Bewildering Stories

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The Bridge

Part III, installment 1

by euhal allen

“The Bridge” began in issue 99.
Part II concluded in issue 102.

It was a small town on the Oregon coast, a small seaport town. It was also one of those towns that had been right next to the Bridge when it existed.

The great pillars that used to support the long-gone spans were still in the harbor and were one of the tourist attractions that made up a large part of the business of the town. There was always a need for people to do the work of the service industry; cooks, maids, waitresses and things like that.

It was to get one of those jobs that brought Blanca Martinez and her children to live there; and, before long she had found her job as a motel maid and was able to afford a cheap apartment not far from her work. Miguel, her son, was soon doing yard work to help out with the bills, while Maria, her daughter, had to stay home and take care of the twins.

It was a hard life, being a motel maid, and Blanca, who hoped that she could make this job last, worked very hard to impress her employers with her skills with both the work and the people.

The family had been there only a month or so when news came that her husband Piotr Martinez, was free and coming to live with them again. It was planned that Piotr would try to get work in the timber industry.

Piotr was a big man, much like his mother’s father whom his given name had come from. His father, Miguel Martinez, had also been quite big for a Latino and had insisted that Piotr’s first son be named after Miguel. Since both of Blanca’s parents had died some years ago, Piotr’s father got his wish.

Soon, the whole town knew them as hardworking people that could be depended upon, and Piotr, though not getting into the timber industry, was soon working on a fishing boat where his strength was a definite asset. As were his many stories of his family, both Russian and Latino, and the clash of those two cultures.

It seemed that Russian women did not act in exactly the way that Latino husbands expected, and Latino husbands that married Russian women bigger than they had some very hard lessons to learn. Those stories sealed the friendship for Piotr the same way that Blanca’s hard work made her too valuable to loose. So, for the first time since they had been married, they could think of settling down and really being part of the community. It felt good.

* * *

President Hobart was becoming a very unhappy man. He had never been a patient one, and now, with the election coming up, he needed something to show the people the wisdom of voting for him again. He needed to find the Bridge lovers and parade them before the people; show the people the danger that they were still in and how he, their President, was working hard to protect them.

There was a knock on the Oval Office door, and then Lockly came in. “Sir, we may have found something. Postcards from different places where the Bridge was physically present are starting to be seen in the mails.”

“There have been those cards of the Bridge’s ruins ever since it was destroyed, ” said the President. “They are nothing new.”

“These,” Lockly answered, “are not of ruins. These are of the Bridge when it was still existent. And, they always show the Bridge in a beautiful light.”

“What do you mean beautiful light? How can that monstrosity be shown that way?” the President asked.

Lockly answered, “They show the full spans against the sunrise or the sunset, some show people on the Bridge, smiling or laughing. That kind of stuff, stuff that softens the real damages that the Bridge had done.”

President Hobart turned red and shouted, “Find out who is printing those things and stop them.”

“I know who is printing them,” Lockly said, “and there is not much I can do about it. They are being printed in Europe. Where they are being printed isn’t the problem; it is finding out how they are getting into this country that we’re looking into. So far we have located fifty-seven points of entry. We are sure that there are at least that many more. And they are being used in a random order.”

* * *

Tommy Tinker looked back at the old house and, mentally, said his last good-bye. It had been a hard thing to do, let his cousin Amelia use it for several years, until her kids were out of school. Yet, she badly needed some type of stability in her life. Her husband recently dead from a long and painful illness, leaving her with just the state security checks to live on, was having a terrible time of it. Yes, Uncle Hiram would have approved. Besides, he needed to get away from there for awhile.

He got on the bus at the terminal in town and looked again at the letter he had received from that Oregon coastal town, offering him a job as ranch manager for one of the local land-owning doctors. He would have a house to live in and a ranch company truck to drive, and some time off each week to go fishing. Best of all, he would be well paid for his work.

Yes, he would use the time, away from the old place, to clear up the confusion in his head and find a way to face the future without so much pain and hurt.

“Good-bye Uncle Hiram,” he said as the bus passed the field by Stony Gap and the grave of that old man he still loved.

* * *

Neils hated living in this small seaport. He wanted to be where the action was; where they were actually tracking down those Bridge lovers. It was all bad luck that his wife had drowned before he could arrest her. It was almost as if President Hobart blamed him for that. Now he was stuck here in this town with all these yokels.

“Well,” he thought, “if there aren’t any Bridge lovers here for me to catch I will just have to make some.”

He had heard about those Bridge-lover postcards being sent around. If he could just get his hands on some of them he could mail them from other towns to some of the jerks here; and then, by a little evidence creation, he could make some points with the people who count. There were a number of people in this little town who did not belong among good folk like him, anyway. That Mexican maid at the Motel was one of them: her and that Russkie husband of hers. They didn’t belong here anyway and he could do the town a favor by getting rid of them.

* * *

President Hobart fumed this day as he had every day for years. All those foreign people in the country and he could do nothing about it, at least not openly. Again and again he cursed his predecessor, President Walters. Why did that idiot have to sign that U. N. Treaty of International Amnesty? Didn’t he know that it would ruin this country to let all those strange people that the Bridge brought here stay here? The ones we did not shoot, that is. We should have started shooting them sooner.

We should have pushed them down to Mexico or up to Canada. Neither of them could have stopped us. We had the power. But that idiot signed that treaty just because everyone else did. Now we are stuck with it. Now we have to let those people live here and pollute our culture.

John Lockly knocked at the Oval Office door and then let himself in. “Mr. President, I think we need to pull Neils in and get rid of him.”

“Why?” asked the President. “What is that idiot up to now?”

“Our men have been following him and we have seen him getting supplies of those new pro-Bridge postcards. Then he has been mailing them from different towns, been sending them to people back in the bay town. He has been sending a lot of them to some of the immigrant worker around town. Some of them don’t even read English. It is messing up all our work.”

“Well, good for him!” the President said. “That may be the answer to a problem I have had for a long time. Let him be. Let him send those cards. Just make sure you keep a record of everyone who receives one. Especially the foreigners. And, you keep track of every name he uses to send them. We will pull him in someday, when he is no longer of use to us, but right now he is doing us a favor.”

* * *

Elvira and Ferd Hammet sat out on their rocking chairs on their front porch looking at the bay; the cool, peacefully beautiful bay. It was a view they had always wanted to be able to watch. And, now that they had retired, they had it, and the dream retirement home that they had worked and saved for all these many years.

They had dreamt of having a place where they could fit in with the other old folks; fish when they wanted to; and, when they felt like it, just sit on their porch as they were today. They wanted a place big enough so that the kids and grandkids could come visit; but just little enough to be crowded enough, that they would not want to stay long enough to make everyone tired of each other.

That dream had come true and then, with the accident, had been shattered. The grandkids were theirs now and their retirement was gone with the new responsibility of raising two adolescent children. Not that Hank and Sal were bad kids, they weren’t. They really tried hard to help their grandparents in anyway they could, but they were so young and energetic that just having them around all the time was tiring to the old couple.

And, then, there were the money problems. Even with all the years of saving there had only been enough to live on for Elvira and Ferd. The money from the insurance had barely covered the medical bills and the funerals. And, the small allowance the government supplied for the kids barely covered the basic expenses in caring for them. Ferd was going to have to go back to work, arthritis, limp and all.

* * *

Blanca, on her fifth room for the morning, was sweaty and tired. As always, she had out-performed her fellow maids this morning. Ordinarily that would have made some of them jealous, but they did not get jealous at her. She was Latino and they felt that she should have to work harder than they did to make up for that.

One last swipe of the dusting cloth on the window sill and then she could take a short break before going on to the rest of her rooms. Then, during that final touch, looking out the window, she saw Niels. She decided to take her break there in the room, hoping that he would go away. Surely he would not stay out there a whole fifteen minutes. Yet, he did.

Blanca did her best to get out the door quietly and over to the next room before he saw her. She did not quite make it and Niels came bounding up the stairs to bother her once more.

“Well, girl, I am still waiting for your visit to my place,” he said, grabbing her wrist and twisting it lightly.

“Sir, I am a married woman with children,” was her answer. “You should go talk to unmarried women. They are looking for men to entertain.”

Niels smirked and was about to give an answer when he felt himself jerked back around and found himself facing a very angry Piotr.

“Let go of my wife,” said Piotr. “And do it now!”

Niels let go of Blanca’s wrist and tried to force a sneer onto his face. “I have a lot of very important friends, Russkie. You remember that before you go pushing your betters around.”

“You touch my wife again and all your important friends can come to your funeral.” With those words Niels found himself experiencing the thrill of being thrown over the rail and landing in the roses below.

“You will regret this, Russkie,” he shouted as he pulled himself out of his temporary but thorny habitat.

Blanca turned her white, frightened face to Piotr and said, “You should not have done that Piotr. I could have handled him, as I have done before. Now he has great anger. He knows many people here. We do not. He will cause much trouble for us now.”

To be continued...

Copyright © 2004 by euhal allen

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