Monday, June 22, 2009

The Fog

The old man smoked under the arcade of the square in early morning, the sky only beginning to glow with dawn, a fog covering the lower part of the town. The boy who had been sent for bread ran along another arcade under the decaying posters for a circus that had never arrived. It was cold and his breath burst out in little clouds as he panted. He reached the church and darted down the small street where the light of the bakery beaconed to him from the place where the fog began.

The woman behind the counter greeted him. She was round and bundled, a sweater over her dress, an apron over the sweater. He said nothing, but put the two coins on the counter and waited. Wrapping the bread in a piece of brown paper and twisting the ends of the paper closed, she asked him about school, the priest, and if his mother's health were any better. The boy said nothing, took the bread and ran out, his shoe heels drumming on the cobblestones.

When he reached the square again, the old man threw his cigarette butt on the ground, spat, and called to him.

"Eh, Miguelito!"

The boy stopped, but said nothing.

"Come over here, I have to tell you a story about the fog."

The boy hesitated.

"I have to take the bread to my mother."

"Come back here afterwards."

"I have to go to school."

"I'll be here, waiting. It's a good story, the story about the fog. Like the one I told you last week about the river being a devil."

Without answering him, Miguel ran across the square to the street leading up to the ruins of the castle. His house was the fifth on the right, where the narrow street bent, opening the view to the half-fallen keep and the four round towers above it. He looked up and saw a thick fog embrace the massive gray stones and pour down the steep hill. He couldn’t understand why there was fog above and below, when it was clear in the square.
He ran into the house where his mother was trying to feed his baby brother, who cried and pushed away the spoon.

"Oh, good, Miguel. Put the bread in the kitchen and heat some milk for..."

Her voice choked off into a violent cough, and she covered her mouth with a handkerchief that was already spattered with blood. Miguel dropped the bread on the table and headed for the door.

"I have to go to school."

"Not for a half hour. Miguel I need you to help..."

Once again, he words were cut off by her cough, which Miguel heard even as he closed the door behind him.

The fog had swept down from the castle quickly and it was hard to see. He ran down the street, but by the time he reached the square, he saw nothing but gray mist. His foot hit a loose cobblestone and he fell, rolling over and scraping his knee. When he got up, he didn’t know what direction he was facing. He called out to the old man, but there was no answer. He started walking forward, his arms outstretched and his hands invisible, hoping he was going in the direction of the arcade.

When he finally hit something, it was the great oak door of the church, which swung open before him. The fog entered the building, covering the chapels to the Virgin, the main altar, and the center aisle, and then swirled up to fill the dome. Miguel cried out and walked forward, grasping wildly, and when he finally reached something it was the priest, who cursed him and slapped him for the despicable sin of pride.

No comments:

Post a Comment