The following is a guest post by my friend and writer of adult fiction, Graham Kar. I’ve known Graham since elementary school and am so excited to read his forth-coming novel, Remember. Graham has only recently discovered a love of writing, and has since written two novels and multiple short stories. If you’re interested in his writing, check out his website (https://radicalgk.com/) and follow him on twitter (@silverlight700). Take it away, Graham!
I read The Bridge to Terabithia a really long time ago. I thought I’d remembered everything fairly well. I quickly read through a summary and amended my memory slightly. This book was a transformative experience for me at the time I read it.
The Bridge to Terabithia is about a friendship between two children, Jesse and Leslie. How a new kid in school, Leslie, found an unexpected friend. As they grow closer as friends, hardships come their way and are dealt with. Leslie takes Jesse to an imaginary world they create through the process. Finally, the story ends as it must.
The story is told from Jesse’s perspective. He feels isolated from the rest of his family and wants something more. His siblings are mean or annoyances. That’s very similar to how I was feeling at the time. My sister used to lead my imaginings to the fact that she knew the Pink Power Ranger to make me listen to her. I was obsessed with Power Rangers at the time. That among other things made feel isolated.
Then Leslie moves into Jesse’ town, and they become friends. I have always wanted friends a tad bit too much. I would want to be friends with a certain kid. To make that happen I would do what I knew. Make conversation, hang out, and doing stuff together. I would probably get too clingy. That’s where the tad bit too much came in. No one really wanted to be my friend for long, and frequently fate intervened to make that happen. Wanting something too much rarely works. I learned that the hard way.
Leslie leads him to a creek by their houses. There, a rope swing allows them to cross. They swing across the rope swing and enter a world they imagine. That’s the official plot, probably backed in the story. It’s so long ago that the actual intent and meaning doesn’t matter anymore. My initial impressions are the most important things for me now. I was never very imaginative as a child. I saw things for what they were and only imagined things without any basis in reality. Like imaging how something could be created from stuff we had around. The fact they imagined a whole world was beyond me at that age. I decided on the more fantastical option I made up. Swinging across the creek on a rope swing was a ritual to reach Terabithia. A ritual that’s actually weaving magic into a spell to transport them to the tangible world of Terabithia. That was much easier for my child brain to understand. That happens frequently when I’m reading. I change things slightly to make the stories more aesthetically pleasing to me. For years, I didn’t pronounce ‘Hermione’ in my head but ‘Harmony’. It sounded better, and I didn’t know it until my sister mentioned it.
Together, they deal with the school bully, Janice. They get revenge on Janice for stealing Jesse’s little sister’s snack. Then Leslie finds out why Janice is a bully. Janice has an abusive father. I had a bully from third grade to fifth grade. It’s actually a great story in its own right. Coming to America before the first grade meant I’d missed all the basics of reading and writing. Losing that basis didn’t allow me to accelerate my reading as the other students did in second grade. I ended up in special education English to catch up. There, I met a few fellow students. Through that year, we formed tight bonds. Marcus and I were really good friends by the end of second grade. The next year, I moved on from special education English. I knew the basics by then. I moved on to the next higher reading program, Read180. Basically it was a tape recording of someone reading a passage to you. Following along was required. That’s when Marcus became my bully. For some reason, I was in front of his desk. He told me to get him some color pencils. I asked him why I should. At that point, I was in a wheelchair. I happen to have Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, my muscles gradually weaken over the years.
Marcus squeezed my knee really hard. I nearly cried out. I waited till he was done and did his bidding. I never allowed any part of me to be within reach of Marcus again. We didn’t interact for about a year and a half. Then I was waylaid in the cafeteria after lunch. I have no idea why I was there after everyone had left, but it happened frequently. That day, Marcus was there last with me. He came towards me. No staff were around. I went the long way around the lunch tables and didn’t cross his path. A few minutes later, an administrator called me to peer mediation. Marcus accused me of tripping him when we were in the cafeteria alone. I told the truth over and over. Telling the truth repeatedly is much easier than lying repeatedly. I was cleared, and I never interacted with Marcus again. I can only guess why he was a bully to me and other students.
Then the story starts to end. Leslie is missing. Everyone looks for her. My first thought is she ran into trouble in Terabithia and can’t return. Or maybe she doesn’t want to return to parents who are so distracted all the time. Then we learn that the rope swing broke, and Leslie has died.
When I finish a book or the last book in a series, I feel really sad. All my emotions are stronger than they should be, like with a lot of writers. I fully immerse into the story and feel bound to the characters. Book characters often feel more real to me than real people do. So much of what a character really is ends up on the page. Actual people are more mysterious than any fictional character I’ve ever read about. That kind of closeness with a real person was a rare thing until a few years ago. Leslie dying at the end made the sadness worse. Feeding sad towards the end of a book is something that happens still.
For around six months, I didn’t read for pleasure. The Bridge to Terabithia wasn’t a school assigned book. I started reading again after that short dry period. If you’re supposed to like a particular thing for life, it’s impossible to let go. I started with a new book to the library about an orphaned horse, grey with black spots. That started a new reading trend for me, horse books.