Escape From Wisconsin

If you’re wondering where I’ve been, three years ago I survived an assassination attempt on the Blatnik Bridge. Locally called “the High Bridge,” it is in fact 120 feet high over the St. Louis Bay. It is co-owned by Minnesota and Wisconsin, and when you cross the state line, you have a bird’s eye view of the bay, Park Point, and Lake Superior. For a moment, I thought it would be my final view.

Earlier that morning, I swam through the ruins off of Washburn, the tiny Wisconsin town with big secrets. On the way back to Minnesota in my blue 1976 Lotus Esprit S1 — the Aquamobile — I stopped at the Anchor Bar in Superior. Time: 11 a.m. The streets were quiet, church was still in session. I parked across the avenue and went inside. Joining my confidential informant for a burger in a booth, he slipped me a list of every crooked cop in Wisconsin. I put it in my shark-themed backpack, returned to the Aquamobile, and put the backpack in the passenger seat next to the speargun. I got in and rolled my window down. Now for a little drive to the U.S. Marshals office in the Federal Building at the Duluth Civic Center.

I almost had my key in the ignition when I was surrounded by thirty fake motorcycle cops and real State Police on meth. I heard, “Step out of the vehicle, hands on your head!” I answered, “You’ll be hearing from my attorney.” I started the Aquamobile and a fake cop bashed in the passenger-side window with the butt of his shotgun. I’d seen this insurrectionist’s mugshot in the Federal Building not two days prior. A tweaking State Trooper jumped on the roof of the Aquamobile. I was being swarmed so I peeled out. The fake cop dropped his shotgun and hung on to the window frame with both arms, clawing his way into the car. These idiots had to stop me before I crossed the state line 120 feet in the air. Sirens everywhere, I ran the gauntlet up North Third Street toward the onramp. The Aquamobile tossed motorcycles aside like it was shoveling snow, but somehow these cosplay authoritarians kept hanging on.

Just before the middle of the bridge and its great arch, one of the motorcycle cops zigged when he should have zagged. His bike got sucked under the Aquamobile at 103 miles per hour, and the nose of the car gained lift toward the sky. We launched over the edge into empty space, accompanied by road construction signage, chunks of concrete, and flickering tongues of fire.

I removed my vice-like left hand from the steering wheel and clamped it onto the door frame. My right hand grabbed my custom flat black ceramic triple-barreled speargun from the passenger seat. I fired a spear through the ceiling. The tungsten barb punched through the torso of the frothing trooper clinging to the roof.

His gloved grip loosened from the windshield molding. His limp body hovered up off the car as the trajectory of the hurtling vehicle bent toward the bay.

The fake cop in the passenger window managed to drop a live grenade into the car. I saw him register my spear gun in his face before I pulled the trigger. He peeled away from the body of the car like a dead leaf, trailing blood as the water rushed up.

My stomach rose in my throat in the comfortable, familiar feeling of floating, proof of humanity’s origin in the sea. The passenger side dipped toward the forty-foot-deep obsidian waters of the harbor channel as the car began a barrel roll in the air.

More like a death spiral. I let the car launch me free. I pulled up and out my window with just my left hand, feeling weightless like pulling through the bulkhead of a shipwreck. I joined the Aquamobile’s debris cloud of bodies and wreckage like the tail of a comet as we dropped through the sky. I just seem to have bad luck with cars.

I twisted to fall backward, hair flapping, steel-jacketed slugs already slicing lines in the air around me. I clasped my speargun in a tight, two-handed grip and fired between my legs at the sniper’s position up on the arch.  He dropped from his nest like a poisoned bird. I thought of the list of names as the vehicle approached a pancaking collision with the water’s surface.

Letting go of the spent speargun, I brought my legs down and entered the ice-cold water feet first. Hands by my sides, I cut through the spray kicked up by the Aquamobile smashing in a few feet away. My impact knocked the wind out of me and compressed my spine, but broke no bones. I plunged more than twenty feet deep.

When I surfaced, the grenade exploded, propelling me on a ringed blast wave of concussed water. Gasping for air, ears ringing, I knew eyes would be searching, so I swam across the Minnesota state line underwater. I dolphin-kicked cold and sopping onto Hearding Island, where I caught my breath under the imperial gaze of a nest of bald eagles in darkening twilight. I needed to keep low. But foremost in my mind was my failure to protect the list.

By the time the Sheriffs and the Coast Guard combed the bay, I swam my way past the docks of Rice’s Point to the Slip. There I was greeted by my artist friends like a hero. The internet was saying I died. Framed by the Lift Bridge in the background like a halo, a beer was thrust into my hand. This resurrection was my finest performance. However, remaining dead may have certain advantages …

An index of all Jim Richardson’s essays may be found here.

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