I have been to the bridge. It was like many bridges. Cars passed over it, old and new. Pedestrians shivered in the cold and made their slow way too. The city is full of gleaming skyscrapers, swish offices and red brick heritage sites. Tourists with rucksacks smile. But the bridge is an iron ghost. The traffic wheezes along with a groaning sound, disappearing away into the rubble and grit outlands of redevelopment. Soon offices will fall into these craters from the heavens. Men in suits will come and fill their lives with plastic, while history echoes like an underground river.
“Let’s talk. Everyone likes to talk. We want to talk. You want to talk. We must talk. It is important to talk. We will not be being responsible if we do not talk.”
“But we have made our decision. We talked amongst ourselves. You were not invited to talk, but that is not our fault. If you want to talk you will be talking to yourselves.”
“What did we say? Did we say anything certain? We said we might talk, but we might not. Maybe we will talk soon. There is no point talking. We do not want to talk.”
Outside the school leaves were on the ground, all green and orange and yellow. A group of adults were talking on the corner by the bench that you could jump from. They had deep, grown-up voices and were saying things about stuff – countries in the world and money and things. Oh, the world is a mess, one said, the world is a mess. He ran off away from them all across the grass to the trees. They didn’t chase him or anything. He put his satchel down on the ground. The park was so big and like an adventure.
Old Neily was sat by the fire in a rocking chair. His wife was gazing out of the small window into the mist.
Before there were proper tracks you couldn’t even get a tractor up the hills, Neily said. When the mist came down you were so soon lost. The trick was to follow a burn downwards, keeping it by your side. But now there are cars everywhere and nobody walks any more.
He sighed and looked at his son, who had hung his head. The fire crackled.
We’ve kept you here too long, said Neily. It’s time you went.
They said things had got easier but his head was all over the place and the stifling room didn’t help. He couldn’t think. These memories were forcing their way in and distracting him. Somewhere behind where he was sat, his girlfriend would be chewing on her pen. They would be drinking lots in the evening and he would wear his new t-shirt. Concentrate. Concentrate. Just for the three hours. He looked at the piece of paper in front of him. The vague outlines of words. Question marks. Lots of them. He was hungry. His foot was itchy. He hated exams.
The kid was in the water, gasping for help. The brother jumped in. It was freezing. He reached the kid and put an arm round him. He looked and saw a channel where the ice had broken. The kid was lifeless. He had to be quick. The cold was forcing his lungs shut. He surged for the bank and rolled the kid onto the grass where the friends wrapped him in their jackets. The kid let out a moan and started to cry. He was looking at the water and shaking his head. The brother’s body slipped beneath the surface.