The Man At The Bridge

“It’s a pound.”

The man in the kiosk beside the bridge had watched him drive up intently; now, infuriatingly and impertinently, he barely looked up from his morning newspaper.

“Now we won’t accept plastic, nor cheques.”

He looked up from his paper momentarily to meet the driver’s eyes squarely, then added, rather too slowly as if addressing an imbecile,

“Nor I. O. U.s.”

The driver felt his temperature rise and beads of sweat broke out across his forehead.

“But surely you recognise me. I come this way every day. To work! For the past six months. I always pay but today I find I don’t have any change. Look, I can pay you twice tomorrow.”

The man didn’t look up this time and seem to find something amusing in his paper. He seemed to chuckle,

“Sorry. No credit.”

They say, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; and around the waters of the marina, the man with the lever operating the tilt-bridge is emperor of all.

(173 words)

Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, Challenge #187.

As well as the photo, this week’s story was inspired by a place I worked at which was near to a toll bridge. Not a tilting one but a simple stone bridge, a single lane wide and probably about 100 metres long.

I never needed to drive across it but walked over a few times. Walking was free. The board listing the various tolls for cars, trucks and motorcycles showed small change but the number of vehicles queuing both ends implied someone was raking it in. There were four people employed to take the money. I was told it was in private hands. I don’t know how many miles it saved instead of going the long way around but at peak times the waiting was annoying. Even though I didn’t cross the bridge, the queue affected me as I tried to cross it heading home. It’s enough to make a person reject capitalism.

This week’s photo prompt provided by Michelle de Angelis. Thank you, Michelle.

The rules for FFFAW are all explained HERE and please click on the blue FROG button below to read other stories submitted.


  1. I told someone else that I actually live so far away from any body of water other than a small lake that bridges and such are a unique experience for me, especially one like the picture shows. But I understand the concept that the guy in charge of the bridge has immense power. Thanks for joining up with the other FFFAW crew!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Strictly speaking he is following rule of law. May be he has very little freedom. It is possible that small people become a tyrant when they taste power.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ‘Jobsworth’ indeed. Something similar happens with the security guards at my work. I walk in everyday for ten years. One day I forget my pass – I can’t get in until I go to the reception desk to get a temporary pass!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A good story that is so true to life. I enjoyed your notes too. They prompted me to Google a toll bridge that I used to use, which turned a 4 minute journey into one that took an hour, owing to the queues to pay the fiddly amount of 12 pence. The search revealed that, a couple of months ago, someone had torched the tollbooth, which meant free crossings had to be allowed while repairs were made. Apparently, now that the booth has been repaired, the queues are even worse. I bet it won’t be long before then arsonist gets busy again.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. True, and I certainly I don’t support the action. As far as I know the police haven’t caught the offender(s), so there’s a possibility the arsonist was a random vandal rather than a disgruntled bridge user, but that seems unlikely. The owners have now decided to make improvements, including an automated payment method, but tolls will probably increase.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve helped me remember that the Sydney Harbour Bridge had a toll but only crossing one way. They had a basket into which you’d throw the toll. The first time I stopped at the booth, saw the basket, hadn’t any cash and just drove through, more in panic than anything. What do you know, nothing happened! No cops, no fines, no legal letters, nothing!
      Sydney, I owe you 50c. 🤪

      Liked by 1 person

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