Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Bridge (07/31/08)
TITLE: Zeb Calloway's Mighty Fine Bridge
By Gerald Shuler
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Zeb had always been respected as a leader in the community; level headed, intelligent, and reliable. New York had ripped all that out of him and left nothing but a pitiful shell of an incredibly odd man.
How else could you explain the bridges in the middle of his cow pasture?
He had started building the first bridge right after his trip. By the time it was recognizable as a bridge, the entire town had figured out that Zeb had slipped a few cogs somewhere along the line. When he had finished his bridge, to the shock of the town, he started a second, and then a third bridge, all lined up like cars in a car lot in the middle of his field. Now Zeb was almost done with Bridge #4. The gossip network was alive with opinions, none of which was based on what people knew because Zeb wasn’t very talkative about his bridges. Doc Frye got so concerned he decided to cancel his vet appointments for the morning. He needed to talk to his friend and see if he could figure out what was going on.
“Howdy, Zeb.” Doc was careful to keep his tone at a ‘howdy, friend’ level so Zeb wouldn’t suspect he was being psycho-analyzed by the town veterinarian.
“Glad to see you back from New York. Have a nice trip?”
“Anything unusual happen there?”
“Nope. Nuthin’ I didn’t expect.”
“That’s good.” Doc tried to sound smooth as he got to the main issue. “Whatcha buildin’ there, Zeb? A bridge?”
“Did ya notice there ain’t no water anywhere near the bridge?”
“Uh huh, I noticed that, too.” Doc hadn’t expected Zeb to be so detached from reality. He decided to try a different approach. “So, Zeb, why you buildin’ a bridge?”
Zeb gave Doc a look of disgust. “You know, Doc, you’re the umpteenth person to ask why I’m buildin’ a bridge. Ain’t the town got nuthin’ else to talk about?”
“Not lately.” This was obviously beyond Doc’s psychiatric abilities. He decided to just back off the topic. “Well, Zeb, it looks to be a mighty fine bridge. See ya ‘round.”
Doc Frye left Zeb’s field convinced that the town gossip wasn’t gossip at all. It was now a medically verifiable fact. Zeb was nuts. For the safety of the town, Sheriff Dooley decided he had better go out and see what could be done with Crazy Zeb.
“Mighty fine lookin’ bridge.”
“So I’ve heard.”
“How long you gonna be buildin’ bridges?”
“Hand me that piece of lumber by your feet.”
The sheriff handed Zeb the wood. Zeb fit it onto the bridge, whacked a few nails, and then laid the hammer down.
Zeb looked beyond the sheriff. Four flatbed semi-trucks were turning into Zeb’s field and driving straight toward his bridges. Within an hour each flatbed had one bridge loaded and securely tied down. Within that same hour every citizen of Sutter’s Creek had gathered to gawk. The driver of the first truck handed a paper to Zeb and then, like ants in a row, the four trucks left Zeb’s field and disappeared in a cloud of dust.
Crazy Zeb strolled over to Sheriff Dooley, who was busy wondering what official function he was out there for since the bridges were now gone.
“Sheriff,” Zeb sounded distant, like a stranger asking for directions. He handed the paper in his hand to the sheriff. “Would you see to gettin’ this check to Pastor Cory? It’s so’s he can buy new pews for the church.”
Sheriff Dooley looked at the check. “For pews?” He scratched his left ear quizzically. “Pews won’t cost that much for our small church.”
“Tell the pastor ‘Keep the change.’” Zeb spit on the ground, just to make his point. “I’m movin’ to New York.” He smiled broadly and rubbed it in deeper. “Got me a job buildin’ bridges for Central Park.”
Zeb headed toward his pickup but then turned to the sheriff one more time. “After all, Sheriff, the only thing this town got right is that I build a mighty fine bridge.”
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