A River Doesn't Run Under It



By Audrey W.




“Okay, so you guys are on for tomorrow, right?” Johnny asked, plopping down on the couch in the dayroom, as he waited for the crew of the next shift to come in.


The other five members of A-shift gave Johnny bewildered expressions.


Marco sat forward in his chair at the table. “On for what, Johnny?”


“I think he’s referring to the bridge project,” Roy explained. “He’s been talking to me about it non-stop for the last twenty-four hours.”


“Oh, I have not,” Johnny grumbled. “I may have reminded you a few times. But I didn’t go on non-stop.”


“Right,” Roy said, deciding it was easier just to agree.


“Anyway,” Johnny began, “I thought you guys were all going to come over and help me build the walk-over bridge for my landlady. You know, I told you the old bridge that was in the courtyard had to be taken down. The wood was splintering; it was unsafe. So I offered to build her a new one.”


“So how does that involve us?” Chet asked, motioning to himself and the others.


“You all said last night you would help.”


Captain Stanley looked around at the others seated at the table. “We did?”


The men shrugged.


“I think we agreed to help, but we were too tired from that warehouse fire to know what we were saying,” Mike offered.


Stanley shook his head. “Well, I’m sorry, pal. But I have plans for today.”


“That’s okay, Cap,” Johnny said as he got up off the couch. He walked over near the sink to grab a glass for milk. “I know it was short notice. How about the rest of you guys? You in or out?”


Roy sighed. “I’m in.”


“I’ll help, Johnny,” Marco answered.


Mike shrugged. “I’ve got no plans; I’ll be there.”


Five sets of eyes fell on Chet.


“How ‘bout it, Chet?” Johnny said, getting the milk out of the refrigerator. As he poured the white liquid, he watched Kelly while he waited for an answer.


“Yeah. I’m in. But only for your landlady’s benefit. How big does this bridge have to be, anyway?”


“I’ve got it all drawn up on paper. It’s gonna be six feet long and four feet wide. And rounded, so it has an arch to it. The old one was just plain and straight; didn’t have any personality.”


“Sounds like someone we know,” Chet mumbled under his breath. Everyone ignored his obvious dig at Johnny.


“You have all the supplies ready?” Roy wondered.


“No. I had no where to leave 'em, so I need to get 'em on the way home.” Johnny glanced sheepishly at his partner. “I. . .uh. .  .also need a way to get it home. Can we haul it in your pickup truck?”




Johnny rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “Far out. This is gonna be great!”


Soon B-shift came in and part of the bridge building crew was on their way to home to get changed and meet over at Johnny’s apartment. Being they had to get the lumber and supplies, the two paramedics changed at the station.






After looking at various types of lumber, Johnny decided to go with redwood. It would hold up better in rainy weather and since the bridge wasn’t going to be covered, that was an important issue. He and Roy gathered up the remaining supplies they needed and headed for the checkout area. By luck, it was a slow day being the middle of the week, so there weren’t any lines. They paid for the supplies,  loaded up the lumber, and got into their respective vehicles. But before Roy could even get his truck in ‘drive’, Johnny was out of his Land Rover and back over.


“Uhm. . .Roy. . .?”


“What is it now?”


There was a very brief pause and then, “I really don’t have a good place to cut the wood for the supports. It’s an apartment complex, remember?”


“So in other words, you wanna go by my house and use the garage or my driveway for a work area.”


“Well, you do have the sawhorses . . .and the power saw. . .and it is your own home, where you can do what you want and no one’ll complain.”


“Why didn’t you say something before?”


I don’t know. I guess I was just thinkin’ about how it was gonna look when we get done, not about what all we gotta do to get it started.”


Roy could easily see his partner jumping the gun in his anxiousness to take on the project. “Okay, we’ll swing by my place. But I think you’re forgetting something.”




“The guys are gonna being waiting for us. How long do you really think they’ll hang out if you aren’t there?”


“They’ll be there, Roy. They’ll be there.”  I hope. . .




Once they had the bridge supports cut in an arch and some of the other pieces to the lengths they’d need them, Johnny and Roy headed for the apartment complex, Gage leading the way. The others were sitting on the outside steps waiting when the pair arrived.


“Nice of you guys to show up,” Chet remarked sarcastically as he got to his feet. “What took you so long?”


“I had to decide what type of wood to buy, and then we had to cut it at Roy’s.” Johnny glanced at the unchanging expressions on their faces. “Look, I’ll make it up to ya. I promise.”


“With money?" Chet asked. An obvious 'no' expression led to, "Some ice cold beer?”  When he noticed the others glance at their watches he quickly added, “For later, guys. For later.”


“Yeah, you can have beer later,” Johnny mumbled. “After the bridge is done.”


Completely done?”


“Mmm hmm.  It’s a small bridge. With five of us working together, we’ll have it finished in no time.”


Roy shook his head as he motioned for the guys to follow him to the truck.






Soon the five friends were down in the small courtyard, supplies ready beside a shallow ditch that crossed the pathway where the old bridge once sat.


“Maybe it’s just me,” Chet stated. “But does it seem like something might be missing?”


“Well, of course there’s somethin’ missing,” Johnny explained. “I told ya the old bridge was already taken out.”


“Not that. Water!”


Johnny screwed up his face. “Water?”


Chet nodded. “Water. You can’t have a bridge without water.”


“Whataya mean ya can’t? Sure ya can.”


“He’s right,” Roy agreed. “If it's for decorative purposes. It probably has water under it for awhile when it rains hard enough though."


“But if it’s raining that hard, who’s gonna be strolling through the courtyard anyway?”


“Oh for pete’s sake,” Johnny said, exasperated. “You can have a bridge without water under it and I’ll take a stroll out here in the rain if it’ll make ya happy.”


"Well, I still say ya oughta have water if you're gonna have a bridge." He glanced around at the grassy yard with flowers and hedges lining it, a few park benches here and there. "As a matter of fact, why doesn't she have a fountain and a babbling brook put in? It would fit right in with a place like this."


"It would also jack up the rent," Johnny commented.


Before Chet could say anymore, Mike broke into the conversation.


“Have you ever built a walk-over bridge before?”


The dark-haired paramedic snorted as he answered, “I’m handy with lumber. I’ve done my share of hammering nails, sanding and painting. . .”


“But have you ever built a bridge?” Chet asked.


Johnny looked at each of the men waiting for an answer and shrugged. “Well, no. . .but look, all we gotta do is put together the basic frame for support, add railings and  the planks, and  set the finished project in place on in-ground mounts at each corner.” He paused a second before adding, “Oh, and then cover it with sealant for extra protection. It’ll be a breeze,” he finished with a smile.


Roy looked at the drafts Johnny had drawn of the bridge’s design. It wasn’t quite what an architect would come up with, but the end result he wanted was clear. If everything went well, the actual construction aspect of  the project should be complete in a couple of hours.





Later in the day –


Johnny stood back with his hands on his hips and looked at the new bridge. It was just as he’d imagined. Roy and Mike helped to gather up the tools and container of left over sealant while Marco and Chet admired the completed project as well.


“I think we did a good job,” Marco commented.


“Well, let’s try this thing out.”


“No!” Johnny reached out and stopped Chet in mid-step. “What're ya doin'? You can’t walk on it. . .”


“I thought it was a ‘walk'-over bridge.”


“It is.”


“Then what’s the problem?” Mike wondered, voicing Chet's thought.


Johnny glanced at the others, who looked equally puzzled. With his attention back on Mike, he explained, “Because it’s brand new. . . and clean. We don’t wanna ruin it by putting footprints on it already.”


Mike, Chet and Marco shook their heads while Roy grinned as he thought, That’s my partner. . .



This was inspired and started years ago when my husband built a walk-over bridge in our front yard. We live in the desert, so it's mostly come in handy for animals to find shade underneath.. But when he first finished it and didn't want to walk on it, I just thought, "How 'John Gage' of him."  lol  It took me about 6 years to fix a few things and decide how to end it. :o)



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