We had two newcomers at this month’s Mini Sledgehammer in St. Johns, and they really made the judge work hard! Our winner, Elisabeth Flaum, was one of them, but it’s wasn’t just beginner’s luck. Her story was great.
Action: Trouble fixing a bride
Setting: Arbor Day
by Elisabeth Flaum
I walked through the park in the spring sun. I hadn’t known there would be an event here, I just stumbled upon some kind of celebration. Earth Day or something. Arbor Day. Children selling seedlings, booths of people selling plants or landscape services or for some reason, yoga. I wandered among the noise, my thoughts drifting.
At the far end I drifted to a stop in front of an ornate display. A colorful banner read ‘Save the Presley Foot Bridge.’ An Elvis impersonator finished setting up his boom box and began belting out tunes. A whole tribe of people stood behind the tables, handing out pamphlets and hauling in any handy passer-by. It wasn’t long before one of them spotted me. I deftly made my escape as she approached.
Or so I thought. I hadn’t gone twenty yards when a flock of children engulfed me, chirping. One of them pressed a flyer into my hand as they dispersed. ‘Save the Presley Foot Bridge.’ Ten yards further along, I noticed a table of young people selling plants bore the same banner. And the t-shirts on the volunteers. ‘Save the Presley Foot Bridge.’
My curiosity piqued, I returned to the display at the far end, where I was quickly engulfed by the tribe.
“All right, you’ve got me. What’s the Presley Foot Bridge?”
A young woman with warm dark eyes took me by the hand. “Come and see.”
Beyond the hubbub of the festival, beyond the soaring flocks of children, beyond the reach of the Elvis music, she led me into the trees. A tiny wood beyond the park, rich with birdsong and the rustle of wind in the leaves, the scent of wild garlic rising as we crushed the plants underfoot. The girl clutches my hand, her fingers soft and delicate in mine, and pulls me to a stop at the edge of a clearing.
“Do you see it?”
I peer out from under the trees, blinking in the sunlight. Tall grass waves in the breeze, fluffy clouds scud across the vivid blue sky. I see nothing resembling a bridge. I start to turn, to ask this girl what she means by this, when from the corner of my eye I catch a glimmer of… something. I turn again; with my head at just the right angle I can see it. A shimmer in the air, like heat rising from the road, but with a suggestion of color, like the faintest of rainbows. I turn to my guide, incredulous.
“You can see it.”
“I can see something. I think.”
“Not everyone can.”
“Tell me about it.”
“This land belonged to a family called Presley. No relation to Elvis, that’s just a bit of fun for the campaign. But they left the land in trust. They created this place as a passageway between this world and the next. But it was never finished.”
“Wait a minute. Between this world…”
She nodded. “And the next, yes. In the Presley family, knowledge could be passed down directly from preceding generations. They wanted to share that ability with others. But the last Presley crossed before the bridge could be completed. There’s no one left on this side to finish the job. Until… until you.”
“Me? Wait a minute. You’re talking about communicating with the dead. A bridge to another world. That’s impossible.”
Her dark eyes gazed into mine, all-seeing.
“It’s not. You know.”
As she said it I knew she was right.
“It only takes that special kind of trust.”
Suddenly it wasn’t a young girl’s voice I was hearing. It was the voice of my own great-grandfather, a man who was ancient the day I met him and who never grew less so. A man who appeared to me still in my dreams, as he had in my childhood, whenever I needed a guiding hand. He was there with me in the clearing in the woods, there with me and this girl I’d never seen before.
I looked into those dark eyes and saw myself. I reached out and took her hand. Together we stepped out into the sunlight, our feet climbing an invisible rise, riding on that special kind of trust. I heard the music, smelled the wild garlic again as we stepped into another world.
© 2012 Elisabeth Flaum