The mayflies hatch every summer from the banks of the Susquehanna and find their way through the air ducts and window screens of every home in the towns that bracket the river like frown lines. As much as they love the warm glow of porch lamps and ceiling fans, those lesser lights can’t compete with the blazing run of art deco lamps that span the Veterans Memorial Bridge—the fourth bridge to cross the Susquehanna between Columbia and Wrightsville. The only bridge to get shut down by a blizzard of mayflies swarming up from the river, little meal worms with lace-work wings that mate and lay eggs and die in the yolky light of those nostalgic lamps. Bodies falling inches deep on the roadway, powdery soft like too-cold snow. Tiny corpses that caused three motorcycles to skid out and forced the Wrightsville Fire Department to guard the entrance to the bridge, like Major Haller and Colonel Frick’s men did over 150 years ago as Rebel forces advanced after the capture of York. Fifteen thousand Yanks no match for 1,800 victorious Rebs drunk on victory and heavy artillery, the Union troops retreated across the bridge to Columbia, lighting fires as they went, until the whole thing was nothing but a charred outline, a pencil sketch of a bridge. Even though the Wrightsville Fire Department cadets stood at the mouth of that bridge like their great-great-great grandfathers did, the truth is, it was only closed for an hour until PennDOT could get there with a street sweeper and clear away the whole damn mess.
Meghan Phillips is the fiction editor for Third Point Press and an associate editor for SmokeLong Quarterly. You can find her in real life in libraries around Lancaster, PA, and on Twitter @mcarphil.