Walking Stories (2002) was a group of five temporary site-specific installations along a two mile trail at Lower Arroyo Park in Pasadena, CA. “I visited the sites and then wrote fictional stories about incidents that had occurred there. The stories were broken down into sentences, and each sentence was printed on a placard and posted along the trail. For each story, the distance from the first placard to the last was about a quarter mile. The viewer walked along the trail reading the placards, and each story ended with the viewer standing directly in front of the site written about in the story.” – Beth Block
When I was a kid, Jimmy McBride was my best friend.
We would walk up to this bridge almost every night and throw rocks at targets we had set up down by the creek.
One winter it rained like crazy. I was eight and he was ten.
The creek was several feet deep and we’d talk about how cool it would be to dive off the bridge into the water.
He dared me and I dared him and we both double dared each other all winter as the creek got deeper and deeper.
Finally in March, we decided to do it.
We made a plan to sneak away at night so we wouldn’t get in trouble for coming home all wet and muddy.
I met Jimmy here at midnight. On the count of three we dove in.
Jimmy never came back up.
At first I thought he was playing a joke on me.
I waited for almost an hour, and then I got angry at him and went home.
When his parents called the next day I got scared. My mom asked me if I had seen him and I said no.
I didn’t mean not to tell anyone, but the longer I waited, the harder it became to talk about it.
After a week went by and they hadn’t found him, I decided to come down here and take a look around.
I’m not sure if I was more afraid that I’d find him or that I wouldn’t.
I walked several miles downstream and then even a few miles upstream but I didn’t find anything.
No one else did either.
The next summer when the creek dried up, I came down here again.
This time, I saw his shirt.
I knew it was his because I remember he was wearing a bright red shirt the night we dove off the bridge.
It was caught on a branch and hung there in plain sight, waving around like a flag.
But they had stopped looking for him by then.
I didn’t know whether to take the shirt down or leave it,
but finally I decided to leave it where it was and never come back.
But I dreamed about that shirt for almost thirty years.
Sometimes Jimmy was in it like a ghost.
Sometimes the cops would find it and shake it at me and accuse me of killing him.
I’m not really sure why I finally came back down here on what would have been his fortieth birthday.
I knew exactly where the shirt had been.
The branch was gone, but the shirt was still there.
Or at least what was left of it.
It looked more like a rag after all those years, but I knew exactly what it was.
I started shaking, and then I began to cry.
Then I confessed to him that I had never told anyone what had happened.
Now I come back here once a year, on Jimmy’s birthday.
I talk to the rag as if it’s Jimmy,
and I tell him what’s been going on, and how the world has changed.