A walk in the fog

by Dante Johns

I love early morning walks. They allow me to get in touch with my philosophical self. Sometimes I head up Dwyer to Sandpointe Village for a cup of Starbucks and an hour of wading through the L.A. Times. Other mornings I head down to the beach, get my coffee at the Sandcrab Cafe, then walk to the jetty. The choice relies on whim, nothing more.

One morning I walked to the Sandcrab through a thick, gray fog. Then, sipping a large cup of bitter black coffee, I headed down the strand to the parking lot at the jetty, where I planned to sit on the rocks and smoke a spliff before the police cruiser made its scheduled sweep for vagrants around eight-thirty. The drifting fog was so dense in spots I frequently had only my memory of the path to guide me.

As I cautiously made my way across the parking lot to the jetty, a parked car loomed into my vision like the ghost of a whale. Getting closer, I recognized it as a black Mercedes sedan, a new, top-of-the-line model. Approaching the passenger side, I saw a man clothed in a hooded jogging suit walking away from it, disappearing into the mist. As I passed the rear of the sedan I realized the motor was still running, and the driver-side door was wide open. I paused for a few moments to finish my coffee and ponder the possibilities. Then the fog thinned considerably, allowing me to see that the man had reached the top of the jetty, and was working his way out toward the end of it. What a fool, I thought. Fishermen have been swept off that jetty even on clear days, their bodies either washing up on distant beaches, or lost forever.

I walked to the car's open door and looked inside. A neatly typed note hung taped to the steering wheel. I slid onto the driver's seat to take a look, noticing an open box of .38 caliber bullets on the passenger seat. Any anxiety I felt about the guy returning to find me sitting in his car vanished as soon as I read the note.

It was addressed to a Laura. In it the writer confessed to an obsessive gambling habit and lamented its consequences, including some unnamed bad people he was hopelessly indebted to, even after cleaning out all available assets he and Laura had accumulated during their marriage. He also mentioned a recent equity loan taken on their house without her knowledge. His deceit was unforgiveable, he whined. He was terribly sorry. He loved her. He signed the note: Ted.

I turned off the motor and waited. The gunshot came minutes later, a sound muted by the fog, but unmistakable. It was eight-ten, still too early for the police cruiser to show up, so I lit a joint and enjoyed the solitude.

I was feeling pleasantly mellow when the fog once again lifted. Then came the surprise. There, descending from the jetty riprap, was Ted. The fucker had apparently wussed out. What an asshole. I decided to remain seated in his car, determined to confront him. My intent was to exhort a few bucks in return for my silence regarding his shameful lack of balls. But the thing is, Ted didn't return to his car. Before the fog closed around me again I watched him walk hurriedly out of the parking lot, heading towards the road. He never looked my way. He was like a man with a plan.

Much later that same day I relaxed in a Tijuana cantina re-reading Ted's note to Laura. It was good for a chuckle. I couldn't help but admire the guy in spite of his bad luck not knowing that any presumption of his suicide was, through no fault of his own, unlikely. There was a decent chance he too was in Mexico, perhaps in the same bar, but I wouldn't recognize him even if he bought me a drink. Actually, I owed him a few drinks. I'd pocketed eight thousand after selling his Mercedes to an old amigo of mine, certainly a pittance compared to what Ted likely had stashed away for his new life. But then again, I'd never have a pissed-off Laura hunting for me.


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