Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Parade: Part II, Under the Mason Bridge

The Parade
Part II
Under the Mason Bridge

Jackie sat on a bench at the edge of the park and watched the cars move through downtown Rivercross.  They zigzagged like confused ants, disappearing behind trees and buildings then reappearing moments later in a new direction.  A breeze knocked bright orange leaves loose from nearby trees.  They danced across her field of vision like bits of flame and floated away down the hillside.

Her tears had finally passed.  She held the brown bag tightly in her grip.  She had shoved the test stick in with the packaging.  She almost threw it all in the trashcan nearby but found that as she approached she couldn't release the bag.  She still had not decided if she was going to tell Sam.  She didn't know what she was going to do at all.  Jackie watched the clouds stretch themselves across the sky like cotton candy.

She pulled out her phone texted Sam. "you workin?"

After a minute he replied, "not yet.  on my way there.  u left early?"

"yeh.  stupid day. had to check out.   can I come see u?"

"sure but just 4 a bit.  Mom says we're busy.  where U at?"

"vegging at the park.  see you soon.  XO XO"


Sam worked at his mother's restaurant, the Rivercross Star.  He ran deliveries for her and sometimes cooked.  She felt happier and more safe at the Diner than she ever did at home.  Ruby had always treated Jackie well despite her parents' idiotic attitudes.  A car pulled into the entrance of the park.  Jackie glanced at her phone, 3:37.  No time to decide.  No time for anything.  Jackie forced her legs into motion and got on her bike.  She put the bag in her coat pocket and shoved off.

At the Mason bridge, Jackie began crying again.  She pulled over to the side and wiped her eyes with the tissue she had taken from the park restroom.  She couldn't show up at the Star all weepy and puffy eyed.  She sighed.  Sam was going to know she'd been crying anyway.  He always knew.  The bag in her pocket felt like a stone.  She took it out and looked at it.  it was twisted and crumbled where she had been wringing it.  Her tears fell on it and darkened the brown paper.  Jackie took a deep breath and tossed the bag into the river.

Before she realized what she had done the bag was over the edge of the bridge and gone.  It landed in the water with an audible plop.  Jackie stared wide eyed as the bag floated away on the steadily moving water.  It caught on a rock briefly then flipped over several times until it knocked loose.  It quickly bobbed further down the river and past where she could see.

Jackie moved across the bridge to see if she could follow the movement of the bag.  Just then she noticed someone at the edge of the river under the bridge.  A man in a hazmat suite and gas mask was moving something on a handtruck from a van parked near the riverbank.  The sign on the van read Colby County Sanitation.  Despite the suit, Jackie could tell he was rather tall and lanky.  He moved slowly and deliberately.  She watched as he disappeared into the shadows under the bridge.

The summer before her fifth grade year she and several other neighborhood kids would play on the riverbank near the bridge.  They caught frogs and fireflies and on hot days swam in the still pools.  Their favorite game to play was "Scaredy Cat".  Beneath the bridge is a six foot tall concrete drainage pipe that leads to the drain network under downtown Rivercross.  They would dare each other in turn to walk as far as possible into the drainage tunnel.  The rules were simple.  You were allowed to carry a flashlight, but the moment you turned it on or ran out of the tunnel you lost the dare and were hence dubbed a Scaredy Cat.  The burden then passed to the next in line.  Everyone eventually became a Scaredy Cat.

Jackie remembered the moist darkness and the smell of rotting earth in the tunnel.  Her turns never lasted very long.  When she looked back and saw the the shrinking circle of light from the tunnel entrance she would always panic.   She'd turn the flashlight on and run back to the entrance as fast as she could.  As they walked into the tunnel the kids outside would call "Marco" and the person in the tunnel would yell back "Polo".  This was how they kept track of how far they had gotten into the tunnel.  Only a couple of of the other kids made it to six Marco Polos.  Jackie had never made it past three.

One afternoon that July, Dave Riordan made it further into the tunnel than anyone had ever gone.  At his ninth Marco Polo he had walked all the way to where the bridge tunnel forked into a T.  Feeling safe in his new winning record, Dave turned on the flashlight to examine the new tunnels he had discovered. From the entrance, they could barely see the dull glow.  Everyone jumped when Dave began screaming.

Dave had continued to scream as he ran back to the pipe exit.  They could hear his footfalls splash as he ran.  At first, Everyone had thought that it was a joke.  When they saw Dave's face as he burst from the pipe, several others joined his screaming and ran as well.  Jackie had been dumbfounded in that moment.  She could still see his pale sweat covered face.  His eyes were crazed and staring and his mouth was open in a wide "O".  He ran screaming all the way home.

It wasn't until the following week that they found out what had happened to Dave.  In one of the other tunnels, a nest of debris had collected and dammed part of the tunnel.  Among the puzzle of tree limbs and hubcaps and trash, Dave had seen a skull faced monster writhing, reaching out to grab him.  Initially everyone thought it was only Dave's overactive imagination, but it turned out that he had seen a monster of sorts.

Animals of all sorts had been known to take shelter in the drain pipes: rats, racoons, snakes.  During a heavy summer storm, the water coming through the pipes was torrential.  If there was ever the threat of rain, Jackie's mom would not let her play near the river.  Earlier that summer one of the McPherson's dogs, a Rottweiler named Lucy, had run away.  Apparently Lucy had taken shelter in the tunnels and had died during a rainstorm.  Dave Riordan had found the decaying remains covered in rats.  Their parents had forbade them to play near the tunnel for the rest of the summer.

She looked for the bag again, but it was lost to the water.  She moved a little further across the bridge and glanced down again to the sanitation van.  Jackie shuddered.  The sewer man was staring right at her.  She thrust her bike into motion and sped away as fast as she could.

{8x2.665, 4x4 created in Adobe Photoshop}

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Eddie said...

The tall and lanky description of the man in the hazmat suit immediately made my mind jump to Angus Scrimm in Phantasm. If memory serves, Scrimm was a real life badass too. I believe in one scene from (I think the first movie) there's an explosion behind him as he walks towards the camera that was the real deal and he didn't even flinch when it went off.

Jesse Campbell said...

I hadn't thought of him when I was writing that! I love Scrimm! Although not the most well made movie, Phantasm is chock full of bits that have given me nightmares! :-O - the ball, the dwarves, the other world, and Scrimm himself!

I did not know about his real life bad assery. Very Cool! :-)

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