THE BLUE BRIDGE DISASTER by Lesley Finnie
No-one had been killed, and the few minor injuries were only rabbit related, so why couldn’t everyone just see the funny side?
Sebastian had found it hilarious, but his inability to stop laughing had simply added to the rage of the adults, hence his banishment to his bedroom. Struggling to suppress the merriment that kept bubbling to the surface, and not yet worried as to his punishment, Sebastian reviewed what had happened.
It had all begun so well, he thought, as his three girl cousins and their parents arrived to enjoy a summer afternoon in his family’s large garden. He knew he had behaved perfectly from the start because he had overheard the phrase, “a credit to his parents” being agreed by his aunt and uncle. Not many boys his age would have been so tolerant of three drippy, soppy girls but Sebastian had always prided himself on his manners. He remembered how he had cooperated with the girls in a watered down game of cricket, making sure they had every chance of hitting the soft balls he bowled them. It had been his kind suggestion that they might like refreshing lemonade at the end of the game. He had even introduced his cousins to his pet rabbits and allowed them to play together.
Harriet had wanted to take the rabbits out of their hutch, so Sebastian had fashioned little collars and leads out of string in order that the bunnies would not get lost. He had then led the excited girls and their charges in a rabbit walk over the grass, through the shrubbery and as far as the small, shallow stream in the centre of the garden. This was where his father had his model railway with a track following the water in a figure of eight and crossing the stream below the blue bridge.
The rabbits were reluctant to venture onto the arched blue footbridge but Elizabeth, Jemima and Harriet were persuasive, soothing the little creatures and assuring them that there was no danger of their falling into the water even here where it was dammed up and deepest.
Sebastian thought back carefully and could honestly say he had not been aware of any weakness in this bridge and anyway, his attention had been on his cousins and their care of his pets.
It was Jemima’s idea to let the rabbits ride on the train. Sebastian had held her rabbit’s lead as Jemima ran to ask his father’s permission, which was readily given. So, each rabbit was settled into its own carriage and Sebastian showed the girls how to start and stop the engine. The bunnies appeared to be enjoying their excursion and the girls were becoming expert at the controls. Everyone was having fun on this lovely afternoon.
Sebastian’s dad called him to pull the garden roller over to the lawn where the adults were needing it. They were about to lay out a croquet game and the grass was not level enough.
On reflection, Sebastian could see that this was when he had made a wrong decision, but even after an hour in his room he still shook with mirth, remembering the unintended result. He had wanted to deliver the roller to Dad while keeping a responsible eye on his cousins at the same time, so he took the short cut, over the bridge.
The roller made match-wood of the old wooden bridge, dropped heavily through its blue planks, demolished the dam wall and loosed a wall of water. At this very moment the girls were guiding the travelling bunnies in their railway carriages just where the track crossed the gentle waters downstream of this disaster.
It was the picture of their surprise as they were swept off their feet that Sebastian could not get out of his head. The squealing girls, the fast escaping rabbits, the mud, the water, the mess, adults appearing from nowhere, shouting, total confusion. His tummy hurt and he had a stitch in his side as a result of all the laughing he could still barely control.
Sebastian forced himself to consider the wrecked railway, the cost of a new footbridge and the distress caused to his rabbits. He had more or less sobered himself when he heard his parents approaching his room and their footsteps helped stabilise his mood further. But not for long. It became evident that Sebastian had inherited his sense of humour from both sides of his family, and now that the cousins had been mopped up and taken safely home, Dad, Mum and son were free to giggle, roar and crease up with laughter to their heart’s content.