Not at all what it first seems, Ben Woodard's short story, "The Trestle" succeeds, I think, because it surprises with an unexpected snap of real insight and truths... about what it means to be a boy on the bordering edge of manhood, and about the extreme difficulty of crossing the "tracks" between boy and man, while carrying the heavy weight of hard memories, and seemingly unendurable shame.
But, like the clever mechanism of denial itself, you don't completely understand where Woodard is leading with this story, or why. Until almost the very end, I thought I was simply reading a tightly-wound and almost painfully riveting adventure tale about two adolescent boys, all hopped up on the adrenaline of unnervingly senseless risks, and set against a beautifully smudged backdrop of rural mid-America -- Mark Twain, if you will, with a sharp swerve into thriller territory.
And that's where Woodard masterfully departs from the expected coming-of-age formula, and instead layers in difficult insights that make the story relatable to anyone who has witnessed, or survived, real tragedy.
Not content to leave the boys' death-tempting hijinks atop a suspended railroad crossing unexamined, Woodard instead drops suddenly into the roiling human psyche, where motivations and experiences combust and burn inside, and eventually drive all those mystifying surface choices and behaviors - even the terrifying and risky ones that otherwise seem impossible to understand, survive, or explain.
I'm looking forward to reading more from Ben Woodard - his writing is visual and compelling, and this story is certain to cling to readers like an enveloping Kentucky nightfall.