Sunday, February 22, 2015

Water Under the Bridge

“Boozhoo (greetings) Migizi, my ink stained brother,” said Big Nob making reference to my writing.

Handing him my four bucks toll money, I pulled it back twice before he snatched it away with a grin that exposed his tobacco stained teeth. A habit we repeated many years, it never grew tiresome for either of us.

“Big Nob, and a righteous hello back at ya man,” I said in returning his greeting. “Still mowing, I mean collecting the green for the state I see. What’s your skimming total these days?” I always asked. 

“A hundred bucks more than last you seen me,” he always said and followed it with one of two comments depending on which direction I was heading.

“Don’t eat no tainted fudge,” he’d say if I went south or below the bridge.

“Get back to heaven before the devil knows you’re escaping hell,” was his command when I returned to the U.P. again.

Nob always chapped my ass about going down below, I reminded him I was born there, and he called me a liar. 

Peninsula rivalry between respective residents was born, no doubt, the day a single land mass got divorced. A love affair with two great lakes was involved. The approximate five mile gap sufficiently created distinctness and palpable personality traits for the arguing lands. Generally speaking, inhabitants of either peninsula used back-and-forth insults and name calling as terms of endearment.

Crossing the bridge always intrigued me and making the trip a hundred times or more didn’t change that fact. The engineering wonder was timeless to my marveling mind. Cresting the massive structure, water and air danced within the car and my spirit. The feeling it gave me, of freedom, was elbowed aside when I thought of Clay.

I wish you were here for this. Why oh why have you stubbornly refused to cross this thing these many years? Every bribe and carrot has failed to lure you across. Dammit Clay.”

Big Mac the bridge filled my rear view mirror as I took the first off ramp past and around the tourist attraction of the fort in Mackinaw City. There, I could do an in-an-out-grab-n-stash of some peanut butter fudge. The town had no less than half a dozen shops that sold the stuff. Maybe the gag gift would buoy my buddy’s mood a tad, that, and the fish jerky he asked for.

Greeting him as a “Nishnob Fudgy” and him countering by calling me “YouPee Apple” was a sacred ritual over the years. “Apple” was a double dig on his part, thinking it an insult in referring to me as “red on the outside but white at heart”. It was clichéd but we liked it that way. Rather than call me a “Yooper”, the typical name for residents of the U.P., he preferred getting the act of peeing conveyed. 

In less than fifteen minutes I was back on I-75 south matching my speed to the interstate’s number.