canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999


Fog

by Hannah Holborn

1. Fog - to become indistinct

Norm Prebbleís call confirmed my destiny.

"Is Lois Anne there?"

"Whatís left of her after the surgery is." I gave Norm a moment to clue in, but dead air followed my hysterectomy joke. A Clouded Sulphur butterfly, colias philodice, beat its yellow wings against my kitchen window.

"My dad died, Lois Anne. Can I come live with you?"

This despite a decade apart from the narrow-headed friend my peers had called Squirrel. I removed a peach from the bowl of fruit that the insect desired. "Geez, Norm," I said. "You know I married Dan Crant. You know he doesnítÖOh, damn. Iím going to need time. This is unexpected. Look, Iím hanging up now, but Iíll call you, okay? Whatís your number?" Normís nose whistled on the intake. "Fine. Be that way. If you havenít moved, I probably have it here somewhere."

After he ended the call, I downed half a bottle of Bacchus Dry and ate a bowl of Honey-Nut Cheerios, also dry and didnít bother to feel guilty about doing either.

***

During dinner at Western Wok and Ribs that night, I ran Normís request past my husband. Ginger-beef went down the wrong pipe, when Dan gasped, "No frigging way!"

"Heís harmless," I said, as if harmlessness was Norm Prebbleís greatest selling point.

"No one is harmless, Lois." Dan pounded his own back. "Who will support him? It takes hard cash to survive in this world. Hard cash!" He banged the table and made my plate jump. "I didnít hang with the retard when we were kids and Iím sure not going to start now."

"You didnít hang with me either, honey." I searched my place mat calendar for wisdom and found that I was born in the Year of the Ox. Oxen, I read, can be remarkably stubborn and are capable of fearsome rages. They are most compatible with Snake, Rooster, and Rat people. Dan, I noticed, was born in the year of the Pig. A waiter deposited a platter of curried fish on our table and Dan served himself first.

"I think Sardjit Palmer would want me to do this for Norm."

Dan fished a crescent shaped sugar pea out of the black bean sauce. He licked it off and then plastered it onto his right cheek. "Do you mean scar face Sardjit?"

"He got his injuries protecting underdogs from people like you."

"I remember getting your boot in my balls. You didnít need protection."

"Not after he taught me how to fight."

Dan jabbed at the food on my plate with his chopsticks. "Interesting, but what I really want to know is if youíre going to eat this coconut prawn. Because, if youíre notÖ"

"Can you guess how Sardjit made me feel?"

"Iíll assume butch."

"Loved," I said.

***

"Guess what this is!" Dan waved a white envelope in my face as I hung up my coat, exhausted from my job as secretary for the West Fenny Naturalist Society. His euphoric mood made me wary.

"Divorce papers?"

He frowned as he whisked the envelope away. "Very funny, but wrong. Itís the receipt for a one way ticket to paradise. Bought expressly for our pal, Norm Prebble."

"Norm is my pal, not yours. Whereís he going?"

"Coming," Dan said. "Here. It turns out, Daddy Prebble was Mr. Moneybags and little Normy is his only heir. Itís a rich manís world, babe. If Moneybags Junior wants to live in the safety and comfort of our home, Iím not the man to stop him."

"Maybe I am."

"Too late: We cut ourselves a long-distance deal."

A male robin, Turdus Migratorius, mistook its reflection for a rival and attacked our living-room window. The bird plummeted to the ground. A catís bell tinkled as I went to close the drapes. "I love you, baby," Dan said. He blocked my way and tried to make me dance.

2. Fogbound - unable to move

Dan drove me to meet Normís flight, but refused to come in. Alone in the waiting room, I watched as a displaced dragonfly, lestes rectangularis, crawled along the tinted windowís ledge. I was wondering how it felt to be so far from water, so close to death by civilization when a windblown dust-ball scooped the dragonfly up. Both the dustball and insect vanished into the periwinkle sky as it expelled Normís plane. I rose, straightened my wedding rings and then breathed deeply.

Norm found me first. "Lois Anne!" He hadnít changed much since high school and that made me smile. He waved with both arms as we hustled towards each other, eager to close the gap. When we hugged, I had to stoop.

"Norm Prebble," I said. "How are you?"

"Iím good," he promised.

I patted his back and steered him towards the luggage carousals. "Did you bring a lot of baggage?"

"Tons," he said.

Later, as we waited to retrieve Normís suitcase, he suddenly pushed me into a turbaned man. "Remember Lois Anne?" He tugged on the sleeve of the manís jacket. "Remember her!" Norm then turned to me. "Itís Sardjit, Lois Anne!"

I looked at the strangerís face and felt my heart stall.

The man who looked like Sardjit broke free of Normís grasp. "So sorry. But the name does not ring a bell." He tapped his temple as if offering us proof.

"Remember the day you left?" I said. "Remember how thick the fog was? I thought we had lost you forever."

On the afternoon of his fourteenth birthday, when Danís womanizing father arrived for a connubial visit, his mother barred Sardjit from their home. He landed at my door with Norm at his side. After scooping a fistful of junk from his pocket, he extracted a palm-sized photograph. A turbaned man glared at me with sepia eyes. "This man is my father," he said. "Iím going to go find him."

"Where is he?"

"Somewhere in Surrey," he said. "With his new family."

Against our wills, Norm and I walked Sardjit to the bus stop. The flats were cold with fog that rose from the potato fields. It wet our clothes and hair and dripped from our noses as we slogged single file along the roadís narrow shoulder.

When I slowed for a moment, Sardjit disappeared from view. "Slow down," I said. "Sardjit?"

He appeared, slouched beside a bus stop. Removing a hand from a pocket, he said, "Donít tell anyone. Not ever."

I linked my baby finger with his. "I swear secrecy on pain of death."

Norm arrived out of breath. He copied my action, but got the wording wrong. "I swear pain of death."

"Take care of each other," Sardjit said.

Yellow lights that stained the fog like pee on snow preceded the number twelve bus. The bus ground to a stop. Its hydraulic doors folded open. "Donít go," I said, but Sardjit stepped in. I heard his fare fall. "Donít go," I repeated. The door heaved shut, the bus rolled away and then he was gone.

As we watched the vanishing tail lights, Norm swiped at his snotty nose with a sleeve. The action made my stomach churn. "Thereís no place like home." Norm tried to click his heels.

"Jeez, Norm. Grow up." A pack rat shot over my toes. When I screamed, the wall of fog rang with it. "Darn it! Youíre so stupid, Norm Prebble!"

"Itís not my fault."

"Yes, it is. Everythingís your fault because youíre a freaking retard." And then, I ran, not caring if Norm could keep up. I ran not caring if he wound up as road-kill on highway thirteen.

"Lois Anne," he cried. "Wait."

"No!" I ran until my lungs were sodden. When I stopped to gasp for air, the road beneath my feet looked bleak. "Norm?" I held my breath as willows wept his answer.

"I am hurried to catch a plane with my group." The manís profuse apology brought me back to arrivals. "Today we fly to Delhi. From there we travel to the Valley of Flowers where we will climb to Guru Granth Sahib and bathe in the holy lake."

Desperate not to lose him again, I jotted down my phone number and held it out. "Call me."

The man offered a business card stapled to a glossy brochure. The card advertised Jack Dahliwell - Pilgrimage Guide - reasonable services provided. He broke away and disappeared into the crowd.

Only then did I remember Sardjitís scar. The scar that Jack Dahliwell, pilgrimage guide, did not have.

3. Fogbow - a nebulous arc or circle of white or yellowish light sometimes seen in a fog

While Norm hid in our only bathroom and Dan paced the hallway, grumbling, I lounged on the living room sofa with the brochure pressed against my breasts. My eyes closed and I ascended Jackís Dahliwellís mountain. Cool, fine earth lifted beneath my feet as I walked. The air was thin and stretched out forever. Sardjit trekked on and up and I followed. We came to an alpine meadow dappled with flowers and bordered by a pristine lake. A fog descended from the backing peaks as Sardjit approached the outer edge of the lake. He unfurled his turban and then laid it on an outcrop of rock.

"Wait," I pleaded. "I canít go in there!" Somehow I knew that women were forbidden. Sardjit dove into the lake. Stricken, I ran to the edge. "Sardjit. Not again!" With one toe, I tested the forbidden waters. Fog rolled down. It pushed me back, away from the lakeís edge. It rolled over, around and through me. It soothed my skin and made me golden and glorious. I laughed and my body twirled in a wild dance. I sang my delight. I was clean, unsullied and innocent.

"Lois," Dan said as he slapped my arm. "Stop that damned dancing. I need the can and Normís in there blubbering. Get him out."

I whirled around my husband. "Norm needs to cry," I said. "We thought we found Sardjit Palmer at the airport."

Dan crumpled onto an ottoman. "Youíre a sick bitch, Lois. You know heís got to be dead."

I twirled and my foot sent a potted palm crashing. "No, I donít!"

"Youíve just got to torture me, donít you?" he shouted. "I only locked the kid out of his house. You wouldnít tell the police where he went. Pin the blame where fucking it belongs." Dan jumped to his feet with his fists clenched.

"Dan," I said.

"Lois?"

"I need to see you bleed."

***

"Lois Anne?" Norm stood in the living room doorway. His red eyes flickered at Danís prone body.

"Uh huh?" I settled onto the sofa with Jack Dahliwellís brochure.

"Iím not the retard here," he said.

Dan moaned, but his eyes remained shut.

"No, Norm," I said. "Of course, youíre not."

"Lois Anne Crant?"

"Yes, Norm Prebble?"

"You are," he said.

 

 

Hannah Holborn's fiction is forthcoming in Room of One's Own, Girls with Insurance and The Avatar Review and has appeared in Front & Centre, Room of One's Own (issue 24:4), Words literary journal and Sights Unseen: New Writing From British Columbia. She is writing a novel.

 

 

 

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