1416 c/o Jason Lee Norman


“Somebody throw a rope,” yelled one.
      “Somebody throw two ropes” yelled another from the opposite side of the ravine.
      “We can’t hear you,” shouted the first one, “we’re almost seventy metres away. Possibly seventy-two” The two ropes that stretched across the ravine made a rung-less ladder. The ends were tied to trees or the roots of trees.

The first two rungs were on the east side. A man of about forty years and his teenaged son. First the father lay across the taut ropes and then his son climbed over top of him and lay beside him. They were shoulder to shoulder.

Rungs seventy-two and seventy-one were a local farmer and a female contortionist from a travelling carnival. She had a bullring in her nose and the bullring had a ring through it, and in that ring, another ring. The farmer was worried about his donkey. The soldiers assured him that he would be safe tied to the same tree as the ropes that were about to hold his weight.
      “Nice to meet you” the farmer said to the contortionist as her knee dug into his belly. “Don’t worry Sofia,” he called out to his Donkey, “we’ll be back in time for supper.”

Rungs three through twenty-four were the members of the local boys choir. They were wearing their school clothes and arranged themselves on the ropes in order of descending height.
      “I’ve heard that lying on your back is good for your singing voice” said one.
      “Shall we sing something while we wait?” asked another.
      “Ave Maria?”
      They sang Ave Maria.

Seventy, sixty-nine, and sixty-eight were friends of the contortionist who worked at the carnival as well. There was a man who wore a beard of bees and another who bit the heads off chickens. A woman was in between the two men. She had short hair and toned arm muscles. It was not immediately clear what position at the carnival the woman held.

Twenty-five through thirty was a family of six. They posed for a family portrait on their backs, the four daughters in the middle of their mother and father. The two youngest girls had decided to wear matching sundresses that morning.

Sixty-seven to sixty-two were half a dozen nuns from Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow. They had been selling handmade baby rattles and paper bouquets to passers by. They did this once a month. They lay across the ropes in alphabetical order of their favourite saints. Francis of Assisi, Heribert of Cologne, Iago, Isaiah, Leonitus, Yon.
      “It certainly is a heavenly day” said the first nun.
      “We are like the tower of Babel,” said the second, “but in a good way.”
      “Surely this is God’s work” said the third.

By late afternoon there was a noticeable gap in the bridge. The soldiers estimated about ten meters or so. Two soldiers on the east side went into town to round up some more volunteers. The soldiers on the west side played cards. The soldiers on the east had found a few drunks and sent them crawling towards the gap in the bridge, across the man and his son, and the choir, and the family of six and the girls in their lovely sundresses etc, hiccupping all the way.

The sun was setting and the soldiers had run out of time and manpower. They crawled onto the bridge to fill in the remaining gaps. They lay beside each other in order of rank.

To the west they heard the royal trumpets blow and the galloping of horses. A trumpet from the east side, where the castle stood, returned with a sound of its own. A carriage arrived at the foot of the bridge’s east side and out of it stepped the Duke. On the west side a team of horses had come. One of the men got down from his horse and took a wicker basket that was tied to the saddle. It looked like a picnic basket. The man opened the top of the basket and removed from it a small black and white kitten with a collar that had a bell on it. The Duke made little kissing noises. The cat came forward.
      “Ow, my bad knee” said the farmer.
      “That tickles” said the nun.
      “Look at her pretty tail” said the girls in the matching sundresses.

The cat made its last step across the bridge with some trepidation. The Duke scooped her up and kissed her pink nose. The team of horses rode away. The carriage rode away. By morning there was no evidence left at all of where the bridge had once been.