“The rain last night was bad as I’ve ever seen it.” Clifford tapped his pipe on the counter, dislodging a wad of ash and dottle on the floor. Scooting it under the cabinet ledge with the toe of his boot, he knew Roberta would give him hell about it later when she swept up. “It should be beautiful rest of the weekend.”
A young couple from the big city were gathering supplies for their mountain weekend. Clifford watched them, amused at the groceries filling their basket. He offered a selection of what he called “hoity” food, knowing the millenials who ventured to this upstate retreat, loved their posh treats.
He gave up trying to engage the 20-somethings in conversation, and instead began rearranging a rack of magazines near the front door. Looking up, he saw Roberta drift in from the back storeroom. As she tied on her apron, Clifford got her attention and nodded toward the couple. She caught the smirk playing across his face, nodding back in recognition.
Putting on her best “can I help you” smile, Roberta rang up her customers’ purchases without a word. Clifford didn’t bother to offer carry out service, choosing to wave sarcastically as they drove off.
Standing outside, he could see the fog pouring off the mountain, rolling down like a tsunami.
“Roberta? Have you seen the bluffs this morning?” He quickly stepped back into the store, closing and locking the door.
“No, why d’ya ask?”
“That woman from Cali, which cabin d’ya send her to last night?”
“Let me answer your first question before throwin’ more at me.” Roberta watched with concern as Clifford turned over the Closed sign and drew down the shades on the front windows. “What are you doin’ Cliff?”
Without answering, he frantically waved his wife over to him. LIfting the edge of the shade, he pointed to the ominous mist blotting out the summit.
Grabbing his arm, she dug her nails in too deep, making Clifford yelped in pain.
“Day-um Cliff! Whatta we gonna do?”
“We wait here in the safe room. Hopefully those young folks’ll be okay in their car, but they wouldn’t’ve believed us even if we warned them.”
“That woman was in the Patterson cabin.” Roberta began pacing, worrying the ties on her apron, her voice rising in panic. “There’s no way to call her, to tell her to stay put inside.”
“Wait! There’s a car coming down the mountain.” Clifford grabbed his wife, pulling her back to the window.
They watched as a blue sedan with California plates raced down the mountain road, a phantom of heavy mist pursuing the car like a predator. As the car blew past them, Clifford dragged his wife to the rear of the store. Locking them into their safe room, he hoped the rising sun would burn off the fog, and that no one would be lost in the mist.
*Hopefully a stand alone piece, this is also a continuation of an earlier prompt, “Fog in the trees.”