Smoke – Scene One

August slipped over the rugged coast as expected with a driftnet of salty dampness laced with the scent of Western Hemlock, Sitka Spruce and fertile decay. Cold air from the north flowing over the warmer water of the Pacific Northwest generated conditions producing a ground level layer of moisture that played with ones perception of time, distance, direction and perhaps reality. Making a distinction between mist and fog is a matter of visibility, a matter of inches, but this was clearly fog.

What the fog deprives the sense of sight it feeds the senses of taste and smell, at the same time amplifying anything auditory. Fog is as alive as any other of nature’s creations. It eats, sleeps and breeds thriving in an atmosphere satiated with water, resting, waiting for just the right temperature then bursting into billions of microscopic droplets scattering light in all directions like panic-stricken fairies. This fall morning as the sun rounded the shoulders of the jagged Olympics, crowning the ancient tree tops of the dense rain forest canopy, the fog was not the only thing fighting for its life.

Arriving late the night before the couple had not had a chance to observe the beauty of the coast and the surrounding woodlands. In fact if it had not been for the heart-stopping moment when they nearly hit the child standing in the middle of the road they would have missed their turn-off completely and continued aimless miles north lost and soon out of gas.

Slipping slightly sideways with the abruptness of hard braking the Subaru’s momentum ran out several feet from tragedy. Catching a profanity beneath a tight breath, the driver, a male thirty-something glanced sideways at his stricken passenger. Exiting the vehicle, the driver left his female companion in the warmth of the car’s cabin where she cautiously observed the dream-like scene unfold. Her husband and the child of perhaps eleven or twelve caught in a cone of weak yellow light that shaped and shifted with tendrils of smoke-like fog.

A young boy showcased in the car’s headlights. Black hair shoulder length, a child’s bright complexion, height mid-rib to the driver. Facing each other not quite at the edge of the road. Show of fingers pointing this way and that, more nods than words a pantomime of dialogue between two travelers.

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