Bridge Trilogy


Going Canada

On the International Bridge two hundred feet I think over water but maybe more since I'm not so good at telling, the water of Lake Superior where it kicks its way down into Lake Erie; the scattered shallow straits of Mackinac rush below—this is why they need the Locks Tony says, to ease the transition, to bridge that gap, manage the four-foot differential between the two lakes' water levels; Superior is so strong I say and high without all this machinery it could just rush down into the other and wreck the place; ore boats list in one of the many locks somewhere below in the gray mass of dock and city; we're in my dad's Aerostar, his first car he said he totalled it and he was drunk I think, and then ten years notched down the road he's driving empty hearses back from Sault Ste. Marie, the crossing point you see, the connection North or South to Canada on the International Bridge, to St. Ignace, not the crossing point you see South from the top bit of Michigan down into the dark mess of the Lower Peninsula, the Mackinac bridge—toll $1.50 and unease—there is a story about my gramps who ran the ferry across the water and how he tried to sabotage the building of the bridge and how he failed and there was this guy, a worker laying concrete who fell, got buried in the stuff, neck up and swallowed; and that's how I feel right now I tell Tony who's driving, and I suspect he knows the way out and that's where we're going, going Canada where his older brother says we'll find the titty bars although I have serious problems with this we'll never mention it we don't talk about Tony's brother and what he did to the family, safe-cracking house-breaking or some such bullshit there's another story here about the bank robbers in the winter Upper Michigan which means 300 inches of snow some year, and they held up the place, some bank and I don't mean snow—ho ho—and escaped on snowmobiles not thinking I guess it's cold I guess and maybe some moral sense or at least sense of self shuts down I guess and the cops followed the tracks back and took them down; and it's a long way down I say to the gassy surface of the lake and Tony says we're going Canada, eh! and all I can say is yeah cripes eh! and let's consider for a moment what it means to drop that proposition and jam it all together.



Tony & me, we're going Canada, going to without the “to” as they say up here, we're popped up over the curl of Lake Superior on the International Bridge whose toll was $1.50 in 1975 according to the map my parents bought the year of my birth, my father's drive from here to St. Ignace, South, in an empty hearse; we're cut out over water and that's what's left, water and the gas and space between us and it I heard a Yugo got blown off this bridge in a windstorm—boxy little bastard Tony says when I tell this story again—my friends keep stealing Lawry's Seasoned Salt from the Elias Brothers Big Boy with the big-ass lighted boy on the post, keep stealing the salt before the bridge as a charm for luck and love and at the least to never wreck; Tony's cutting our way into Canada with an blowtorch in the car; this is my dream so I see it like I see it, and Tony's going I know downstate I know sometime soon and this is our last chance to get through February like a storm I know except we don't call ‘em storms here but nothing and we don't speak of them instead, and so we're going up to get drunk and maybe we'll find some bar called Silver's and have ourselves an embarrassing experience, it's like getting caught, it's like the seam of scar incurred in a fall from bunk bed to concrete; we're in my car and pulling the freight of my grandma's locked safe we moved out from her house but we're no thieves, for what it's worth, and when we see the pull-aside and lightchurn of customs, I brief I breathe and say it's good we left the rifles at home, and the crack, Tony kicks conversationally in, and I expect the guy to look like a Mountie I don't know much about Canada but amethyst and Thunder Bay and curling, hockey, Corey Hart I know that isn't much but it's someplace else, a place to start, and they have signs in French and measure things in metric which sounds dumb to us but I swear to you it's not.



The sound of it gets me in the gonads I say it's silly to tell Tony this while we're about to be carried off and washed, watched down by these customs guys who of course have no idea of course how we got to here with the safe in the back of the blue-belly grocery-getter beast we call an Aerostar and is the safe locked I have no idea but with our luck of course it is and they ask me for my license plate and it's my dad's car so that's what I tell them but it's no hearse of course and what I want right now is the avenue out, the light white dust of a Canadian snow, the devalued dollar slight like a wisp of smoke on a lake, the frozen ground too hard to bury anybody not nobody not your mother or that kid who snowmobiled down through the ice into that glossy otherworld, not your Cousin Urho who died in a sauna drunk and dehydrated and his skin glowed like burned-up paper you know the kind that's left the kind that's ash, not nobody gets interred till Spring unless you want to pay for groundthaw & dig & burial and I want the thin Canadian pop cans that of course you cannot return stateside, the 0.333 liter silos, I want a kind of white picket fence that can't be married or measured off in English words—it's in the way the language doesn't sound, it purrs and, like grackles, cackles, and they have Boxing Day and curling and now the Mountie's looking right at me like he knows we just want out though we'll want back in but you know we can't just let a locked safe onto Canadian soil he says what if it's a bomb or a coil of germs or a gentle weapon or some new strain, and I nod as if I understand, but where are we anyway—we're still above the international waters so whose ground are we on anyhow if we're even on ground which we're not, so whose jurisdiction is it, is it my dad's in the back of a hearse, is it the Canadian border police, is it Tony's in this, his last week in the better half of Michigan, do youse guys have jurisdiction over space I start to ask but Tony grunts and cuts me off and says yes sir that is so right, so I suck that question right back in but still I want to tell him it's important—the thing is he can't leave me here in this place hanging over water, in the middle of all this radio and weather, that it's true, people here they die on you, they die on you and leave you driving to their funeral in the spring or their new school downstate, they die and send you postcards, leave you driving & directionless in a hearse.