Sunday, January 13, 2013

< RM > story - The Bridge

The Bridge

There was once a bridge which spanned a
large river. During most of the day the bridge
sat with its length running up and down the
river paralleled with the banks, allowing
ships to pass thru freely on both sides of the
bridge. But at certain times each day, a train
would come along and the bridge would be
turned sideways across the river, allowing a
train to cross it.
A switchman sat in a small shack on one
side of the river where he operated the con-
trols to turn the bridge and lock it into place
as the train crossed. One evening as the
switchman was waiting for the last train of
the day to come; he looked off into the dis-
tance thru the dimming twilight and caught
sight of the train lights. He stepped to the
control and waited until the train was within
a prescribed distance when he was to turn
the bridge. He turned the bridge into posi-
tion, but, to his horror, he found the locking
control did not work. If the bridge was not
securely in position it would wobble back and
forth at the ends when the train came onto
it, causing the train to jump the track and go
crashing into the river. This would be a pas-
senger train with many people aboard.
He left the bridge turned across the river,
and hurried across the bridge to the other
side of the river where there was a lever
switch he could hold to operate the lock man-
ually. He would have to hold the lever back
firmly as the train crossed. He could hear the
rumble of the train now, and he took hold of
the lever and leaned backward to apply his
weight to it, locking the bridge. He kept
applying the pressure to keep the mecha-
nism locked. Many lives depended on this
man's strength.
Then, coming across the bridge from the
direction of his control shack, he heard a
sound that made his blood run cold. "Daddy,
where are you?" His four-year-old son was
crossing the bridge to look for him. His first
impulse was to cry out to the child, "Run!
Run!" But the train was too close; the tiny
legs would never make it across the bridge in
time. The man almost left his lever to run
and snatch up his son and carry him to safe-
But he realized that he could not get back
to the lever. Either the people on the train or
his little son must die. He took a moment to
make his decision. The train sped safely and
swiftly on its way, and no one aboard was
even aware of the tiny broken body thrown
mercilessly into the river by the onrushing
train. Nor were they aware of the pitiful fig-
ure of the sobbing man, still clinging tightly
to the locking lever long after the train had
They did not see him walking home more
slowly than he had ever walked: to tell his
wife how their son had brutally died.

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