I was driving back from a party in Elsah last night. All along the river, the trees were fogbound, mist-kissed, and a thousand spring peepers trilled. I parked and walked several miles in the dark. I couldn’t see in front of my face; sense memory led me down the river road trail.

I heard scurrying, scratching claws grabbing the pavement. The thick air dripped and smelled of fish and skunks. Before long I was pleasantly soaked. The searchlight of an eastbound barge cast its rays along the shoreline. The river’s surface was glass.

The fog felt like a close-fitting suit, poking every bare crevice, fog flowing into my ears and up my nostrils, and I exhaled watersmoke. I started up Stroke Hill, but every house had its dogs, and every dog became a sentinel. I walked back to the river, and the din died. From the woods came the lone cry of a whippoorwill.

Honks and squawks emanated from Scotch Jimmy Island, nesting birds, restless geese, warning herons in the treetops.

And then I heard footsteps. I wasn’t the only romantic out for a walk. I flattened my body against a limestone outcrop and watched as a hunched over man in a long coat went by. He had ear buds; I could hear strident music echoing. Who walks in fog and blasts music, when the still music of the night is so seductive?

There was a cracking noise above me and I ducked. A sliver of cliff had separated two hundred feet above and was knifing down, and I couldn’t see it. It crashed and burst across the path.

With a quarter mile to go, the fog now obliterating all sight, I heard rapid, tapping steps. Some four-footed critter was coming toward me. So I became a tree and waited. The coyote sluiced through the thick curtains of the air, stopped and sniffed and grunted. And it went on its way.

Genehouse was wrapped in white, like a present. I sat on the porch step and listened to dogwood buds snore. And I thought of life, how my words are mere hitchhikers, how they would disperse, how I would be forgotten. The first man to stand upright a million and a half years ago is forgotten. His guttural sounds and my words are weak attempts to understand something which defies knowledge.

I was happy to be, contemplatively depressed. Knowledge evolved and became a burden to the one specie which, ironically, discovered knowledge. Last night, there were no existential herons, no coyotes thinking about death, no fog singing a funeral dirge. But I was, and I bet the man in the long coat was.

All along the river, the trees were fogbound, mist-kissed, and a thousand spring peepers trilled.

















About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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