Bristling pellets of ice, filigree flakes of snow smoke the sky, fogging the road that winds toward a country restaurant where we’ll meet up with friends.

We drive slowly, peering through the mist. Jim’s eyes stray across a spectral field to the shadow of a house. “That was my grandparents’ home sixty years ago.”

I squint at dark shadows looming through the gray haze.

“See that apple orchard? The old barn stood right behind it.”

As we reach the crest of the hill a swaybacked structure emerges slowly from low-lying clouds.
Jim’s voice is little more than a shadow. “During World War II my dad carved a toy rifle for me out of wood. I sat in the hayloft of that barn, pretending I was in a machine gun nest.”

Now a stone house appears behind a bramble of wild trees. “My grandparents had two big, mean dogs that slept under the front porch. They warned me never to crawl under the porch or bother those dogs.” He is silent a moment. “I was six when my grandpa died. A year later grandma sold the farm and moved to town, but she was never happy.”

I recall pictures of a rigid young woman with a wasp waistline holding a baby in a lacy gown. Fifty years later that same woman was a bent crone, her waist corpulent, bulging under a bib apron.

Jim is staring at the road spearing the fog. His eyes begin to water. “I’m the last one who remembers this. Everyone else is gone.”

Slipping my fingers into his I squeeze them gently. We drive in silence as clouds hang down like clumps of matted gray wool. Windshield wipers flick away moisture like memory. Behind us, the house and barn vanish into mist.

Published in Stories