This story is by Katherine Elizabeth Soto and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“I can’t cross that!” Katherine said staring wide eyed in shock at the rope and board swinging bridge that went over the alligator pen. Ropes were knotted along the length of the bridge. The boards had spaces between them. It was a ways down to the bottom of the small canyon. Looking across the bridge, Katherine backed away from it. Standing next to her was her daughter Stacy.
“Come on Mom, we have to cross to keep up with our group. Look,everyone else has done it. They’ll put a harness on you.” Stacy rolled her eyes at her mother as she tried to rein in her impatience. “I told you this was here when we signed up for the safari tour.”
“But everywhere else has a way around these things. Can’t I go around on a trail or something. Maybe use the alligators as steppingstones?” she asked Betsy their tour guide. The tour guide was patient with the terrified woman standing in front of her. She had seen this happen before. The swinging rope bridge brought many people to a screeching halt on this part of the jungle safari tour at the zoo.
“No ma’am. This is where we cross the alligator ponds and the hippopotamus area. It’s over the bridge, then lunch. Think of it as conquering your fear. I can’t go until you go across.”
Katherine could not believe she far she had gotten into this day’s adventure. She was afraid of bridges, all kinds of bridges, it did not matter what they were made of. This monstrosity of a bridge in front of her was out of a nightmare. “If the way forward is across it and I have no choice, let’s do it.” She took a deep breath to calm her fast beating heart. “Stacy, you go first.”
Stacy danced across the bridge, making it look easy. She even stopped to take a picture while on the bridge.
“Okay Jungle Guide Betsy, I’m ready to go.” Katherine took a deep breath grabbed onto both sides of the rope bridge and stepped to the first board. The bridge swayed as she maneuvered onto the second boar din line. She froze for a few seconds, swallowed, then took another step forward. She hoped she could cross this bridge and not get stuck on it. Betsy, their guide, stood at the beginning of the bridge deck giving encouragement. “Step again. The boards are there. The bridge is steady. You’re doing it.”
The rule was one person on the bridge at a time, so Betsy could not be on the bridge behind her. Katherine stepped from board to board holding onto the ropes that made up the bridge until it felt as if her hands were a part of them. She counted the boards in her head as she crossed each one. Stacy cheered for her on the other side.
“Come on, Mom. Almost here!”
The tour group stood watching her to see if she would make it across. “Come on Mrs. S. You can do it.” She heard someone shout.
Katherine took one last step off the bridge into her cheering daughter’s hug.
“Now we can go to Peru and do a real one,” Stacy said.
“No way!” Katherine said as she climbed out of the safety harness. “That was hard enough.”
Betsy led the group to their lunch area overlooking the savannah. They saw the animals from the tour wandering in the vast area of grass and trees while they ate the lunch prepared for them by the zoo’s food tour people.
Betsy, their group’s tour guide, came over to the table where Katherine and Stay were having dessert. “I have never seen someone so scared of that bridge walk across it. I have had people turn around and quit the tour at that point. We, at Robin’s Adventure Animal Park have a special certificate for you and a picture.” She handed Katherine a large certificate that read: Robin’s Adventure Animal Park presents its Bravery Award to Katherine S. There were pictures of animals bounding over the page. It was a certificate for kids who were brave in the animal shows, but Katherine did not care. The tour guides and the Park Rangers they met while on the tour had signed it.
There was a picture of her on the bridge. Her hands curled around the ropes, hanging on for dear life, taking the few last steps off the bridge onto firm ground.
“Thank you,” she said to Betsy, blushing at the fuss. “I never want to see another rope bridge as long as I live.”
Months later, after a wicked year of nothing but problems, Stacy at her side once again, Katherine stood staring at the giant rope bridge spanning the gorge below. Peru was beautiful this time of year.
“You know, Mom it’s the anniversary of your first rope bridge walk a year ago!” Stacy called from the other side. Katherine waved to her, then buckled up her rope walking harness. A farmer’s wife passed by her with basket on her head to cross the bridge with ease. Katherine closed her eyes, took a deep breath, then made her choice.