Saturday, July 3, 2010

"What to do if you find a bag of money under a bridge", part 2

Rejoice, true believers! Your wait is over!
This week's post is the second half of a story that I posted last week (new window), so if you find that you have no idea what's going on, go back and re-read last week's post. And if it still doesn't make any sense, I'll make up some lie about my idiosyncratic, esoteric writing style and how you're just not sophisticated enough to follow a story with such deep, meaningful, well thought out characters and obscure symbolic storyline.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. 

"What to do if you find a bag of money under a bridge", Part II
Aaron Matthew Smith- February 2003

I was convinced that human feet hadn’t crossed the sidewalk on this bridge in a LONG time.  Pigeons fluttered precariously overhead, and I remembered the time I was fishing with my dad under a bridge and an osprey had pooped on my shoulder. They always seem to hit the shoulders. To take my mind off of it, I looked over the railing of the bridge. I could see a man piloting a huge yellow-colored machine on the railroad tracks beneath, but I had no idea what he was doing. A hazy steam rolled off of the tracks where he had driven across them. On the other side of the bridge (where there was no sidewalk) I could see a massive brick smokestack poking up, with the name of some ancient tobacco company painted on the side in white letters. I wondered how in the world it was possible to build a smokestack that tall out of brick, let alone manage to paint legible words on the side. It could have easily been over a hundred yeas old. That, I decided, is the coolest thing I’ve seen all day. Over my side of the bridge, I could now see the top of a streetlamp that would light the road below at nighttime. The head of it was mere feet from the railing; I could have jumped and reached it. For a second I wondered what I would do if there was a twenty dollar bill poised somehow on top of that lamp. Would I jump for it? I laughed as I pictured myself hanging from the lamp by one hand, the other clutched around a little green portrait of Jackson, and I was reminded of a short story I read in high school about a man who had climbed out on his windowsill in a New York high-rise to retrieve a note or something. I couldn’t remember the name.  Naw, I thought, money on lampposts is like money in duffel bags under bridges; best to just let them be.
            As I left the bridge behind and my feet found concrete again, a building about a block away (though I was far from the land of city blocks by now) caught my eye. It had a pink sign in the window with black letters across it. As I approached, I could read the words Presentation Design. I broke into a run, my aching knees and hips protesting each step.  Finally! I had reached my destination. A bell tinkled as I walked into the front door, and I was immediately reminded of a pet store. The limited wall space was covered mostly with science-fictiony posters that I assumed were made by the company. A large plastic pond with a little fountain, the kind that you’d expect to see filled with tiny goldfish, sat in one corner. It had no fish in it, and I kept wondering what that had to do with presentation at all.  There was no bell on the desk for me to ring; instead, I waited and tapped my foot loudly enough, I thought, so that someone in the back would hear me.
            After a minute or two a tall, heavy-set guy wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt that said “My other car’s an X-wing” came out from behind a curtain that I could only assume lead to a back room of some sort.
“Can I help you?” He said in a tone more friendly than I’d expected.
“Yeah, please. I’m with the architecture department; I need to print out some drawings. I was told you have a deal with them?”
The man just looked at me as if I’d been speaking in French. Slowly he pulled a piece of paper from behind the desk. Typed across the top were the words “Student rates”. He handed it to me hesitantly, as if he expected me to bite him.  I took the page and read it slowly. I nearly gagged. Six dollars per square foot, IF I wanted to wait 3-5 days. I tried my hardest not make the “you’ve got to be kidding me” face.  I placed the paper back on the counter and pulled a ZIP disk from the pocket of my jacket.
“Well, I’ve got my files here. Can you print AutoCAD?”
“AutoCAD?” I was SURE he understood me this time, but I reiterated anyway.
“Yeah, AutoCAD? The drawing program? That’s what my drawings are in.”
”We can’t print
I felt myself beginning to gag again. “What?” I managed to choke out.
“We can’t print AutoCAD,” he repeated.  “You’ll have to save it as something else.”
I looked around the place, as if expecting someone to pop out with a camcorder and announce I was on some sort of hidden camera show.
“You can’t? Are you sure?”
“We can’t print AutoCAD.” The man repeated, like a parrot.
  I looked around; there wasn’t another person in sight. I glanced at my watch. Half past two. I’d never make it back in time to meet my girlfriend now. My mind searched for someone, ANYONE I knew that had a car that I could have called to pick me up, but I knew that most everyone was still in class. A taxi ride all the way back to campus would cost a fortune… I suddenly wished I had searched harder for that duffel bag full of money. Before I realized it, I had turned around and was walking back the way I’d come on Main Street. I had already crossed the metal bridge over the railroad tracks when it settled on me just how far I’d come for nothing. I was mad, but madder at myself than I was at the nerd that worked in the copy shop. I could have driven down here, but I was too cheap to buy gas. If only I’d looked harder for that money…
            As I walked, I stuck my thumb out at one side, not really expecting anyone to stop and pick me up. I was mostly curious to see if anyone would actually offer to give me a ride. A Mercedes Benz sped by me; okay, I could understand that person not picking me up. I mean I could go into alcoholic fits and vomit all over his expensive interior, for all he knew. A blue Ford Windstar, early nineties model, buzzed by, followed almost immediately by a maroon-colored van of the same make and model. Oh come on! I thought. Yeah, the clean-cut, blonde-headed college kid wearing the poster tube is too dangerous to pick up! Thanks a lot. I mean, it’s not like I look like a serial killer. I was suddenly reminded of that scene from the Addam’s Family movie, at the end when Wednesday Addams says, “I’m dressed as a serial killer. They look just like everybody else.” That thought made me smile a little.
There was some motion ahead of me; I’d returned to the land of the stone-walled cemetery and the ranch-style American dream. A tall man, had to be over six feet, was fiddling with something on his porch. He wore brown corduroy pants and a sweater that looked a few sizes too big for him, and his braided hair was topped with a brown derby that matched his pants. It was one of those hats that I’d always half thought about buying, but always thought that it would ridiculous on me. He now stood straight up and carried his bicycle built for two to the sidewalk, just a few yards in front of me. He lifted one leg and sat on the front seat.
Before I knew what I was doing, I’d taken a deep breath and swallowed what little pride I had managed to save from my experiences that day.
“Hey! Hey, man!” I shouted, and he turned around curiously. “Ya need someone to pedal the back of that thing?”