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Sunday, May 22, 2011

The river under the bridge

The river under the bridge
This is supposed to be a research paper, and I attempted to do it the traditional way. I researched five different topics, and they were good, valid and poignant; maybe more appropriate than what I chose. After some soul searching and self- debate I decided to tell a story. I have decided not to include any sources, or quotes; some arguments need no outside backup, no validation from studies, or scholars. I could put them in my essay, but I would be playing myself false, my experience is source enough.
It was a hot day in the summer of nineteen eighty nine, the temperature somewhere in the mid-nineties, and my brothers wanted to go to the river. I was twelve, weighing all of a buck twenty soaking wet, with big ears, a gap toothed smile, and short for my age. Robert (step brother) was fifteen, middling height, with black hair, slightly stalky and was the down to earth one. Jacob was sixteen, slender, tall, with a wide smile, and a good natured wild streak.
Jacob and Robert had pooled their money together and bought a car, a faded red Chevy Cavalier, so we had transportation to go wherever we wanted; when I say we I mean wherever Jacob wanted, being the oldest he was top dog. The car was a new thing, Jacob had just got his license three days before, and my mother was leery about where we were going. We did what any self-respecting teen-agers would do, we lied. We told just enough truth to be believable.
Jacob told my mother that we wanted to go to the Star Ropes. The Star Ropes was just outside of Star, Idaho, about fifteen miles away from our home. It consisted of a rope hanging from a very tall tree that draped over the Boise River. My mom had been there before and thought it was safe enough; at that point in the river the water was fairly placid, so she agreed that was fine, but that we couldn’t go to the silver bridge. “Oh no Penny we won’t go there, it’s not safe” said Jake. And with that we got into the car and left.
Of course we were going to the silver bridge, we had worked that out before we spoke to my mother, and in fact we had been planning it for three days. The bridge was about the same distance as the Ropes, and we were able to pick up our friends on the way.
Imagine a small car loaded with seven teen-agers, the music blasting, the sun out, and we didn’t care that it was hot and we were crammed; we were going to the silver bridge. None of us were supposed to go there; it was not safe Jacob didn’t lie when he said that, like I said we told just enough truth to be believable. The sad thing was we probably didn’t have to lie, if we had just left without talking to my mother she wouldn’t have noticed, she didn’t pay close enough attention to what we were doing anyway.
The silver bridge was on the outskirts of Caldwell, Idaho, spanning the Boise River downstream of the ropes. The bridge is almost four hundred feet long, but only about fifty or seventy five feet of that is actually over the water. It is almost twenty feet wide, the deck is asphalt and the trusses are steel , and the beams look like a series of A’s and V’s held together at the top and bottom by eight inch wide steel bars. The bridge got the nickname “silver” because of the paint job, flaking silver paint over rust. The trusses are about fifteen feet high and the bridge is about twenty feet over the river.
To the north of the bridge the river is wide and fairly shallow, but on the south side the water narrows, deepens, and becomes turbulent, like a shoot without walls. The banks of the river are pebble filled sands with sparse trees and scrub brush, this part of Idaho is mostly desert, so even though the river has plenty of water the vegetation can’t grow far from the river.
We showed up at the river ready to jump, it would have been perfect except for one thing, or should I say seventeen things. Already hogging the best part of the bridge was a group of older kids. They ranged in ages from about sixteen to about nineteen and they were from Middleton. This group liked to call themselves The Lost Boys, and they thought of themselves as a gang. We could tell by the way they were acting that they were trouble, so we waited for them to move off before we started jumping.
Stand on the guard rail look left, look right, look up, don’t look down, ignore the taunting, and jump! Free-fall, time suspends, the air turns jelly like, and everything goes quiet. With a rush it all comes back, and impact, the water wrapping around my body like a chilly cocoon. Thrusting off the river bed it seemed to take forever to reach the surface, but I did and with a shout of joy I swam to the bank and ran back to do it all over again.
So consumed with my pursuit I didn’t pay any attention to what anyone else was doing; the day was hot, the water was cold, and I got to fly. Eventually my fun was broken when one of Jacob’s friends, Ken (I will call him Ken and I think that was his name but I’m not sure),came over to tell me that one of our friends had been hit by one of the lost boys, and we should check if he was all right. Why he came and got me, I don’t know, I was the youngest, the smallest, and I didn’t even know the kid that had been hit; I didn’t think of those facts, I suffered from the idiocy of youth, it didn’t occur to me to find out where my brothers and friends were, I just went.
 Hurrying we started walking to the far side of the bridge. About halfway across the bridge the largest of the Lost Boys walked past me in the opposite direction, while walking past me he stuck his elbow out and hit me in the chest. With the air that was escaping me from the impact of the blow I said one word and one word only, then continued on. The boy that had hit me was about six foot six, and one hundred and eighty pounds, he was nineteen, I was twelve, five foot three, and one hundred and ten pounds. By the time I had taken two more steps I had forgotten about the hit; oh, did I forget to mention that I also have A.D.H.D...
We reached the part of the bridge where the ground was only about six feet below the bridge, Ken said that the other boy had gone “over there to cry” as he pointed to the trees in front of us, so we jumped to the ground and started walking towards where Ken had pointed. For some reason Ken stopped about forty feet from the bridge, I didn’t notice. Did I say already that I suffered from the idiocy of youth?
From the other side of the river I heard a violent shout, “hey, that mother fucker called me a dick”! I’m not sure whether it took him all that time to figure out what I had said, or if he just waited until he had all his friends around him. Stupid me I didn’t know who he was talking about. I looked up to see what was happening and saw a whole row of people running across the bridge; I remember thinking that’s strange, what are they doing? The boy in the lead of the chase knocked Ken out of the way, still I thought what the hell are they doing? Still running the boy jumped from about ten eight feet away and while still in the air punched me in the face.
In the split second before his fist connected with my face it dawned on me they wanted to kick my ass, and they were all after me; until that moment it didn’t even enter my mind that calling that guy a dick would have consequences. Yes I was that na├»ve, I had no clue.
As his fist hit my face I spun and ran, I was about forty yards away before he had turned around, and I would have got away but I tripped over a piece of fire wood. The next thing I knew I was surrounded by the Lost Boys. It’s too bad that there is only so much room around a twelve year old boy, the lucky few, seven to be exact, got to kick me senseless while the rest cheered them on. On my left was the boy that first hit me to my right was a Polynesian boy, he was about five foot six and two hundred and fifty pounds. I remember every kick. I was only able to see the faces of two of them because I was trying to protect my face. It seemed to last forever, but probably only lasted for five minutes. The whole time I was begging them to stop, please stop.
The beating ended as fast as it began, one moment they were trying to pummel me to death the next they were running to their cars. I guess seventeen bullies can beat up a scrawny twelve year old, but they run from two teens with crowbars.
It would have made sense at this point to go to the hospital, because I was hurt, but child logic isn’t logic at all, we got in the car and went to the Ropes. My brothers treated me different after that day; they were impressed by how well I could take a beating, and how well I could keep my mouth shut.
My mother found out about the beating a month later; I made the mistake of taking my shirt off where she could see. What no one knew was that the beating had broken most of the ribs on my left side and crushed a section on my right. She made me strip so she could see. I was still black and blue from my neck to my knees; her response was “you’re grounded, I told you not to go there”.
This story is true. This wasn’t a fictitious tale spun to please. Had my mother paid more attention to what we were doing this probably would not have happened. Not just my mother, what about the parents of the boys that beat me, where were they? I know where they were, they were somewhere not doing their job. They failed to protect their children from themselves. Children are not capable of cognitive thinking at the level necessary to be in large groups unattended. Therefore it is my belief that no group of children should be left unattended for any reason for any length of time. You might say that this was one group of bad kids, and this kind of thing doesn’t happen often, if you think that you are blind, deaf, and dumb. Do you not remember your childhood, the bully and his cronies beating up kids, the pretty girls incessantly taunting the fat kid or the not so pretty girls? My example is on the extreme, this is why I think it can stand alone. You can provide the rest from your own experience.
Chris Mcqueeney 5/22/11


christopher said...

Powerful and clean. I hope that your departure from the assignment is overlooked. This is very well done. A point on style, it is not often these days that the writer injects himself into the story. He more often allows one or more of the characters to have an inner life to express opinions. That is a writing skill and will take practice.

She Writes Here Now said...

I like this. It brings back good memories of summer and being rightly afraid of other kids I knew were trouble. My mother was RIGID. I would have been beaten for the beating had I been caught lying.

I wonder how you scored on the paper? Very curious how teacher took deviation from assignment? This is well written.