Bridging the Gap

boxal-bridge-paintingI wrote this in response to a brief to write a short story concerning two people who meet in an airport, station or other public place after a long gap. There is some unresolved issue between them. We were asked to focus on dialogue and characterization.

Bridging the Gap

When they met in the Chimeswell farmers’ market, they hadn’t seen each other for nearly 30 years. David was horrified as he turned from the honey stall. How could he be here, in this place? He’d thought they would never see each other again. That was mad, given that they’d lived within five minutes’ walk of each other back then but really, it was so unexpected.

From Tim’s point of view, it was a pleasant surprise to find himself suddenly face to face with the childhood friend who had vanished from his life after that 16-year-old summer.

‘Dave! By the Gods! After all these years – how are you, mate?’ Though clearly, from the look of the man’s drooping anorak and thinning hair, the intervening decades had not been kind.

‘Um….. yes. Tim, isn’t it?’ David answered warily.

‘Of course it’s me! How the hell are you? When was the last time we met – oh yes, don’t remind me, it was the day we blew up the Ashbery bridge – hell, that was a laugh!’

David said nothing. Christ! Did he have to be so loud about it?   At any moment, Anne would reappear and he’d have some explaining to do. He had to get away.

‘Look, I’m sorry, I don’t really remember much about those days, you know. It’s nice to see you’re keeping well but I really have to go and meet my wife now, and….’

‘Oh, married, are you? Great, the old ball and chain, eh? Only joking, mate – look, it’d be great to catch up over a beer and you ought to meet my partner, she’s poking around here somewhere–‘

There was no escape. David could feel the familiar edge of danger that had always hung around Tim. Of course, it had been great fun back then and the scrapes and adventures had been far more exciting than anything he’d managed to get up to since, but the nervous frisson was something he could well do without nowadays.

Tim was still beaming away, his expensive dentistry flashing itself mercilessly from a face that had clearly seen some Mediterranean sun recently. He most likely drove a Merc and lived on three acres over in Badgery St Clare now. He’d never had to make an effort in maths, which, looking back on it, had probably augured well for his future. David, on the other hand, had had to re-sit his ‘O’ Level.

In desperation, he found himself saying ‘Well, why not – I suppose I could spare a quarter of an hour or so. The Red Lion’s just across the square and we’ll probably meet my wife on the way over there.’ In fact, it was in entirely the opposite direction to that from which he expected Anne to appear.

‘Excellent – and look, here’s Rachel now! Darling, come and meet the infamous Dave, who helped me blow up the bridge!’ Tim positively bellowed. At least two people turned to look in their direction.

Rachel was clearly a trophy girlfriend. David, who realised he would never qualify for such an accessory, could spot that much immediately. There was something about the way her jeans drew the eye – and Tim’s hand – to her firm buttocks, the toss of her shampoo-ad hair that gave it away. That and the fact that she’d probably just been starting solids when he and Tim blew up the bridge. Oh God, the bridge.

All these years, hoping no-one in the village would put two and two together; a teenagerhood spent dreading the knock at the door just as his mother was dishing up supper on her wedding Denbyware.

He’d had no idea what Tim meant to do that day – he’d been drawn into the madcap scheme like a halfwit. “I got the explosives up at the quarry when my Dad took me up there – he was meeting with an engineer and I just sort of had a look round. I found this whole hut full of blasting stuff – gelignite and everything!’

‘But what about a detonator, I mean, doesn’t there have to be something like that all wired up to it?’ David had asked, nervously.

‘Of course! I read up about it in the encyclopaedia and nicked what I needed from the science lab yesterday. It’s all set to go. All you have to do is push the lever down when I give the signal. I’ll be up on the road keeping a lookout.’

David was brought back to the present by Rachel’s explosion of giggles.

‘Oh Tim, you were just awful! I can’t believe you fell for it, Dave!’

‘I know – surprising really,’ Tim was laughing. ‘I’d found out from my Dad that they were planning to demolish the old bridge. I had huge fun making the ‘detonator’. Dad said I could come and watch, which was why I told you that I’d be keeping a lookout – I needed to be able to signal to you at the right moment. God, what a laugh that was… you actually thought you’d done it! When did you realize?’ ☐

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