Beyond the Western
Lost in the Fog
Scott A. Gese

He hated the fog. Image source: chmyphotography/Unsplash

At some point in our lives we will inevitably get lost in the fog. These are the times we will grope and thrash our way through each day as we try to figure things out. Sometimes we make it on our own. Sometimes it takes a mentor to help us see clearly again.

Beyond the Western

Keith Narrows was heading home after a long day at the office. His career was going nowhere and he had a lot on his mind. It was Winter. The time of year when the sun set early. He lived about twenty miles out of town on a small piece of property. Just him and his dog, Shepp.

Tonight the fog was hanging low. He knew he would run into it before he reached his turnoff.

He hated the fog. It made him feel so confined when he couldn’t see through it. Like he was stuck in a cocoon and couldn’t thrash his way out. Driving in it was the worst. He hoped he would make it home before it fell all the way to the ground. Luck was not on his side.

He still had another five miles to go when he ran into it. A thin film that quickly turned into a blanket so thick he couldn’t see the road ahead. It made driving almost impossible.

Keith had to slow down to a crawl. Even with his fog lights on he couldn’t see past the hood of his car. He hoped some idiot wouldn’t speed up behind him and not be paying attention until it was too late. He turned on his emergency flashers just in case.

He rolled down the glass and stuck his head out the window so he could at least look for the center line alongside the car. His turnoff was coming up in two more miles. He hoped he would be through the worst of it by then.

Two miles came and went. He was getting nervous and started to second guess himself. “Did I miss my turn? I don’t think I missed it? Where the hell is it? Damn this fog.”

Three miles came and went. “Shit, I’ve missed the damn turnoff. I need to turn around, but where?”

There was a small town up the road another mile. It had a traffic light. “I guess I’ll turn around when I get to the light.” He kept his head out the window concentrating on the center line.

The ditch on the side of the road was deep and he didn’t want to end up in it.

Another grueling two miles and Keith began talking to himself again. “Where the hell is that light. I should have been there by now.”

Another mile and Keith stopped. “This isn’t right. I can’t see shit. I’ve gone way to far. Where the hell is that light? Where the hell am I?”

He sat there, perplexed, trying to decide what to do. He made the decision to turn around in the road and head back the other way. It would be a tight squeeze but he felt he had no other choice.

He seemed to be the only car on the road. How dangerous could it be.

Being the only car on the road should have made him stop and think about continuing on, not turning around. But it didn’t.

As he started to turn the car around, he realized there was a problem. He couldn’t see where the edge of the road was. How far could he inch forward? How far back? He didn’t know. He worked at it slowly, hoping a car wouldn’t come up on him.

Then the worst happened. He had went back too far. His wheels slipped off the road.

They had dropped into the gravel shoulder far enough to high center it. He was spinning his wheels and the car was going nowhere.

“NO! No No No, This can’t be happening. What the hell did I do to deserve this? Now what?”

The car wouldn’t budge. He tried to make a call but there was no reception. He tossed the phone down onto the passenger seat and got out to check the situation. There was no way his car was going anywhere. Keith had little choice. He locked it up and started walking. He left the emergency flashers on hoping they would be seen if another fool should happen along.

After what seemed like a mile, he started to hear something. It sounded like someone calling for help. Had someone gone off the road? The call was coming from only a short distance away. The ditch was shallow so Keith decided to investigate. Maybe someone drove off the road and was hurt?

It was now dark. The field on the other side of the ditch was so shrouded in fog it was hard to see more than a couple of feet. The call for help had stopped and after several futile minutes of groping around in the thick fog, Keith decided to give up the search.

Maybe it was just my imagination. He thought.

Now there was another problem. He had lost track of the road. He walked in one direction, back tracked, walked in another direction, back tracked and chose yet another. No matter what direction he went in, he couldn’t find it. Now he was lost and getting cold. What to do? Sit down and wait for the fog to lift? That could take hours if not days. His chilled body told him he needed to keep moving, so he started walking.

Tired, cold and in the dark he kept on. He soon came to a road that ran across his path. It was gravel. He didn’t recall a gravel road anywhere in the area, but hey, it was a road. Without thinking, he chose to go to the right, hoping he would find a place to get some help.

The fog was starting to thin out and Keith soon saw a light.

He headed for it. When he reached it he discovered it was a small store. An old pickup from what looked to be the 1940’s was parked out front. The store was open so he stepped inside.

It was like stepping back in time. The floors were made of wood, a pot bellied stove with a warm fire inside sat in one corner. A large glass jar of peppermint candy sat on the counter next to an old cash register.

Keith stepped up to the stove and began to warm his hands. A voice from behind startled him. “Bad night to be out.”

Keith turned toward the counter to see a middle-aged balding man standing behind it. “Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there when I came in. Yes, it’s a lousy night. Do you have a phone? I left my cell in my car.”

“Nope, the phone is out. No telling when it will be working again.”

“I seem to be lost. Where am I?”

“Why, you’re not lost. You’re exactly where you need to be,” the storekeeper replied.

Keith thought that was a little odd. “No, I mean where am I geographically speaking.”

The question went unanswered. “Have a seat by the fire and tell me how you got here.”

The question was going nowhere and the fire was warm, so he took a seat. The storekeeper stayed behind the counter. Keith explained his situation and how he had happened upon the store.

The storekeeper listened attentively.

“Do you play checkers?” He asked.

“Sure, why not.”

The board was set up and the two men played and talked. The storekeeper was very much interested in Keith and his life situation.

He had a philosophical approach to life and shared a wealth of fatherly wisdom with him.

Keith found it easy to open up to him. It was normally out of his character to do so, but he was enjoying what the storekeeper had to say. He made a lot of sense and the more they talked, the more Keith felt at ease.

The storekeeper actually gave him the solution to a seemingly unsolvable problem he was having with his stalled career. He had never thought of a solving the problem in quite the way it was explained to him. It was exactly what he needed to do to get his career back on track and start moving forward again.

By the time they had finished their fourth game, the fog was starting to lift and the fire was burning low. Keith was getting worried about his car sitting in the road and decided it was time to go.

The storekeeper gave him directions back to the main road and handed him the key to the front door. “If you can’t find it, come back and let yourself in. I’ll put a log on the fire and then I’m heading home. If you do find your car, stop by on your way home and hang the key on the nail next to the front door.

Keith took the key, thanked him and said his goodbye’s. By the time he found his car the fog had lifted and the sky was beginning to show signs of a new day. His phone was right where he left it, but even before he had a chance to see if he had reception, a truck came by and pulled him out of the ditch.

Keith drove back to the store to drop off the key.

When he arrived he pulled in and parked. He was confused. The store was there, at least what was left of it. It was a broken down shell. A tattered relic of what it had once been. The roof had caved in. The walls were all askew and the windows all broken out. It was obvious the building hadn’t been occupied for many years. Maybe even before he had been born.

Keith got out and walked up to the door. The top hinge was broken and it was hanging open by its bottom hinge. Out of curiosity, he pulled the key from his pocket and tried the lock. It worked. He found a nail on the doorpost and hung the key.

He walked to his car and looked back at the old building. It had been a strange night. A night that was beyond his understanding. As he drove off, he thought about the storekeeper. Thanks to him, he knew what needed to be done to initiate his next career move.

© Copyright 2019 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.