Bridge of Laughter


by Marc Littman


 

Her raucous belly laugh rumbled out of the warehouse by the San Francisco Bay and unnerved my fellow tourists and I gorging on sourdough bread and shrimp cocktails at famed Fisherman’s Wharf.

“Here it comes,” I grimaced, fully expecting my autistic son to spiral into yet another meltdown triggered by any loud noise. The clang of cable cars, foghorns, sea lions barking, anything can and did set off Brandon. He’d become a whirling dervish, arms flailing, screeching, totally oblivious to the whispers and jeers of alarmed parents and passerby.

Worst of all, Brandon couldn’t tell us why he reacted this way. In his 16 years, Brandon never spoke a word.

“So why are we taking him on vacation?” I pressed my wife again as we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, a span built by deft engineers who could never bridge the gulf separating Brandon and I. “At least at home he feels safe.”

“You mean you feel safe,” Karen volleyed back. She softened and stroked my arm.

“Honey, I just want some semblance of normalcy; maybe you’ll be surprised….”

An understatement, I marveled as the laughter drew Brandon into the Musee Mecanique, a warehouse of antique nickelodeons and arcade machines, to meet his soul mate, “Laffing Sal”. A fixture at a Frisco amusement park since the ‘40’s, the life-size, gap-toothed papier mache fat lady bellowed in a Plexiglass case as long as tourist coins kept her alive.

Brandon stood transfixed staring up at Sal with an incandescent smile, and he drew bemused looks when he mimicked her laugh and spread Sal’s infectious joy. When Sal took a breather, Brandon took my breath away. He turned and acknowledged me as a parent perhaps for the first time and uttered the word that finally bridged our worlds: “More.”

 


 

Marc Littman is a short story writer, novelist and emerging playwright. His stories have been published in online magazines and anthologies from Fictive Dream to The Saturday Evening Post. His two novels are Eddie and Me on the Scrap Heap about a heroic boy with autism and The Spirit Sherpa, a mystery story with a reincarnation twist.