In the cold of the night the snowflakes were large and light, blowing over before making contact with the windshield of Coach Dan’s car as he drove, from the east side of the Northern River where Steph and Gene lived, down through the downtown section of Bark Bay spanning both banks of the river, then up to the Odyssey Apartments on the west side.
Traffic was light as he drove through downtown; the traffic lights were still operating fully, but would soon begin flashing yellow on the east-west roads, red for the north-south. As he crossed the Northern River bridge, a strong gust of wind, combined with a thin layer of ice on the road, caused his car to swerve suddenly left, nearly crossing the yellow paint divider. With nobody approaching from the other side, Coach Dan calmly steered right, slowly edging himself back fully into his lane, until he cleared the bridge.
The bridge was a common scene of accidents in Bark Bay, throughout the year. Winter posed weather-related challenges, while in the summer the increased volume of traffic caused interminable delays, angry motorists, improper decisions made in haste and anger. An accident on the bridge had delayed Coach Dan nearly an hour on his first visit to Bark Bay, nearly a decade ago, and overheard a conversation in a diner that afternoon that brought him up to speed on what he would later call The Bridge Controversy.
“It will get better once summer’s over, always does.”
“But it happens every summer, why don’t nobody do something about it.”
“Well they could, but that bridge is so old, it would cost more money to widen it as it would to build that new bridge the state wants.”
“They can’t build that bridge, it would bypass the town!”
“We’d still get tourists, in summer.”
“Not as many, though. We rely so much on summer business, it would dry up, Bark Bay would be gone in a generation.”
“State’s not going to put money in that old bridge.”
“Well somebody needs to.”
“It will get better, in the fall.”
It was a conversation Coach Dan heard repeated, nearly verbatim, at least once a month since moving to Bark Bay. Every once in a while, the state would hold a public meeting about their plans for the new bridge, only to be met with desperate hostility from the Bark Bay business community. And on the rare occassions when the state’s ambitions would flare, Lee Stephens, Bark Bay’s state senator, would use the blankey of his still considerable political clout to extinguish the flame.