In the Fog

I was born in coastal California, spent some very formative years on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, and have lived in coastal Virginia for the past twenty-seven years. There is no fog quite like sea fog! I loved taking walks with my father when I was a kid. He set the pattern early as I followed him on foot from Michigan to New York when I was six. These memories combined and went through the imagination filter. Some of the end results can bee seen in Chapter 1 of Gypsy Spy, “In the Fog.” Enjoy!

The sea fog swirled around him, momentarily revealing glimpses of the world he had left behind upon entering the milky wonderland. It exhilarated him. He was invisible, able to float through the streets unseen, unknown, unmolested. A smile broke upon his face and he could scarcely contain himself from running for joy. But he knew that he couldn’t stray far from the clicking heels of his father.

Were he older, he might have discerned that the comfort he felt didn’t come from the thick fog which came rolling off of the Mediterranean. Rather, it came from the fact that he was walking in it with his father. The warmth he felt was his father’s love. The safety which hugged round about him was brought about by his father’s watchful care. The joy which bubbled in his soul came from the sure knowledge that he was alone with his papa, encased in their private cocoon of alabaster.

“Do you have your marbles with you?” his father asked.

Si, papa.

“English, boy. English. You’ll need it one day.”

“Yes, father.”

“Better. Now, do you have your marbles with you?”

“Yes, sir. I only won ten yesterday. Nobody else wanted to play with me.”

“I imagine not, after a performance like that. I want you to do something for me, okay?”

“Anything,” said the boy, a smile in his voice. Do something for his father? The slightest opportunity to be of help to him made the boy ecstatic.

“Do you remember when we threw stones into the canal together?”

“Yes, you taught me how to hit the oranges that were floating in the water.”

“Exactly. I want you to do something similar this morning. I want you to keep walking in this direction. The instant you see a lamp post, I want you to try and hit it with one of your marbles, understand?”

“Hit the light?”

“No. Hit the post.”

“But won’t I lose the marbles if I throw them?” said the boy, a shadow crossing his brow at the strange request.

“Yes, you will lose them. I want you to throw and keep walking. With each one you see and hit, walk faster, understood?”

“But I won these marbles fairly,” he said, defending his treasure by placing protective hands over his bulging shorts’ pockets.

“I know you did. And I am sure you will win more,” his father reassured him, while looking nervously back over his shoulder.

“How can I win any more if I throw all the ones I have away?” asked the child, tenaciously trying to keep them in his possession.

“I’ll replace them,” said the father in an even voice, his jaw clenched tightly. “Now, will you do as I ask?”

“Is this another game?” asked the boy, defensiveness giving way to mirth.

“Yes. Can you do it as I described?”

“Sure. It’ll be fun. I go faster at each one?”

“Yes. Can you do it?”

Creo que puedo,” confessed the boy with confidence.

“Wonderful. Begin.”

Shane allowed the boy to slowly get ahead of him. He was three feet behind him when the first lamp post materialized within their swirling world of white. In the space of an eye-blink, he heard glass strike metal. His son’s pace increased. He kept his steady. A minute later he heard the sound before the street light came into view. He stopped at the pole and waited. A background hum had begun in the city. A sharp “tink” echoed briefly in the street followed by the sound of heels on concrete. He smiled. Right on time, he thought.

Extracting a cigarette, he resumed walking, now faster than before. Timing was crucial. He led his tail to the sound of impacting marbles, glass on metal. His heart rate increased. He removed his overcoat, reversed it to its off-white side, and donned it with the hood up. Within one lamp post of his son, he stopped, lit the cigarette, and inhaled deeply.

Glass on metal, the sound of sandaled feet breaking into a run. A few seconds later, a man broke into Shane’s field of vision running fast. Shane took a long drag on his cigarette, a casual observer obscured by the fog. As the man came up beside him, he flicked the burning stick with impossible accuracy into the man’s right eye. The man almost stumbled in his attempt to stop, spin, draw his pistol, and face his assailant.

Shane whipped out the belt of his coat wrapping it around the man’s extended right arm. He pulled himself into the man’s surprised embrace. In one fluid motion, he slammed his left elbow into the chaser’s solar plexus, yanked the gun arm down across his rising right thigh, and rolled his pursuer onto the ground. He grabbed the man’s wrist in both hands and twisted the arm violently, further injuring the broken elbow, while at the same time planting his right heel on the man’s throat to cut short any exclamation of pain. The gun clattered useless to the sidewalk. One final twist of the injured arm, and the man blacked out.

Shane took a deep breath and listened. Very distant now, glass on metal. Not much time, he thought. Quickly, he dragged the man up to the side of a building. He extracted a bottle of brandy from his coat pocket and emptied half its contents on the man’s chest. He placed the bottle in the man’s right hand and wrapped the unconscious fingers around its neck after unwinding the belt from around the wrist. Not very original, he conceded to himself, but it may appease the curious passerby for a while. Besides, once they did discover him to be out of his senses, it would be a while before they would check for injuries. Especially since the bottle was held by the damaged appendage. He reversed the raincoat back to its tweed side and ran to catch up with his son.

“I hit all fifteen of them,” said the boy proudly. He had waited for his father at the last lamp post. “Did I score well in this game, papa?”

“Very well, son.” The fog was thinning out, slowly burning away under the influence of a spring sun. As the first rays broke in on their world, Shane could see the glitter of powdered glass lying round about the lamp post. He looked up and saw that the light was still intact, then looked to his son in disbelief.

“I saved the biggest for last,” said the boy. Shane shook his head slowly. He extracted another cigarette from the pack, lit it, and inhaled deeply. He wrapped his arm around his seven-year-old son’s shoulders and commenced walking again. Very well, he thought, very well indeed.

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