My Father In Reflection
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
A short fiction story from my Father.
He was concerned now. Not just concerned, he was worried. His eyes flicked to the fuel gauge, now firmly in the red zone, from which the needle had not moved for some time. He cursed himself for not buying petrol at the last town. The unfamiliar car lurched to the right as he over steered and the front wheel bumped over the grass verge.
“Damm it.” He hadn’t seen another car, in either direction, for about twenty minutes. Worse, the mists were swirling all around the car. His headlights alternated between lighting up the road ahead and bouncing off a thick wall of gray cotton wool.
Fergus stopped the car and switched on the interior light. He studied his map of California. After a minute or so he tossed it angrily into the back seat. “Bloody waste of time, that was,” he snarled.
He got out of the car and stared around. The mist curled around the endless vista of trees, caressing them and mocking him. There was nothing to see. He didn’t know where he was and he could see nothing which could pinpoint his present position. He used his mobile phone to call the motel at Reston. “Shit. No signal”
He needed to get to that Motel, needed to get a good rest before meeting Lee Rowan. Just needed to. What do I do now? Katie, where are you when I need you? She would have known what to do. She would have bought petrol at the last service station. She wouldn’t have embarked on this trip so late in the evening on a road never travelled before. He restarted the car and listened intently. Did the engine cough just then? He revved gently and, yes, there it was again.
He moved off again, his right foot simply touching the accelerator as gently as possible. About two or three miles further on the fog descended in a great cloying blanket. He stopped and sat for about five minutes, his mind feverishly examining the options. There appeared to be only two; stay where he was or get out and walk. He got out.
It was cold and clammy, enveloping him in its evil clutch. The fog seemed possessed of a life of its own. There was total silence. No, not quite total. Over to his left he could hear something, a low sound, somewhere between a rumble and a muted growl. It took him some time to identify the sound. It was the sea. OK, the Pacific Ocean. He stumbled through the trees in the direction of the sound. He could see nothing but after ten minutes the waves were rolling in at his feet, almost unseen. He turned right. Reston was on the ocean and was out there somewhere out to the north. How far? God, I must get there; I can’t miss that meeting. Fergus walked for over an hour, parallel to the water, once tripping over a small rowing boat turned upside down in the sand. The shoreline began to curve around to the right. Was there a bay at Reston? He couldn’t remember.
The sand made walking difficult, so he removed his shoes and somehow lost them. He was cold and the bloody fog was all around He walked for hours. What time was it at home? Must be about seven in the morning. Kate would be stirring, thinking of getting up, and would normally turn to him for a cuddle before they left the comfort of the bed.
The ocean went on and on, he grew weary and disoriented. The fog mocked him, laughing at his impotence. Then he came to the river.
“Oh my God, no.” Reston, Lee Rowan, the chance to make a deal on a joint venture; all seemed a million miles away. He sat down on the sand, his arms wrapped around him for warmth. The fog was in his mind now and he shook his head angrily, trying to clear it. He was tired, he couldn’t think anymore. He lay down on the sand.
The light was shining in his eyes, but was partially blocked by the figure of a man, a big man. “Mr Richards? Fergus Richards?”
“Yes. Who are you? Where is this?”
“I’m Sheriff John Miller, sir, and this is the Reston County Hospital.”
“How did I get here??”
“You were found on the beach, sir, just outside the town, on the other side of the river. When you didn’t turn up at the motel, the owner asked me to start a search for you.”
“God bless him, sheriff. Please thank him for me.”
“I will, Mr Richards; but it’s a her, she’s my wife.”
“I’m very lucky.”
“Yes, sir. Luckier than you know. We found your car. I don’t know how you got on to the old road; it hasn’t been used in years. If you had driven another two or three miles you’d be dead now. The old bridge over the Reston River was swept away in the storms last year.”
Fergus lay back on the pillows and closed his eyes. “Jesus, thank you.” He thought of Kate. She had been on his shoulder when he abandoned the car. He would be going home after all.
Written by BM