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The River of Jordan by Nigel Roth

It wasn’t a large river; in fact, it was a canal.

“You nor, if ya tak the ‘c’ away, you get …”

The lads laughed at this, and Jordan, who was built like a tram, guffawed hardest, as it was his joke and he was proud of it.

“Ah, man,” said his buddy Dan, “you nor how a tell ‘em, Jord.”

Jord did indeed know how to tell them.

But he didn’t know how to cross a bridge.

He’d stood like a minotaur for ages now, his shoulders hunched, his balding palate shiny with sweaty, his face as red and hot as a piece of Newcastle coal.

“Ar ya goin, Jord,” asked Jacko.

“I’m gan but I need the cash, lads. Do you have the cash?”

The lads combined their resources to produce two-hundred euros and a fistful of brain cells.

“Eer ya go, man,” said Pete, and handed Jordan the notes in a thick wad that he grasped in a hot, porky hand.

“Okay, I’m gan o’er,” Jordan said, and plodded, bow-legged toward the bridge.

Jordan’s stag night had been in full swing for some time. He and the lads had consumed much beer and were glassy-eyed and presented a classless group of over-worked muscles and tattoos.

They'd ooh’d and ahh’d their way through Oudekennissteeg, boomed along Boomsteeg, acted the fools in Achterburgwal, and courted danger in Korte Niezel. Now, they all stood outside the Old Sailor and annoyed the peace.

As they shuffled from one outsized foot to the other, they exchanged quips about the prostitutes along the canal; how they'd seen better decades, all had mad cow disease, ate more seed than the Trafalgar Square pigeons, and so on.

They were boisterous and childish; climbing through the open pub window because it was open, standing on the bench because it was there, fake-punching each other, and laughing as they gulped from a Nos balloon.

They all wore shorts like school kids, and the same t-shirt as if it was mandatory. Their hair was uniformly short, and they broke off in small cliques constantly, in the pretense that important information was passing between trusted confidantes.

And in the middle of all this milling, a shop front across the canal had been suddenly occupied by an attractive dark-haired girl in a tiny bikini.

Jordan tottered onto the bridge, a simple look on his flushed face. A bicycle belled past him and he wobbled for a second before taking another step forward, the lad’s voices egging him on with calls of,

“Go ‘eed, man.”

He was going ahead, he said to himself.

And why not, eh. He had the money, he had the desire, and the lads expected. Julie? What about Julie? This was totally separate from Julie. Julie was his everyday life. This, this was another world altogether. The two didn't connect. There was no overlap, Jordan thought, as he took one more step.

Another bicycle whooshed past and a group of tourists appeared out of nowhere, each photographing the same view.

The lads cheered and Jordan turned around to see what was happening, but they were engrossed in their own spectacle and didn't seem to be watching him anymore. He turned again and stepped forward.

The tourists were still taking photos, recording some moment forever. Of course, Jordan thought, this moment is just that, a moment, and won't be recorded like their ‘Boat On The Canal, Amsterdam, May 2019’ will be. This - his - moment here would pass, be forgotten. In a few years when he and Julie cradled their son Max for the first time the memory of this day will be nowhere near them. Max, or maybe Isaac, Jordan thought. He also liked the name Isaac.

Jordan wobbled on, veering too far left, overcorrecting, straightening up, and pausing.

He was halfway across the small bridge when a siren pierced the general hum and everyone stopped to watch a police car move slowly along, avoiding cyclists and pedestrians, before heading down a side street and fading away.

Jordan had stopped too.

Someone's in trouble, he thought, and wondered what crime they'd committed. Robbery maybe, or theft, or adultery. No, adultery wasn't a crime, was it? No, of course not. He smiled at this confused thought, and looked back at the lads. They were drinking their pints, laughing about something. Him maybe. He huffed quietly and walked to the end of the bridge, stumbling a little as it angled down to meet the road.

“There she is, Jord,” came a distant shout from over the river, “she's waitin’ for ya, man.”

Jordan looked back at his mates and waved a weak hand toward them. He steadied himself, breathed deeply, and then walked on toward the shop front and his new life with Julie.

photo by Skitterphoto

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