like two little
kids on the swings and slipper slides. Once the sun was high over head we stopped to catch
"Do you like ice cream Manda?"
"Who doesnt?" she asked.
"We could go get some. At the drug store, its not
She looked away toward the river. "Id like to
Josh, more than anything. But I have to be getting to my meeting."
"Will I see you again? I mean if you have this meeting
today will you just leave?" My eyes were downcast.
She moved close beside me. "I will try to see you again
no matter what happens." She leaned against me and I could feel her heart beat like
the fluttering of a bird. She kissed my cheek very lightly.
"Dont follow me Josh. You have to promise."
"I wont." I promised myself as much as her.
Her lips brushed mine and then she was walking away.
"See you Josh Riggins."
"Mr. Johnson asked me to tell if I saw you again. What
should I do?"
"What do you think?"
The child in me saw a distinct difference in not telling
about something if it didnt come up in conversation and not telling an adult about
something that they had asked about. One was a deletion the other was an out right lie.
The coming adult in me said that I had made a promise and that maybe Amandas
business was no ones but her own, even though she was no older than me.
"Royals by two today Josh. Impress your friends."
* * * *
The Royals won by two that afternoon but my heart wasnt
in it. Even when Pete and Danny sat looking at me with their mouths agape at my pre-game
My gaze kept going to the south out the door of the garage.
To the river and the rail bridge, wondering if she had made the meeting that she was
Who was she. All I knew was her first name and that she had
asked for my trust and friendship. The touch of her lips was still hot on my mind.
" . . . Christ you fruit, are you in a coma? Earth to
Josh. Come in
Josh." Pete was shouting at me.
"What?" I stammered back.
"I ask if you saw your girl friend?" Danny
"No." I lied. It came easy to my tongue. It was
just one word like yes, only the opposite.
"She was probably some hippie run away. Already blowed
out of town with some trucker."
"Pete you have a twisted sense of things. I have to go,
I have some stuff I need to do."
"See you later moon-unit. Going home to stare into space
and make some more ball game predictions?"
"See you Josh." Danny replied.
"See you when you get back to earth." Pete sneered.
* * * *
I rode straight to the Johnson house. It looked deserted but
I rang the bell anyway. Curtains rustled in the living room and the door swung open.
Tim Johnson stood in the opening a bottle of whiskey in his
hand, he looked even worse now than he did this morning. Another ten years could have been
wrung from his life.
"You again. Part two of your little prank?" He
drank from the bottle.
"I dont know what youre talking about Mr.
Johnson. You told me to tell you if I saw her again."
"This Amanda girl, right?" He weaved a little in
the doorway and I thought he might topple over.
"Yes sir. Why dont we go inside sir, so you can
He flopped down on his haunches back resting on the door
"We can sit right here. What did this girl look like
kid? This Amanda?"
I felt embarrassed for him. That someone might pass by and
see him in such a sorry state. I was too young to understand the depths of some grief.
"Shes very pretty. Violet eyes and black hair,
lots of wavy black hair. She said everyone calls her Manda."
He let out a keening wail, trying to get to his feet.
"Why are you doing this? Why would anyone be so cruel? My wife and daughter are dead.
What enjoyment can you get from this?"
He swung the bottle drunkenly at me. I ducked under it easily
and it smashed into the wall of the house. The momentum of his movement caused Mr. Johnson
to trip himself up and fall to the ground. He was unable to regain his feet and lay
struggling on the ground.
I helped pull him to a standing position with a hand under
his arm, pushing him back into the house as I did so. The house had the closed up heated
smell of an animal lair. I steered the wreck of a man to the sofa in the living room. He
lay down on it in a heap.
"Mr. Johnson I dont mean you any harm. Everything
Ive told you is true. I hardly know more than you. The girl, this Amanda seems sad
and lonely. I think shes some kind run away. For what ever reason she thinks she
knows you. Im going to go now and I wont bother you again." I turned to
"Where did you see her this time?" He sobbed.
"At the school playground, but she left there. Said she
was going to met this person shes supposed to meet."
I didnt turn back to him instead I kept my gaze
downcast. It fell on a photograph on the coffee table. There was a framed picture with the
glass shattered out of it. I picked it up to get a better look, Mr. Johnson and a woman
obviously in happier times.
A lamp snapped on. The woman in the picture could be
Amandas sister, the hair and eyes a perfect match
"My wife Tina. That was taken on our honeymoon."
He was sitting up studying my face.
"I have to go. I wont bother you again." I
felt leaden fear in my stomach. There was something I could not understand at work here.
"Did your friends put you up to this prank? Go scare the
crazy man, describe his wife to him. See if we can drive him around the bend?"
"No Mr. Johnson thats not it at all. I told you I
wont bother you anymore."
"No, no you won't." He replied with an even gaze
and an iciness his voice. "Tell them they needn't have bothered. I've decided no one
is going to bother me. Now get the hell out of my house."
I fairly ran from the house, but called out as I slammed the
door. "I think she wants to see you Mr. Johnson."
* * * *
I spent the rest of the day in my room making every attempt
to listen to a ball game on the radio. The girl Amanda and Mr. Johnson filled my thoughts.
Who was she and what was her purpose here? Had Mr. Johnsons comment meant what I
thought it meant? Was he so locked in his sorrow that taking his own life seemed the
Evening was coming, the summer sun was losing its heat and
the light was beginning to soften. I had no idea who won the ball game. My mother shouted
to me that supper would be in half an hour as I ran out the kitchen door.
I pedaled to the Johnson house as fast as my legs would carry
me. Pounding on the door brought no answer, I tried to look in the heavily draped windows.
Every glimpse of the dark interior was empty.
I raced to the railroad bridge. Mr. Johnson's car sat at the
end of the street that paralleled the tracks through town to the river. My gaze went
immediately to the crossing. There was no one there. My stomach sank, I was too late.
The sorrow had been too much for him. The desire to end his
loneliness and guilt had outweighed his hold on life. I stood near the hood of the car,
afraid to go down to the river. His body would have been swept away by the current but the
thought of going so soon to the place a man had ended his life kept me from moving.
"She never came." A voice startled me from my fear
I spun to the direction of the voice.
Tim Johnson sat behind the wheel of the car. Eyes bloodshot,
shoulders slumped in dejection.
My heart was thudding so loudly I thought my chest would
"Mr. Johnson, you...I thought..."
"Come to see your handy work? Where's your
I walked to the open window.
"My friends have nothing to do with this. There's no
sick game like you think. I only know what she told me and what I feel from you. Mr.
Johnson I can't begin to know what you're going through but I can't think that your wife
or your child would want you to stop living."
My daughter drowned in a moments careless accident. Barely
four months old and we lost her. My wife felt the guilt so heavy that she took her own
life to end it. I couldn't save either one of them and now I don't want to be without them
anymore. Is that so wrong?"
"I can only imagine how much you miss them, but to end
your life because theirs is over. That can't be right. Do you think what your wife did was
"Right? What could possibly be right about my family
being taken from me. A baby, a tiny baby and a beautiful woman that never intentionally
hurt a soul."
"So you know that your babies death wasnt her
He hung his chin to his chest and sobbed. "I never
blamed Tina. I knew it was an accident. No matter how horrible it was, I never blamed
"Would you want her to give up on life if you had it to
do over Mr. Johnson?"
"No of course not."
"Would she want you to give up?" I wasnt even
sure where the words were coming from but they poured out to this broken man, trying to
help him find comfort and courage.
"Would she want you to give up?" I repeated.
"No." He shouted. "No she wouldnt."
"Would your baby want you to give up?"
"Respect them Mr. Johnson."
He started the car and pulled away from the curb.
"She never came. I thought she wanted to see me."
I looked down at the rusting hulk that spanned the river.
Maybe she was gone for good. Had I been duped into playing some cruel trick on Tim
I felt worn out and empty but couldnt resist the urge
to go down to the bridge, waiting to see if she would come to stand on its worn wooden
planks waiting for some mysterious meeting. I stood watching the swirling water until full
darkness came and the water and the night blended as one. Crickets chirped and night birds
fluttered, no Amanda.
I pedaled home and got chewed out by my mother for missing
supper. I ate the plate she had saved for me cold and went to bed.
The next morning milky sunlight through the window woke me. A
pearly fog covered the neighborhood, clinging to everything like a wet shroud. I played
with my breakfast, trying to let the sun burn away the depressing vapor.
My mother picked up the bowl of soggy cereal. "If
youre not going to eat it dont play with it. Go on outside see if you can get
some of this blue funk blown off of you. Go. Supper is at 5:30, be here."
Her talk of a blue funk made me realize that if I was
depressed by the fog what would Mr. Johnson be like?
I pedaled like a madman, his garage door was up, the car
gone. The cemetery, he goes to the cemetery in the mornings. I streaked through the fog.
Once in the cemetery I pedaled slowly, out of respect for the
dead and a goose fleshy fear of foggy cemeteries, to the spot where his wife and baby were
No Mr. Johnson, but the small metal markers had been replaced
with the actual head stones:
Beloved Wife Tina Marie Johnson 1949-1974
Cherished Daughter Amanda Jane Johnson 1974-1974
The metal markers hadnt even listed the childs
name. Had it been published in the obituary? Had the girl seen the name there?
The only other place I could think to look for Mr. Johnson
was the crossing. I pedaled that direction disregarding my fear of the dead and cutting
directly across any grave between me and the gate.
In the shallow valley that formed the river bottom the fog
lay as heavy as a wool blanket. It deadened sound and distorted distances. I was nearly on
top of Mr. Johnsons car before I saw it. This morning the interior was empty.
The crossing bridge was hidden in the mist. I walked in its
direction following the overgrown foot path. Near the end of the bridge a shape separated
itself from the fog, Mr. Johnson walking toward me.
"I saw the markers this morning Mr. Johnson. I
didnt know your daughters name before that I swear." I began in way of
His face was still haggard and unshaven but it had somehow
changed. There was some focus of light in his eyes, a color of life to his cheeks.
He nodded. "Almost no one knew. My wife and I were
having a terrible time picking out a name. Jane was my mothers name, Amanda was
Tinas grandmother, we just couldnt decide."
There was a smile on his face. The first I had seen.
"I started calling her Manda. Thats what they
called Tinas grandmother until she died at eighty-three. Almost no one knew, she was
so little when we lost her."
"Are you all right Mr. Johnson? You look
He laughed. Not a hollow empty thing, but full of mirth.
"I am surprisingly well for the first time in a long
He looked back at the bridge. "I never would have
believed . . . "
He turned and looked at me. "Shell want to see you
Im sure. She said you were a great help to her. Thank you."
He put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed. "Ill
wait at the car if you want."
I nodded and he walked away.
I went down onto the bridge. My footfalls dull thuds on the
She was there at the center. Today she wore cheerleaders
outfit, with ponytails. She didnt look up until I was right beside her.
"Hello Josh. What do you think?" She held her arms
up and spun around. The red and white pleated skirt opening like a parasol.
"I think it would have been fun. Maybe date the captain
of the football team. What about you?"
"I dont think dating cheerleaders is really going
to be my thing. Im not that good a jock."
"You never know. I really like you." She motioned
to her outfit. "And Im a cheerleader."
"I think this is different." I leaned against the
"Youre probably right. You kind of put me in a fix
showing up the way you did that day. But it all worked out and Im glad I met
"What do you mean?"
"Its funny how some of it works. I was supposed to
meet my dad on the bridge that day. I was only four months old so I couldnt very
well meet him that way and make much sense. So when he came down here to jump in the river
and saw me I would have been about his age. We would have had a long talk and hopefully he
wouldnt have done it."
"Im really confused."
"Instead you came along and I ended up like this, your
age. Dad saw us and it scared him off. So in a way you saved his life that day and I think
everyday since then."
I looked into her eyes again. I knew what I felt needed to be
"You're not real are you?"
She touched my cheek and smiled. "I'm as real as
anything you'll ever see. I'm as real as you."
Amanda kissed me on the mouth. The first time I had ever
really kissed a girl.
She pulled away and looked at me. Before she could say a word
I grabbed her shoulders and kissed her back.
When I let her go she took in a deep breath.
"So you don't forget me." I explained.
She had a blush to her cheeks. "Go home Josh I have to
"I'll never see you again will I?"
"I told you I'd never say good-bye. It may be awhile
before we see each other again but we will I promise." Her eyes looked soft and
"It's not fair." I complained.
"Things happen for a reason. Don't forget that. You
helped save my dads life. You have a way with people that you should use." She
held my hand and I didn't want her to let go but I knew it was coming.
"Where will you go?" I asked.
"Not far really."
"I'll never forget you."
"You better not, otherwise how would I find you again.
I turned and walked off the bridge toward town. Every fiber
of my being wanted to look back but I knew I shouldn't. I was afraid that if I looked back
I would see some transparent sparkling image of my imagination, of my insanity fading from
sight. If I didnt looked back she would always be there on that bridge like the
first time I saw her. . .
* * * *
"What happened the last few days?" I asked Mr.
"I dont know, I dont understand any of it. I
only know in my heart that it was real and that I owe you a debt of gratitude That I hope
I can repay someday."
"You dont owe me anything." I looked back at
the fog. "I only wish that . . ."
* * * *
When I came into the clinic the first patients of the day
were ready to be seen. It was still a small town and I knew almost everyone by sight.
Linda Pomaroy the receptionist smiled at me from her desk.
"Morning Dr. Riggins."
"Good morning Linda. Does Alice have the first patient
ready for me to work on?" I rubbed my hands together in a mock parody of a mad
"Room two." She laughed. "But Alice called in
sick. She said she would be in later."
Linda shook her head to the negative. "Just the flu.
They sent a temporary over from Hobbs Corners to help out until Alice is back up."
I walked to the number two exam room. "Call Alice and
tell her I will stop by her house later to see her, so she can stay in bed and rest
In the exam room was a mother and coughing child. More flu to
"Hi Katie." I said kneeling down to get closer to
the little girls level. She managed a small smile despite her illness. "Still having
problems with this darn flu?"
The little girl nodded and stifled a cough.
"Fever still up there Jennifer?"
"Yes I've used the Diamatap and those medicated suckers
you gave for her sore throat but she doesn't seem to be improving."
As I looked at the little girls eyes I heard the door to the
exam room open and close behind me.
"Well I tell you what this little Chickadee may have
hatched out something more serious than the flu. Maybe she found some strep throat out
there somewhere. We'll check it out and maybe prescribe some antibiotics. Nurse could you
get me a ..."
A tongue depressor appeared near my hand. A nurse with as
much ESP as Alice from the hospital at Hobbs Corner. I was impressed.
"Thank you...I'm sorry Linda didn't give me your name.
Say Ah for me Katie. I'll need a swab too please."
The swab appeared by my hand.
"Here you are Doctor Riggins. My name is Amanda, but
everyone calls me Manda."
I looked up into a pair of violet eyes framed by long dark
"How?" I croaked.
"We can make choices where I'm from too."
"Fifteen years, were you not sure until now?"
"It was only a second to me, I swear. I got there and
came right back here. Youre the one that let so much time pass. That happens here,
not where I was."
Mother and daughter were staring at us.
"She's a ghost." I explained.
"Of course she is." Jennifer replied, thinking I
was joking with her. "Just what I always thought a ghost would look like."
"No I mean..." I tried to explain.
Amanda put a finger on my lips.
"Actually I was an angel, but Im retired
now." She told the mother.
The little girl laughed. "Angels dont
Amanda bent down. "Sure they do sweetie. Its just
that most times nobody notices."
© Dec.20,1998 Zen McCan