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American Contemporary Mystery

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

For the unnamed man whose  

body was unable to be revived 

after he jumped from 

Órgiva's Rio Chico bridge

the morning of July 18th, 2022

-and for Ernest Miller Hemingway


descanse en paz 


AN OLD, CANTANKEROUS BUM WAS THE only witness to what he claimed diligently and melodically had been a proper suicide, and this was the story which stuck for some time, the old bum having been the one who told all the others who had debarked their commuter bus nearby to file over and have a look-see at what had happened. The original source of the drunken and death-beladen beatitude. The roundabout under the bridge was the home of his home: a few pieces of stray fiberglass and particleboard strung haphazardly together sideways. Highway bum tunes. Easy American stories. The ol' ups and the older downs. Les trois tragédies. “He jumped, jumped right off the bridge! Poor sunuvabitch! Fell right down on my place!” 


The ambulance arrived after the young man died. The bridge was of a considerable height. Even the local swallow population took its steel lip to be a quaint location but one which might be too high for an ideal nest. There was not much left of the skull nor of his entire left side. After the autopsy was found no name, no identity. Teeth unaccounted for. E. A. Poe was not on the scene. Though later, perhaps, someone may have shown up. 


Some faux-flowers, scapular yellows and reds, were left at the bottom of the bridge on one of the grassy banks by the roundabout. More stories popped up. He had gotten into drugs. He was in a bad way for some time. Things like that. A few candles were lit one night by a distressed divorcee. Cathy Barragon, no longer Cathy Stevens, the organizer, recently divorced and bored, had organized a belated vigil. Two others came. Cathy’s Facebook post showed itself to be not completely useless, she had duly noted to herself. They said a few words. He was forgotten a few months later. The flowers became ugly and colorless. The dry dirt covered them like it did everything else, eventually. Then the cops showed up. Enter the story of a missing boy from across the country. A disabled boy. 


Nobody included in the dead boy's body's scattered original audience, nor anyone in the small neighborhood by the roundabout, ever learned that he had been blind, or that he had been, perhaps particularly, considering his station, sad and alone.


II 

A young long-haired poet walked up to the dusty flowers one hot summer day. A wearisome traveler. The bridge’s shadow loomed, extending its height for a bathe. The poet asked someone walking by, who turned out to be Cathy, what had happened. Cathy told him the story sadly. The rumors and the reality.


Cathy went into the details of the ups and downs of her life, of her divorce, of the Brahms and the Mozart which her golden retriever, Watson, enjoyed listening to before he crossed over the rainbow doggie bridge. Her breast cancer and her recovery. Her relapse and her eventual repeated recovery. The body and service. The tales of the suicide. The candlelit vigil. The rumors and the tragedy. The sadness of confused sentiments and a mysterious, luminescent sense of loss. 


The poet walked away with some information and a story. He didn't know what to think of it all. Why the frick would a blind teenager run away with nothing? To where, or to who? Why would he walk off a bridge if he was almost (reportedly) to his destination?


A ghost presented itself to the poet later that night, in a dream. The form of a sensitive-looking, confused young man appeared encased within a ball of light, and he said to the poet with a startling clarity, though with a kept slur: go to the roundabout at the bottom of the bridge where you saw the old flowers and the remains of my memorial. My parents never came to retrieve my belongings. Bury these things behind the garbage bins where lies a small plot of land where grow now some dandelions and a few purple forget-me-nots. That's all I need. Don't worry about the shameless old bum, he's of no concern to us. My true story I'll now pass on to you telepathically; you can tell it once you've buried what's left of my memory. Thank you, and hold no remorse in your heart, for I felt no pain. It actually felt like I was flying for just a moment. And remember, ignore the old drunk.


Cathy never doubted it for a moment: the young long-haired poet, he must have been a relative, either that or some form of investigative personnel. These were the things she told herself as she watched her television shows later that night, and became paranoid as to the intentions of the Universe itself.


The poet and the blind ghost shared no family history or professional connection that the Narrator, nor the Universe, for that matter, has ever been aware of.


III 

Joseph “Hardy” Mattheson was born in the countryside of Missouri. His mother decided not to register him. He was raised off the grid, classically so, by two odieux Dahlesque parents who worked in the local town. His mother was an alcoholic who worked as a clerk at the local market. His father was a black-hearted abuser, a failed construction worker who watched too much football. It was his father who had given him the hearty nickname. Hardy’s father, despite his alcoholism and violence, was considered by the locals to be a gentleman and a generally well-meaning man. When his father fell ill with throat cancer one winter, Hardy ran away from home. Hardy felt guilty for his father’s illness.  


Hardy Mattheson was blind from birth. He was 18 when he died and he was not very well able to care for himself. He hopped, with his white cane, which he had brought only as “luggage” and not because he needed it, as he would have informed anyone upon their asking him something insensitive like, do you need the cane to walk?, on a bus one night; the bus took him from his hometown eastward, to the nearest big city, where he caught another bus (and also, alas, where he, in the bus terminal’s public bathroom, left his white cane hanging on the toilet stall’s grab bar) which was destined for the other (Western) side of the North American continent. Just about an hour before the final destination’s stop, there and then he de-boarded the bus during a ten-minute stop-off break to pee. No one deboarded but he, at first. He walked down the road from the bus. He walked a bit more. He stumbled and fumbled with his zipper. He took the thing out. He stepped forward.  


They had just passed over the tallest bridge in the county. The ups and downs which faced the bus driver and the passengers throughout the cross-continental trip were numerous and significant, but graded and unfelt, for the most part. The bridge, the one by the interstate junction which runs its length over a local roundabout, the local crossroads, is the third highest in the state. Hardy Mattheson fell hard, as hard as the sun shines on the pavement in the hardest of Missouri summertimes. 


Epilogue


The minstrel's poet approached the site a few days after the occurrence of his dream vision. Upon whispering his concluding words- the brief vapor of a ceremony, one made of an epithet and a few joyful vibrations which lingered in the form of hardset intentions- an old drunken bum stumbled over and sat down without much grace upon the hallowed ground where, just beneath a few layers of dry earth, the poet had just accordingly dispatched the dead boy's fake flowers.


“He jumped, jumped right off the bridge! Poor sunuvabitch!” 


Órgiva  

2022 

July 22, 2022 14:36

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