Short Story: Holcomb Bridge

Holcomb Bridge is a short story from my book, Devious Tales. If you like it and want more tales with a twist, you can purchase the complete book at Amazon (ebook and paperback), Barnes & Noble (ebook and paperback), and Kobo (ebook).  The paperback contains two additional stories.

Holcomb Bridge was the sort of small bridge you find in many small towns. This particular one though had little traffic during the day and was even quieter at night. That is except for Friday and Saturday nights when local teens came out here way after dark looking for a deserted area where they could park and neck. As a cop, I knew all this pretty well. I was also a teenager once myself, and having grown up here, I had fond memories of kissing Caroline McKay, Janie Newton, and a few other girls right on that bridge. Not at the same time of course!

      It’s a romantic spot. Especially if you got lucky and the moon was full, shining bright and reflecting off the river below. These days, this area of town was part of my regular patrol, and those nights of my teenage lust long gone except for the memories. I am married now to a great woman. Her name is Barbara. We have two terrific sons, Michael and Anthony. Still, whenever I drive by this bridge which is every night I am on duty, it brings back fond recollections of those late nights and early mornings. Today, as a police officer, I always left the kids alone.

     Unlike Ray Morton.

     Ray Morton was the police officer who patrolled this area back in those days when it was me and Caroline and Janie necking in the shadows of the bridge along with other kids. Soon as he spotted us, Morton jumped out of his car. He would shine a bright flashlight right at us and chase us all off threatening to tell our folks. Like we cared!

     Me on the other hand, I just drive by, take a quick gaze at the surroundings making sure nothing looks out of the ordinary and let the kids be. Necking and maybe smoking a bit of weed was not the worst thing you could do.

     This particular night though was a Wednesday. It was well past midnight, and the person on the bridge was not a teenager, and he was there all by himself. His car was parked right in the middle of the bridge. I pulled over stopping my car about twenty feet from him. I shut the headlights off and sat there looking at him for a bit getting the impression he didn’t even know I was there. He hadn’t moved. He was just staring down at the water. I quietly got out of my car and slowly walked over toward him until I was a couple of feet away. He still did not move or acknowledge my presence. I leaned over the railing and stared out into the darkness.

     “Nice night, a bit cool maybe,” I said.

     “I’ve seen better.”

     “How long you been here?”

     “I don’t know. An hour or so, maybe. Makes no difference.”

     “You know, I bet that water is still cold after our snowy winter.”

     He turned and looked at me for the first time, just for a moment. He nodded, “yeah, it probably is.” He then turned back to staring out into the dark nothingness.

     He pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Put one in his mouth and then offered me one.

     I shook my head. “Gave them up a while back.”

     “I thought of doing that too, but lately it just doesn’t seem to matter.”

     He lit up, took a long drag and blew out a mouth full of smoke.

     “You know, life gives you a lot of twists and turns,” he said. “One moment it makes you think everything is finally going to ease up and go well. You could settle down, be happy, and then…then you suddenly, unexpectedly get a big knife right in your gut ripping you apart.”

     “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened?”

     He took the cigarette out of his mouth and held it in right hand.

     “My wife died.”

     “I’m sorry.”

     “That’s what everyone says. They all say how sorry they are, friends, relatives, co-workers. They all offer help, food, comfort, companionship. Everything except for one thing.”

     “What is that?” I asked even though I knew the answer.

     “How do I get my wife back? She was everything to me, and now she’s gone. I’m alone.”

     “Do you have kids?”

     “No. Stella couldn’t have children, and that was okay with me. We had each other and always would, forever. At least, that’s what I thought. Forever ended sooner than expected.”

     With that, he flicked the half-smoked cigarette into the river below. We were silent for a few minutes.

     “You married?” he asked.

     I nodded in the affirmative, “we have two boys,” I said.

     “That’s nice. Like I said, Stella couldn’t have kids.  I knew when we got married that she couldn’t have them. She had a hysterectomy when she was nineteen believe or not. Cancer. But they got it all, and here we were twelve years later, and she was doing great. We were happy.”

     “What happened?”

     “The cancer didn’t come back if that’s what you’re thinking. It was a car accident. Some teenage kid. A seventeen-year-old asshole texting on her phone swerved, not paying attention to the road, slammed head on right into her. The doctors said she most likely died instantaneously. I guess that’s something to be grateful for huh?”

     He pulled out another cigarette and lit it up. “Maybe, it was cancer that killed Stella. The stupid human kind. You know what I mean?”

     “Unfortunately, I do. Kids, texting and driving. It’s not just kids,” I said. “Not to sound like an advertisement or something, but it’s an epidemic.”

     “Stupidity never dies.”

     “I’ll take one if you don’t mind.”

     “Thought you said you quit?”

     “Generally speaking…” I smiled.

     He smiled back and offered me the pack. I took one and lit up. We both stood there silent for a while again.  This time it was longer though I can’t say how long, but we finished that pack of cigarettes, I know that.

     The wind was beginning to pick up a little. It felt good.

     “I hated that kid,” he said suddenly. “Lord knows I did. Marcy Stevens, that’s her name. I know you’re a cop, but I’ll tell you anyway. I wanted to kill her. I wanted her not just to die, but to suffer before she died, actually suffer like I have been suffering now.”

     “Did you? I asked.

     “Did I what?”

     “Kill her.”

     He looked at me incredulously. “No, of course not. I had a lot of rage for a long time, and I thought up a lot of bad things. A lot of different ways to make her suffer. Run her down like she did Stella. Then run over her again and again, going back and forth. Then I thought of shooting her or stabbing her. But I…I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do any of that. Stella wouldn’t have wanted me to. She would have wanted me to forgive that kid. That’s the kind of sweet soul she was.”

     “Sounds like she was a wonderful person.”

     “Oh she was, she was.”

     “Have you been seeing anybody? Professionally I mean, a doctor.”

     “I did for a while, but I stopped going. I began drinking for a while, but I kept getting sick to my stomach. Never been able to tolerate booze well. I gave up on that too. That’s when I started coming out here to think. Thinking about a lot of things but mostly about,” he stops for a moment, “well, you can guess.”

     “Yeah, probably,” I said. “You should go back to the doctor.”

     “Yeah, but I have been coming out here for a while now. True, the first few times I came out here, I always had plans to…well, take the dive. End it all. But, somehow, I never did. Then I began coming out here as some sort of therapeutic thing. I’d talk to Stella, and for a while that was good. And she told me it was okay and I should go on with my life. Am I crazy, talking to a dead person?”

     “Lots of people do when they miss someone,” I said.

     “Well, believe it or not, it helped. I stopped coming here, and I thought I was over it all. You know, I figured I reached a point, with Stella’s blessings, where I could move on with my life. It was all okay for a time. A couple of months went by, and it was good. I even thought of dating. Then came one night when suddenly inside my head I felt all those old emotions and feelings come rushing back. The next night and the next were the same. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to come out here. It all came back. I wanted to jump again. I wanted it all to end. Then you appeared, and we talked. I’m okay now, at least for tonight.”

     “Well, I’m glad for that,” I said and truly was.

     “I guess it’s like being an alcoholic. You have to take it one day at a time.”

     “I guess, but I still think a doctor could help you along the way.”

     “You’re probably right. I should go back. Maybe next time you won’t be here to talk me down.”

     He looked at me.

     “I want to thank you,” he said. “You know, I just realized I don’t know your name.”

     “Moretti, Bob Moretti,” I said. “If you ever want to talk or need me, here is my cellphone number.” I took a card out and jotted down my personal number.

     “Mine’s Fred Smith.”

     We shook hands.

     By now, a couple of hours had passed, and the sun was beginning to rise slowly.

     “Wow, we’ve been here almost all night,” Fred said.

     “Time goes by when you’re having fun…” I said, trying to keep it light. “Like I said, Fred. Anytime. Just call me, and we can talk. I don’t want to come here again some night and find you down at the bottom of that river.”

     “I appreciate all this. Thanks, Officer Moretti.”

     “Bob,” I said.

     “Bob.”

     We shook hands again, and I walked over and got into my cruiser. I backed up to the end of the bridge and sat there for a moment watching as Fred got into his car. He was heading in the opposite direction from me.  His car started up. Suddenly, there was the screech of his tires. Bob’s car burned rubber as he drove right through the railings and off the bridge plunging into the cold river below.

     I waited for the rescue team to arrive. It took them a half hour to get here. By then the sun was almost up, and it was no longer a rescue operation. There’s no way Fred could have survived that frigid water, even if he survived the car’s dive into the river. Now, this was a recovery operation.

     They dragged the car out of the river. As expected, Fred was dead. Still strapped in with his seat belt which I found ironic since he planned on killing himself. Habit maybe?

     Also dead was the teenage girl, Marcy Stevens. She was tied up in the trunk of the car. Her cellphone was stuffed into her mouth and held there with tape.

 

 

 

Covered Bridges of New England

I love New England! One of the many regional attractions are its covered bridges. They scream out NEW ENGLAND!  Every New England state has them. Most go back to the 1900’s and were used daily by the local population. Today, they are still used, and are major attractions to both photographers and artists looking to capture a true piece of New England architecture and landscape.

Tannery Hill Bridge – New Hampshire

Tannery Hill Bridge= Revised-CW-1

White Mountain Nat’l Forest Covered Bridge – New Hampshire

White Mt. Natl Bridge-NH-1

Pemigewasset River Bridge (1886) – New Hampshire

Pemigewasset River Bridge 1186-6432

 

Blair Covered Bridge  (White Mountains) – New HampshireBlair BRidge-6469

 

Middle Bridge – Woodstock Vt.

Woodstock Middle Br_DS0740cw--0740

Martin Bridge – Vermont

Blair BRidgeMarin BRidge-CW Redone CW-1232

Jeffersonville Covered Bridge – Vermont

Jeffersonville Cover Bridge Redone CW-1299

Gorham Bridge – Vermont

Gorham Bridge VT B&W CW-

Cooley Bridge – Vermont

Cooley Bridge-CW Redone-5.jpg

Bridgewater Covered Bridge – Vermont

Bridgewater Vt Covered Bridge - Redonc CW-

Quechee Covered Bridge – VermontQuechee Covered Bridge - CW-

Taftsville Covered Bridge – Vermont

Taftsville overed Bridge- Redone CW-

Lincoln Gap aka Warren Bridge – Vermont

Covered Bridge Rd-Vermont 2015 (1 of 1)

Chamberlin Mill Covered Bridge, Lyndon, Vermont

Chamberlin Bridge - Lyndon, Vt-DSC1061-1061

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Depression Blues and the Dance Marathon

they-shoot-horsesDance marathons were phenomena that began in the 1920’s. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Horace McCoy’s 1935 novel is a dark tale of losers desperately attempting to hang on to impossible dreams. Just like in Nathaniel West better known novel, Day of the Locust the characters all have unreachable dreams of being in the movies. Continue reading “Depression Blues and the Dance Marathon”

Favorite Authors: Tony Hillerman

tony-hillermanNew Mexico is a state my wife and I have visited and photographed many times over the years. Returning after one of our earliest trips, a co-worker introduced us to the work of author Tony Hillerman. Hillerman is best known for his Navajo Tribal Police mysteries featuring Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. Hillerman’s in-depth knowledge and appreciation of Navajo culture are superbly detailed in his work. Above all, they are all great reads.

hillerman2Hillerman was not the first mystery writer to introduce a fictional Native American detective. However, he brought a new depth of understanding and revealed to many how sophisticated the Navajo nation was. His first novel in the series, The Blessing Way came out in 1970; eighteen books later, his last, The Shape Shifter, was published.  Hillerman’s novels are so well versed in the Navajo ways they are used as educational tools in Navajo schools.

hillermanSome years later, in 2008, during another one of our trips to New Mexico, we stopped by a local bookstore in Albuquerque’s Old Town. We were on the hunt for a couple of Southwestern flavored mystery novels to read on the plane ride back home. We asked the proprietor if any new Hillerman books were coming out. We mentioned how we have not seen one in quite some time. He sadly informed us that Hillerman, a steady visitor to his store over the years, was seriously ill and he doubted there would be any more books forthcoming.  We learned a short time late Tony Hillerman died in Albuquerque on October 26, 2008.

    Hillerman’s career as an author has roots going back to 1963 when he, with the blessing of his wife, enrolled in the graduate program for creative writing at the University of New Mexico. He received his master’s degree in 1965. He wrote a collection of essays on life in New Mexico called The Great Taos Bank Robbery as his thesis. His work was so well liked he was asked to stay on and teach journalism. [1]

MoonWhile still working in the academic world he wrote his first novel, The Blessing Way, featuring Joe Leaphorn. It was published in 1970. The book became a finalist in the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel.[2] Hillerman continued to write but it was not until the publication of his 1986 book, A Thief of Time, that he became a bestselling author.

Tony Hillerman was born in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma on May 27th, 1925. The youngest of three children, he served in the Army (103rd Infantry Division) during World War II earning himself a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart after being wounded in 1945. After the war, Hillerman attended the University of Oklahoma where he would meet his future wife, Marie Unzer. Between the years of 1948 and 1963, he worked as a journalist for a variety of newspapers including the Morning Press-Constitution (Oklahoma), Borger News Herald (Texas) and The New Mexican (Santa Fe) where he became the paper’s top editor.

Four of Hillerman’s novels have been turned into movies, one a feature film and three made for television.  The first film, The Dark Wind, was made in 1991. It was co-produced by Robert Redford, a Hillerman admirer, and directed by documentary filmmaker Errol Morris. Lou Diamond Philips starred as Jim Chee and Fred Ward as Joe Leaphorn. Sadly, the film had a troubled history and never saw a big screen release in theaters. It did make it to DVD. Redford called it “ill-conceived” as well as miscast in what he hoped would be the start of a series of films based on Hillerman’s work.

SkinwIt would take Robert Redford more than ten years and a different direction to bring three more Hillerman novels to the screen; the small screen. Skinwalkers (2002) premiered on PBS and became the highest-rated program of the year for the network. The film starred Adam Beach as Jim Chee and Wes Studi as Joe Leaphorn. PBS quickly agreed to do two more Hillerman based films, Coyote Waits and A Thief in Time. The three films complement the novels and are an excellent way to extend the pleasures of Hillerman’s tales.

In 2013, Anne Hillerman, Tony’s daughter,[3] published her first novel, Spider Woman’s Daughter, a continuation of the Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn series along with Chee’s new bride Bernadette Manuelito.  Anne’s second Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn novel, Rock with Wings, was published in 2015. Anne’s third novel in the series, Song of the Lion, will be published  this coming April. Sad as it is that Tony Hillerman is no long with us, it is good to know the series continues.

Netflix is currently streaming the  three PBS films under the title, Skinwalkers: The Navajo Mysteries. It come across as a three part TV series but it’s not. They are three separate movies

Notes:

[1] Stead, Deborah, New York Times, Tony Hillerman’s Cross Cultural Mystery Novels, August 16, 1988.

[2] Tony Hillerman Country Website.

[3] Anne Hillerman previously worked with her father on the non-fiction book, Tony Hillerman’s Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn

 

 

 

Love Locks in Maine

love-locks-1-of-1No one knows exactly where the “love lock” thing began but it has spread around to areas as diverse as Brooklyn, Tokyo and Paris as well as other cities and towns around the world. Lovers throughout declaring their love for one another by writing their names on a padlock and securing it on a waterfront fence then tossing the key into the water.

The photograph you see here I took last year in Portland, Maine where the “love lock” tradition began sometime in early 2013. It was on Commercial Street which runs along Portland’s waterfront. The area  is a big tourist spot and the locks have become a sight for visitors to look out for.

love-locks-close-up-1-of-1
Close up

Surprisingly, there have been few, if any, complaints from residents, shop owners and the local government. What is unknown is what will happen if and when the locks become rusted overtime or become so abundant they become an eyesore for many.