Crossing Muddy Waters
Traffic was bunched on the bridge. It was a hot night in July. June was at the wheel. Don was in the truck behind her with the windows down. There was about four bucks in the ashtray, and if Don was right, they could make it back on that. But the tank was EMPTY. June was doing no better. The man who owned it was a gambler in Kentucky who had called to collect, and he wanted his van back by midnight. It was 11:39 PM.
Traffic picked up. A lane opened. Don coasted the truck into the Texaco lot. He walked into the station, his steps lighter. June was behind him, smiling. A TV above the counter showed news, the reason the bridge was blocked. Two kids had jumped off hand in hand.
Up above, on the highway, red lights flashed. The two lovers were long gone. Don would be too, but there was time. Ten minutes exactly to cross the bridge, park the van, and head home. One lane was open. The water below was cold. The light above was blinding. On Story Avenue, the truck coasted again, the van behind it. Don took a deep breath, looked back.
Don said, "Made it."
June said, "Just barely."
A tow truck pulled up as the two lovers pulled away, the night quiet around them. Don was driving. June was resting her head on his lap. It was a long drive back. The radio played and Don felt like a man for the first time in his short life, glad to be alive, though he still didn't know what had been in the van. That was June's secret, hers and the gambler's. He didn't care. He had crossed muddy waters.
18 November 2013