He stood a few steps before its edge, just where the grass met the first plank. The old bridge that stretched across the creek near his house had been there since before he was born, since his mother was a kid. She repeatedly warned him not to cross it. Everyday after school and during summer, he would dart from his bedroom and down the stairs, through the kitchen, and before he could barrel out banging the screen door, his mother would call out after him.
“Max, stay away from the bridge!”
He would, of course, comply. Begrudgingly. Though as frustrated as he was being restricted to such unsatisfying boundaries, he did not dismiss his mother's concern, due to her continual reminding him of the reason behind it. An incident occurred that, in his father's opinion was not worth the worry, yet had nevertheless ingrained itself on their existence ever since. Not long ago, his father attempted to cross the bridge (the exact reason why having been forgotten) and nearly fell through after one of the weathered boards gave way under his weight. Ever since, his mother forbade him from placing even a toe on the structure. This account did indeed impart a tinge of fear, but the banks on the other side of the creek still captured his curiosity.
He was older now. Ten years old, almost eleven, and he felt his mother's warnings were made mostly of worry, no longer befitting an adventurer of his caliber. That bridge had been the bane of his freedom for far too long and he was no longer content with imaginary scenes of the banks on the other side. Today would be different. Uncharted territory would be explored. Today, his domain would expand.
His mother wasn't even in the kitchen when he dashed through and out the screen door, hoping the bang wouldn't alert her. He ran weightlessly across the yard and under the faded fence that encircled their little patch of home. Max made his way through the meadow near their house, the taller grass swishing under the hurried stomps of his sneakers which kicked up dandelion seeds, sending them dancing airborne. He followed the path in the grass, matted down by previous excursions, until he reached the bridge where he now stood. This was it, he was at the brink of true adventure. Max breathed as he gingerly placed a foot on the first plank. No creaks, no cracks. With a second step, he was no longer on the grass, no longer in the safe support of stalwart soil. He stepped ever so carefully, pushing down on the second plank with his foot while keeping the rest of his weight on the one he was sure about. Max exhaled in relief as the structure stayed strong under his step, as did the next, and the next.
He was just passed half way when he saw the hole. It must have been the very spot through which his father's leg had crashed. Max peered down through the opening, where he saw the rocks and rushing water below, a fall far enough to hurt if one were unlucky enough. Max noted the color of the wood around the hole. A different shade of old gray-brown than the rest. The next few boards bore that same discoloration and Max knew it would be risky to tread upon them. There were too many to skip over in a single step, even two. He would have to jump. There was no way to be certain if the boards beyond the rotten spot were strong enough to withstand the shock of his landing. The only way to stay safe was to turn back.
Max turned and headed back toward the beginning of the bridge. He stopped, looking across the meadow at his house. He turned again and looked at the hole in the wood, then at the far bank upon which he had never stepped foot. His pace quickened as he took a running start. He approached the launch point, and with a mighty leap he sailed over the unstable planks and landed with a thud and a creak. A second of stillness passed and the wood held true. With a wide, gleaming smile, Max tromped over the last few planks and onto the grass of the far bank. Which now, as he looked back across the newly conquered obstacle, didn't seem so far.