The Bridge Next Door
by CJ Alexander
Bzzzzzzzzzz goes the alarm at 11:59 of a summer’s night. Damn malfunctioning clock! Then I remember—I’ve planned a moonlit mission to discover the mystery underlying the thing that dominates my slumbering neighbors’ front yard.
That ‘thing’ is a long, low footbridge, the kind one expects to find serenely arched over an Oriental koi pond, but the fools next door plunked it down over a sea of grass. Even after a heavy downpour there is no ponding underneath, no lily pads, not even a puddle. What purpose does it serve, other than to disturb the lawn’s chi?
I pull on the discarded shorts and shirt worn yesterday and slip outside. The bridge frowns on the lawn’s face. I frown back, because even with my superlative night vision I’m having trouble seeing straight. My head pivots left, then right, then left again, as though my eyes have switched places with my ears. I survey the yard with the ocular apparatus of a wall-eyed pike.
No water flows beneath this bridge, just undulating grass, a wadded-up tissue and fluff from spent dandelions that escaped beheading by lawnmower. I circle its perimeter, unable to comprehend the logic…
When I touch the pylons a sudden whoosh of air enters then exits, I know not how, through my neck. There is no welcome breeze on this humid night, and yet I shiver. There is no wind, yet my shorts flap like sails. My arms iridesce like rainbow trout. Breathing is torture—the air burns my throat.
The desire to strip is strong so I obey. In the next instant I plunge impossibly, but luxuriously, into the cool green turf under the bridge, hardly disturbing the moon-shadows in my wake. The grass is deep and clean, a caress of silken green on clammy flesh. What’s this, then, a hidden swimming hole? Right under the frivolous bridge? What selective blindness prevented me from noticing it before this moment? Who cares! How marvelous, how thrilling, how crazy-good it feels to skinny dip in my neighbor’s front lawn!
Then, drama… A dolphin appears and squeals a happy hello. It nudges and bumps me with an invitation to play, but I’m entangled in a forest of billowing kelp. As I attempt to extricate myself from its clutches, a luminous jellyfish approaches. It unfurls stinging tentacles in my direction. With no thought except for survival I shoot to the surface as though appended to a whale lobtailing with its pod kin. Coughing up foam and fright, I tread fathoms-deep water in an attempt to regain my bearings, but the next moment I am gently, efficiently washed ashore.
I lie there wheezing, relieved to be back on land. Gentle surf laves my hand. Eventually I notice myself breathing rhythmically and deeply like I did before I became an experimental fish. Translucent, globular kelp bobs just below the bridge’s planks and then fades from view. My lips taste of salt and seaweed swaddles my legs.
No, that can’t be right. It’s just sweat and grass stain.
I pull on my clothes, stagger home, and dive into bed. I dream endless ocean dreams.
When I awake at dawn, I ache all over, as if I have been swimming against high tide for hours. I rub my eyes which are now back where they belong, on the front of my face, one each above the bridge of my nose. I limp into the kitchen and open the blinds facing the neighbor’s yard to peer at the confusing, chi-sapping, frowning structure. It looks more at home there now, with gulls preening along its rails, with broken clam shells and crab claws strewn across the lawn.
I close the blinds with a sigh and fill the coffeemaker from the tap. The aroma of French roast and the machine’s loud burble and whiz follow me all the way to the bathroom. I step into the shower, oblivious of sand cascading down my legs and swirling around my feet. Warm water flushes the unsolved mystery down the drain.
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CJ Alexander is the editor and blog host of the Whitesboro Writers Group in Central New York and an active member of Silver Pen Writers. She encourages others to hone their creative prose skills and is the founder of a monthly fiction writing group called Plotters Ink. Occasionally she publishes anthologies of short fiction and poetry written by local, national and even international authors. What a wonderful retirement hobby!