Where Hope Walks

My little town is hurting and broken. But then I see Hope.

I have a few options on the way home. I can drive over the bridge, the bridge that was closed after the big flood. Once you're over the bridge, though, you're forced to look at the big empty house, boarded up, gaping holes where windows were, pieces of glass clinging to the frames. It's ugly and should be razed. Everyone moved out. But the house still stands, decrepit, faded and gray.

I could go around the back way and drive up the hill from the fire station, past the golf course that straddles the road, mindful of golfers crossing the road to get to the next green, careful to keep my speed down because there's usually a police car hidden behind the trees, near the elementary school. Yesterday there was a bad accident on the road, farther down. People drive too fast.

And now that the back road has been repaired, I can take the winding old road, past the farm, the horses, the houses up in the hills, hidden behind so much green now, until I reach the little bridge. This one was closed after the flood, too, and it took a long time to repair it. There's just not much money anymore. Hope told me she likes to walk there, in the quiet, but the road is narrow and people drive too fast. I know she's careful, especially now, but still I worry. Her time is precious, and she won't give up her walks.

Now I usually find a reason to take that winding back road. Maybe I'll see Hope.  Seeing her out walking is a good thing. She never takes a ride home. "I'm fine!" she says, waving her hand and smiling under a wide-brimmed straw hat. I wave too, and drive over the bridge, where small tributaries of the Pawtuxet River flow under the road, downhill, to the source. And in my rear-view mirror I see Hope, walking.

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