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Beneath Her Bridge

by Kailah Schultz about a year ago in humanity
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The Tail of Margaret Mayer

As the thick blanket of stars wrapped tightly around the sky, Margret pulled her feet forward through the gravel. Her arms seemed to sway with the movement of her body, and her jaw hung down with complete exhaustion. Her mind was filled with deep worry and sadness. Night after night she would manage to drag her old and worn body along the dark streets and back underneath her bridge. Her children had named the bridge after her and had called it their home for a little over six years. Just like her children’s, her socks were stained brown and had more holes than cotton. They all shivered as they slept and carried the same look of grief in their eyes. They would spend their days searching for plastic that floated down the river, just to make enough money for some warm bread.

After searching tirelessly for six weeks, Margaret had finally found herself a job. It was a job that made her cringe and screw up her face, but it gave her hope. Hope that maybe soon she could give her children a warm place to sleep at night. Hope that she would be able buy them warm clothes and fill their tummies with more than just bread and fish from the river.

It had been six weeks too long and she could feel her body had reached a state of extreme depletion. She was earning less than half of what she had hoped, but at least her children had begun to fill out their once anorexic bodies. The past week had been even more agonising than usual, and once again, she begun to drag herself back to where her children were. Her cheeks quivered from the strength she used to hold back her tears. She was almost home, and she wanted desperately to stay strong for her children. She was the glue holding her family together, and she knew that if her children saw her weep, they too would feel weak and even more vulnerable.

She slid her frail figure down the cliff side and squeezed into the small space that was sheltered by the bridge. Margaret held each one of her children close to her chest for a moment. She apologised to them with an intense sadness, just as she did every other night. The feeling of sorrow pulsed through her veins, as she loosened her grip and lay down on the two crates that made up her bed. The crates were sometimes unbearable and made her body stiff, but at least they lifted her off the cold rock beneath them. Margaret had always kept a small black book tucked away underneath the crates. Her father had given her this book and told her to never let it go. He was a strange man and seemed like he always had secrets hidden deep within, waiting to be freed into the world. Her father had also given her a second book, and told her that this one was for her children. She never really understood why these books were so remarkable, but she kept her word, and had never let them go.

Margaret stretched out her arm and reached below her bed to find her book covered in more dirt and dust than usual. The rain had begun to slow, and the river started to dry up leaving a stench that lingered in their noses. She had found an old and broken pen as she walked home one night, and so had begun to scribble down her feelings of sadness in the book her father had given her. She sat hunched in her bed and breathed heavily as she etched her feelings onto the page. Her veins were still filled with intense sorrow as she tried to comprehend how she had let this happen to her family. She had always imagined herself being someone with great reputation and who took pride in herself, who lived on the north side of the river, and who’s children were well fed and clothed. But over the years, she had somehow let this vision slip away. As the ink spread across the page, her eyes begun to fill, and her face tightened. Her sobs pulsated through her body and tears started to pour down her cheeks. She sunk further into her spine and the splintered crates pushed harder against her legs. Despite how much she tried to control herself, her cry became stronger, and more emotions begun to bubble inside of her. Tears landed on the thin blanket that was draped over her legs and dispersed the layer of dust that clung to its fibres. Her youngest child lay on the crate beside her. He rolled over and glimpsed at her with desperation. He was only six and had eyes that sunk deep into his skull, just like her other five children. As he looked up at her, she wiped away the tears that sat upon her cheek. A tear, tinted brown from the dust that covered her face, fell through the air and landed on her scribbled writing. Her sobs became less frequent and her tears dried, leaving salt covering her cheeks. She hung her head and stared at the page of smudged ink that sat on her lap. A tear sat raised on the page, with ink swirling inside of it. She lifted her arm that hung beside her and wiped the tear across that page. A tiny glimmer of green shone up into her swollen face and bounced off the rock that sat behind her.

She couldn’t comprehend what was happening. What was the green that hid beneath the walls of the page? She straightened her spine and turned to lift herself off the crates. Her body felt arthritic from the ice-cold wind that rushed through her as she made her way further down the cliff towards the river. She bent down by the river’s edge and dipped the page beneath the surface of the water. Her arm felt like it might snap as she raised it and lifted the book back out. The white that once made up the page dripped into the murky water, and the face of Benjamin Franklin was revealed. He glared back at her as she realised what she was staring at.

A one hundred dollar note seemed to be all that was left of the page. Her gasp echoed through the space underneath the bridge as she froze in complete shock. Each of her children popped their heads up from their dust covered blankets and stared towards her. A feeling off deep confusion and excitement radiated through their minds as they all realised what she held in her hand. She had never had so many thoughts crowd her mind in one moment.

She once again lowered the book towards the water, although this time, she submerged the entire book. Glimmers of green shone from beneath the water and reflected off the underside of the bridge, bouncing on the surface of the river. Her children, still staring at their mother, leapt up from their beds and scrambled to the river’s edge. The streetlights that lined the edges of the bridge beamed down and lit up their faces. She stopped for a moment and thought to herself. One hundred dollars was enough to feed her family for two whole months, and she held in her hand a book that was made up of one hundred pages. She looked down at her youngest child and rested her hand on his shoulder, and without even saying a word, he knew exactly what his mother was trying to tell him. He began to sprint back up to their beds faster than he ever had before and reached underneath her crate to find the second book his grandfather had left for them.

Margaret stood hunched in complete stillness as her heart thud inside her chest. Her once black and white world now seemed more colourful than ever before.

humanity

About the author

Kailah Schultz

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