made of sticks
“Not where you want to be in the fog,” warned the old lady
With the old woman and her shop in the rearview mirror the couple broke into the beer and Oreos.
“Did you see the old lady’s eyes,” from the woman over a lick of aged cream center filling.
“No way she was blind.”
Driving on in silence, not noticing that as morning drifted along it was getting darker not lighter. The fog was not burning off, but settling in, getting tight, getting cozy.
Thickening by the moment, the fog was moving faster now as it traced the course of the river. Moving faster nearer to the surface, peeling off in gauzy wisps that spiraled up into the cedars and firs, so many ghosts gathering in the treetops, collective, weighing down the canopy. Bringing the car to a standstill the couple focused on the choice before them.
At the crux, planted in a festoon of giant spiked fern leaned an old plywood signpost propped up from behind by a tangle of tree trunks and branches, epiphytes, plants feeding off other plants. The billboard itself raw unpainted wood. Two black symbols tattooed on the board; crude arrows, one pointing right, the other left.
To the right a bridge stretched out into the fog spanning the river below, the landmark noted by the blind shopkeeper. Dead quiet now, visible through the swirling fog, glimpses of movement, a menacing hide-n-seek of shape and formless dance as an owl sounded nipping a bite out of the silence.
Bleeding out to the left, a dotted line on a map.
Suspended in the sidereal, the winged horse was a welcome sight. Forty-five feet up caught in the diffused pink cast from a fluorescent incandescence, the proud red logo of Atlantic Richfield. They were not lost after all. Brief elation soured in an exhale of disappointment. Pulling up close, keeping a machine to the left, the price in the pump’s cracked window read .79/Gallon.
There had not been any gas here for at least thirty years. Rolling down the window to get a clear look, to make sure he was seeing the correct price, the hum of electricity heard riding atop the ticking sounds of a gas pump meter as if dispensing fuel. Normal sounds, the sounds of life at a gas station
“Lookin fo u beash…,” Janis Joplin like voice straining out of the mist.
“Hey there!” came the relieved reply, “Gas first, then the beach, you work here?”
Floating out of the fog, a young woman appeared dressed in soiled clothing, face and arms speckled with painful looking scores. When she opened her mouth to speak, gapped and fractured teeth. A small malnourished looking dog cradled in her arms, shivering, burying its nervous little head to her chest.
“U ga hea…”
Nodding, he got it, no gas, understood.
Running on fumes, the afternoon drifting along with the fog, the couple discussed their options.
“And run out of gas”
“Keep going then?”
“And run out of gas”
“And the beach?” the driver called the window on its way up already half closed.
“U wa…” Janis straining her neck and pointing with her forehead, hands securing the small dog from getting snatched and lost to the fog.
“Ca ageh a rye…” moments too late and unheard.
to be continued…