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A bridge of my own

October 24th, 2013 · No Comments · Nine Bucks a Pound

Some people I used to work with received some bad news about their jobs last week in the form of a severance package. Their jobs disappear Thanksgiving week. So they’ll have a lot to be grateful for while carving up the bird this year.

This kind of news always kicks off a few predictable conversations:

1. “Whew, glad it wasn’t me.”
2. “If it had been me, what kind of a job would I want to look for?”

My answer to No. 2 usually rolls out in kind of a Peter Gibbons voice. “I don’t think I’d like another job.” Or I’ll briefly dream about what it would be like to make enough money selling books to be a full-time writer, a real rarity, as most authors I know still hold down a day job of some kind. And then I start thinking about Milo Tanner.

Milo is the father of my protagonist in Nine Bucks a Pound. His new father, I should say. I killed his old father. And mother. And wife. They deserved it. They were lame. The world didn’t need their ilk. From their ashes rose Milo and Gwen, Del Tanner’s mismatched parents, and Dana, his high school sweetheart. Milo is my favorite.

After a life-threatening spinal tumor in college robbed him of any practical use of his right hand–dashing his future as guitar player in the up-and-coming new wave band Loose Vowel Movement–he sank into an understandable depression. Eventually, however, he snapped out of it, knowing he had a wife and a young son to care for. Milo sent out dozens of resumes, desperate for anything that would spring his new family out of his parents’ basement. The only response came from the Department of Transportation, regarding a job as a bridge tender on a bascule lift bridge, of which there are a number still in operation in Seattle, where much of the book is set.

I wanted something different for him, something that would suit his philosophical mind. What better place to work than a tower above a bridge, where he could survey the world while controling traffic flowing both on the ship canal and the road passing above it.

As I researched what exactly bridge tenders do, I kind of fell in love with the job. I watched YouTube videos on bascule bridges over and over and over again (and briefly got my young son hooked on them). I could picture working in a tower like that. In my mind it’s peaceful. The bridge operates on the same technology that has lifted and lowered it for decades, well back into the 20th century. There’s something comforting in that. Not to mention, the job can’t be outsourced to India.

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