Claire left the party in a huff.
“I just can’t believe that he is so dumb!” Claire said to nobody as she strapped on her bike helmet. Claire, not having a job, couldn’t afford a car. But she also preferred to bike in order to help save the planet from carbon dioxide. Fortunately, this New Year’s Eve it was unusually warm, which Claire believed was already due to global warming. The sky was dark with clouds and the streets were dark, too.
“I better get moving if I want to get home,” Claire continued. As she finished talking to herself, a crow on the light pole above her made laughing noises in its throat and flew off into the dark sky.
Claire needed to cross the Third Avenue Bridge and then pedal another twenty minutes to reach her parent’s house. As she began to bike through the downtown streets, the monolithic silhouettes of the tall buildings pressed in on her. Her bike seemed hard to pedal, the streets seemed long from one intersection to the next and she hit every red light possible. The night was getting even darker and she hadn’t yet reached the river.
“Ned – what kind of a name is that? I can’t imagine being so dumb,” Claire said as she huffed past a closed delicatessen. In a mimicking voice she said, “Maybe we can change our behavior before it is too late. Maybe the environment isn’t lost yet. Argh!”
Riding down Third Avenue, she passed the last tall building and came to the River.
“Wha…?” Claire breathed as she looked up and down the River for her bridge. She did not see one. All she saw was darkness and a crow sitting on the street sign staring at her – head cocked looking out of one eye.
“Oh, shoo,” Claire said.
The crow did not shoo. Instead it spoke, “Where’s your bridge, little girl?”
“My bridge is right here. At least it should be. I’m not imagining things. I know its here.”
“Where? Kaaa,” said the crow. “Surely a whole bridge can’t move.”
“Maybe it is just around the bend of the river,” Claire theorized as she headed west down the road that ran along the River. The crow flapped its wings and vanished into the blackness.
She rode past many buildings and through several intersections. She turned the bend in the river and still did not see her bridge – or any bridge.
“This is crazy. How can people cross the River?” asked Claire.
“Maybe they can’t,” said the crow as it landed on the ground next to a box of Donkey Fries lying along the curb. “Maybe they aren’t supposed to.”
“People have to be able to get across the River,” said Claire. “There’s got to be a bridge somewhere. Where could they have gone, there used to be at least three of them?”
The crow picked up one fry in its mouth, tossed it around and then spit it out. “This doesn’t belong here, either,” said the crow.
Claire thought that she saw something back where she had been and biked east along the River. As her legs felt the ache of an incline, she thought about the first time she met Ned at Gerald’s house just a couple weeks earlier. She thought about how she liked his dreds, the manner in which he spoke and how he seemed to be nervous around her. She remembered how excited she was when they parted and he said he looked forward to seeing her at Topping’s party.
Claire passed many buildings and biked beyond her original point, yet no bridge was in sight. How could this be? She couldn’t even call her mom to come pick her up if there were no bridges. How would she get back to her parent’s house? In a little while they would start to worry about their little girl.
Asking someone for directions would be a good idea, thought Claire, but there was no one in sight.
“You could ask me, kaaa,” squawked a black shape perched on a bus bench.
“Oh, go away. What do you know, dumb bird,” said Claire to the crow.
“Dumb?! Me?! I’m not lost. I haven’t lost a whole big stone bridge,” replied the crow. “I can see what’s right in front of me.”
“This makes no sense!” Claire said, and worry began to creep into her voice.
“Makes perfect sense,” said the crow. “Can’t find what you don’t need. Kaaa. Not supposed to be on that side of the River. Don’t need to go there.”
“I need to get home!” Claire said with tears starting to well up in her eyes.
The crow flew at Claire. She ducked and covered her head with her arms. The crow landed on her handlebars. The dark figure leaned forward and cawed as loud as it could.
“Your world’s coming to an end! You’re destroyin’ it! It’s over! KAAAAA! There is nothin’ you can do about it! You cannot go back! You cannot live there anymore! KAAAAA!”
Claire sprung from the bike to the ground and scrambled away from the crow. She trembled as through her enshrouding arms she watched the crow fly off into the night away from the fallen bicycle. Claire wept. She had never been attacked by an animal before. She sat there on the dirty sidewalk near the bus stop until she stopped trembling. And then she wept some more. She wanted to be in her mother’s warm loving arms, gentle hands stroking her hair and lips softly telling her, “There, there. Everything will be all right.”
But Claire wasn’t in her mother’s arms. She wasn’t even close to home – and never would be if she couldn’t find a bridge.
Through her blurry tear-filled eyes, Claire spied a moving figure across the street. She walked quickly over to this person to ask them directions to the bridge – to the way home. She wiped away her tears and was about to speak when the person said,” Hi Claire. What are you doing here?”
“Ned? Oh, hi,” Claire said surprised. “I’m…um…I’m trying to get home, but I can’t seem to find the bridge across the River.”
Ned pointed to a spot behind her. “Isn’t that the bridge right there?”
Claire turned and saw the Third Avenue Bridge. The crow was sitting on a bridge railing and seemed to wag its head at Claire. “Yeah, I guess that is,” said Claire.
Even in the dark of night, Ned could see Claire blushing.
Thinking about how much alcohol Claire had had to drink at the party, Ned asked, “Are you okay? Can you ride your bike?”
Claire stared at Ned. In the streetlight, he looked like the handsome young man who was dancing with her an hour ago, not the ugly young man who was a clueless idiot about how the world is in peril of environmental collapse. She was so glad to see a friendly face. Perhaps she shouldn’t have loudly proclaimed him to be a moron at the food table. Perhaps she shouldn’t have called him a Capitalist Nazi just before walking out the door. Perhaps he could be so kind as to help her find her home. Claire looked back at her bicycle lying on the ground and said, “No, I can’t ride it. This big bird attacked me and I think my bike got damaged.” Then she blurted out, “Can I stay at your place tonight?”
“Uh…um…,” said Ned and then cleared his throat.
“Please, I really can’t get home and…well…I’m sorry for the things I said earlier tonight. I don’t think you are a Capitalist Nazi. I just…” Claire shivered.
“Yeah, that’s okay. I didn’t take it personally. Do you want me to grab your bike?” asked Ned as he went to pick it up.
“Thanks,” said Claire.
Ned pushed Claire’s bicycle as Claire walked beside him. She leaned against him and held on to his arm. “You don’t mind, I can barely stand up I’m so tired,” said Claire.
“No, that’s okay,” said Ned.
He walked Claire to his apartment where they, where they… spent the night.
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustration by Krista Kelley Walsh
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustration by Krista Kelley Walsh