Photo: Sue Vincent
Lush grass now grew over the span of stones, though none had grown there in the many years when the passage of feet had mowed and flattened any seedling that had found a crack in which to nestle.
The water gurgled as it had, though, flowing like a ribbon of careless abandon underneath. Incoming. Through. Not one look back. Away.
She wondered if the fish silvering in the stream were the descendants of the ones who’d flapped among the rocks and dove out of the reach of all manner of two-legged hunters. Their instincts certainly remained the same.
Honed by years of flight, and generations of bare escape from calamity and disaster and all manner of two-legged hunters’ spread of misery.
For centuries the stones of the old bridge had been the thoroughfare of goods and news — both good and not — from isolated farms to the town’s market and from the town into the farms, and in that order. It had withstood war and fights and blight and playful dares and cruel shove-overs. It streamed with rain and baked with sun and creaked with ice and endured more than one direct hit of lightning. It had heard the laughter of small children and the cries of same, sometimes not much later after. Where rugged wheels and heavy hooves had carved ruts of rattling passage, now weeds took hold to cover any sign of man.
It stood deserted, and perhaps relieved, since the new and wider bridge was built a bit further downstream. The modern pathway accommodated simultaneous travel in both directions as it carried the weight of the machines that belched dark stains onto its tar.
She’d been warned against attempting to put any weight on the old bridge. They all were. “It’s held by no more than blessings and a whisper,” her grandmother had cautioned. “One step onto the wrong stone and it could collapse.”
And yet, it had outlasted both Grandmother’s life and Mother’s and seemed poised to outlast hers, as well. Perhaps blessings and a whisper were better mortar than the speeding up of time.
“And you don’t have much long to wait to outlast me,” she murmured as she walked to the water and bent to dip her palm. Cold.
As she would be, sans blessings or a whisper, before much more water churned indifferently along, passed under the bridge, and was gone.