At the river bridge

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This is not a ghost story because no one saw a ghost. It begins on Thursday after lunch sometime when a man who stops at the Citgo station for cigarettes is driving the upward curve of the river bridge at the lock and dam. See, there he is wrestling with the cellophane opening strip of his second pack of Marlboros. That’s why the adrenaline shot clean through the top of his head when he rounded the top of the bridge and saw the white Malibu stopped dead in front of him. There he goes, all twisted in a cigarette pack and swerving with a fast thumb, so it’s no surprise that on the narrowish bridge his truck slices the driver’s open door backward, where it swings like a limp fracture until it lets loose and spins across the double yellow lines.

He thinks he’s hit a woman. For the smallest second he thought he’d seen a swish of brown hair and that he’d look back after the brakes stopped screaming to see the blood and nasty of a terrible thing. In the oblong rearview mirror he realizes it is not a woman he hit but a car door, and that the long brown hair belongs to the head of a woman perched girl-like on the railing. It covers her face as she looks at him. She is real and not a ghost, but as soon as he slams out of his truck the woman and her long hair push off from the railing and into the boil of the waters below the dam. He stops right there in the scary middle of the bridge’s crest. He might be thinking she is a haunt or a misremembered story or the sun is too high and the water playing tricks. Hell, all he did was pull out of the Citgo.

When he reaches the railing there is nothing to see. The car is real, the key chain sways a little in the ignition and the car is still running. The Malibu’s shorn-off door is a hell of a mess and so is the passenger side of his truck. He looks down at his right hand, where the crushproof pack of Marlboros are now crushed, the cellophane easy-opening strip still dangling.

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