Associate fiction editor Sarah David on today’s bonus story: L. W. Nicholson starts us with sexy braided arm hair and leads us to the mystique of the unknown. This tiny story moves quickly through imagery that leaves the reader both unsettled and dancing.
I learned about Fog People from my cousin Cecelia—a bad seed if my mother ever saw one and only living witness to the sack of shit that was my Uncle Basil hurtling himself from the roof of Daryl “Frosty” Waterman’s grocery store the day after Christmas. One summer Cecelia showed me how to curl the long hairs on my arms with two fingernails. It was the sexiest thing a girl could do with her arm hair, she said. We criss-cross-applesauced in the grass, pinching microscopic ringlets, and Cecelia told me about those weirdoes, now long dead, in their little village a couple counties over, way up in the hills. Recluses, she whispered. Stayed in their houses each and every day, porch lights dark. They never visited each other or attended church pool parties. They had their groceries delivered to their homes and kept their blinds and curtains shut. When outsiders drove by, tiny splits in the slats could be seen, and blinking eyes would appear then vanish in the glass.
But, Cecelia reported, when the fog descended on tar-thick nights, ground to cedar, the whole of them would burst upon the streets, an explosion of music and shouts, clumsily clapping their hands in the mist like dogs catching bubbles with their mouths. Men spidered through alleyways with fiddles, and children darted between legs, blowing small horns glinting in the haze. Women danced with large wooden spools in their hands, leaving trails of silver string behind them. The strands coiled around arms and ankles, draped over shoulders in Grecian fashion. On and on the neighbors orbited—all of them together, all of them hidden—until the sun sliced the fog into wedges. Cecelia danced for me the way Fog People had, her shoulders and feet swathed in honeysuckle vines. She wagged her hips and upturned bankrupt eyes, too young to know her body that well, too old to know it so little. As I parroted her movements, I imagined them, too, moving and swaying to the string and brass, each alone in the haze, imperceptible, wrapped in threads drawing tighter and tighter till dawn.
L.W. Nicholson is a teacher and librarian in Southeast Missouri. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Arkana Mag, Sundog Lit, Moon City Review, and Riprap Journal.