A Reporter’s Notebook: The Bridge

Steel Bridge, Portland Oregon. Photo by Thad Roan

I went to the Jungle on the east side of the river. As I suspected, Roughhouse Red was there, all too eager to share my bottle in exchange for giving me the low-down.

He took a long pull, the whiskey trickling into his grizzled whiskers. “Ooh, that’s good,” he said. “What was it you want to know?”

“I heard somebody died on the bridge last night. I wanted to see if you knew anything about it.”

He nodded, his mouth tense. “You heard right. Except it was two people. Kids, not sixteen year old.  Boy and a girl.”

“I thought the pedestrian walkway was supposed to end all that.”

“Yep,” he said, and took another swallow. He pointed his chin at the Steel Bridge, the iron girders studded with bolts making it look like something from a horror movie. “You see the way the bottom half telescopes up into the top? Used to be that a feller crossing on them lower deck rails could hear it when it was about to raise up. Happens automatically when a train comes, you know. No bridge-keeper. Once you heard it start you had about forty seconds to get across before you got mashed by the girders. Lot of guys got killed in the old days. But a few years ago they put in that walkway and them days was over.”

“So how come the two kids were killed?”

He held up the pint, mostly gone. “You mind if I polish her?” I shook my head. He drained it and wiped his mouth. “Lovers’ suicide. Made themselves  a double noose, then wrapped the middle around the upper girder  and jumped off together. Dangled there for hours until the Amtrak come through at 6:05 taking commuters up to Seattle. Bumped against the side of the passenger cars. Real romantic.”

I looked at the bridge, graceful and lovely but also curiously menacing, as though it had enjoyed the tale.


Written in response to The Daily Post: Bridge prompt.   Based on a true story.


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