“The Fog” by Chris Teare

Posted in Short Fiction by 311zine on 08/08/2009

About four in the afternoon or so is when the fog started rolling over the hills of the peninsula, at first just sending out whispy fingers that crept down the east side of the slopes.  It was as ifit were hesitant to commit, feeling its way along slowly and nervously before gaining momentum and finally sprawling over the lower lands like rumpled flannel sheets.  Up along the few mile stretch of beach there were no hills to stand in its way and it began to crawl freely between the perfect square blocks of drab one and two story houses.  The fog came more often than not, yet was not always expected.  One might look up at the dwindling sunlight to see the thick cords of vapor tightening across the city’s skyline and feel surprise, if only for a second, before turning away and thinking “I guess it’s gonna be foggy today.”

That day the fog came in especially heavy so that instead of  resting at a distance above the city, it was within, oozing down from the rooftops and through the alleyways.  It was so thick it seemed to be holding all of the buildings up and in place.  It was so thick each person was like an island unto himself, occasionally brushing past one another, but able to walk freely in anonymity.

A young couple, fingers loosely clinging together, walked down past the Haight Street housing project.  They were both dressed simply yet stylishly in thick wool coats, black leather shoes, and scarves that burst from the collar.  They talked loudly and comfortably but there was a snap to their step that brought their heels down sharply against the sidewalk.  As they were crossing Webster they heard sirens suddenly, as if popping through the fog once close enough to hear.  As quickly as it had come it vanished, the ambulance becoming nothing more than faint red strobes in the milky cloud.

They kept going down Haight and didn’t see the figure standing there, halfway down the block, teetering a bit from foot to foot.  He had on a black knit beenie rolled up part of the way and dark ratty braids dangled down from under it.  His skin was as black as the beanie and where it was once smooth and tight along his strong cheekbones it now hung worn and wrinkled.  He wore an overcoat a few sizes too big, open all the way down, and a red Christmas sweater with a photo of an Asian child dressed in a Santa Claus outfit printed across the front.  He stood there in the fog, an island reaking of crack, and the couple didn’t notice until they almost ran into him.

“…I just don’t understand, this is the time when the third world is hit the hardest,” the young man was explaining, “with all the developed countries’ governments pulling back on aid and energy prices going up how can we expect them to build lasting stability…”

“HEY!  Wanna know three times a hundred and twenty seven?” the tattered man interrupted.


“Three eighty one!  How about a dollar?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t have any,” the young woman said as they both slapped their pockets and shuffled slowly past him.

“How about twenty three squared?  Five twenty nine!  I’m like a calculator.  How about a dollar a figure?”

“Uhh.”  They looked at each other quickly and then down at the sidewalk as they continued up the street.

“Okay, fine, two for one!  How ’bout it?”

But they were already past him, his words struggling after them through the fog until they were too far and they were alone again.  After a few blocks they stopped to look at the menu outside a small Indian restaurant.  Content to keep searching, they walked on down the block until they were lost in the milky haze.

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