The fog was slow to recede that morning. Denny looked out the window and saw all the big oaks halfway across the backyard, half-visible, submerged in a fallen cloud. That’s how he liked to think of fog– as a fallen cloud, too heavy to stay up in the sky. He was only eight, but he was fanciful like that.
The football lay on a pile of wet leaves, the same spot he left it last night just before dinner, when he had been playing catch by himself. His dad was in London for two months, on business. He loved his mom, but she just couldn’t toss a football worth a damn, even though she had actually tried. On the first attempt the football clunked about ten feet in front of her. She smiled, embarassed, then tried again: this time the ball sailed funkily through the air (his dad slung a perfect spiral) and hit one of the fat oaks, ricocheting at a weird angle and sent their cat, Wilma, running for safety underneath the back porch. “Oh damn, Denny, I think I’ve broken a nail. I’m sorry, I suck at this. Maybe a game of scrabble later? Well, have fun, I’m going to cook dinner. Stay in the yard, honey.”
But she had been too tired for scrabble, on her third glass of burgandy, staring at the telephone as if trying telepathically to get it to ring. Maybe she was missing dad even more than he was…
8 o’clock and still his mother hadn’t come into his room– now, finally, knocking first– to nudge him toward that before school ritual that had been going on for four years now. Too much wine again. Oh well, he’d have to give himself that nudge this morning, although he was really wanting to pretend he was still asleep and when his mother reached down to shake him gently awake, he’d throw off his covers suddenly and yell, “Boo!” But he’d done it a lot lately, so she would probably be expecting it anyway. But this morning, she did not come. When his clock flashed 8:20, he slipped out of bed, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, then wandered downstairs to the kitchen to see if his mother might be there. He didn’t see her there, or smell the fading morning cigarette he usually smelled either.
He looked out onto the patio to see if she was there; she sometimes sat out on the wicker chair in good weather to watch the birds peck at ground, or chat with her senile neighbor Gladys, who on her worst days talked to the crows like they were her errant children, but on her better days, beamed with the dulled sun of age, that weak autumn sun breaking through late fog, if only to scour out one last, happy, bright, before death.