The Bog (conclusion)

Pastel drawing of man giving challenging look

Short Stories

The Bog
(part four)






Here in the bowl, with civilization circling, the bark of a deer or whinny of a screech owl had been only ambient noises, competing with the slam of a car door, shouts that flared over dim radio music from the Freelanders’ camp, fire or emergency sirens carrying from the highway and filtering through pockets of housing along secondary roads.

Was it reasonable to call the sheriff, so soon? Harry would turn up in a minute. Being drunk, he’d probably taken his leak, then headed off the wrong direction. Was there any reason not to approach the Freelanders and ask their help?

She was tempted. She would say, “You know who I am. Laurel Elbertson. One of the boggies.”

Out of ten people, no matter how they traded garbage among themselves, one or two could look you in the eye and spew hate at you. Of this, at least, she was fairly confident.


Shouts, without the ragging note of the boy’s camp, where all the wind was on the first syllable—“Move it!”; “Shee-it, dumbass”—volleyed up, and these pitched opposite.

“Look out!” “Come on!”

Dana shoved himself up from the ground. Laurel pushed off the cooler. Above the hilltop a cloud was roiling, lit orange from beneath.

“God,” he said.

Sirens came on.

“Oh!” This was Rachel, emerging from the tent, ripping Velcro. “What’s on fire?”

Now, where the slump’s shadows had been inky, flame pulsed down a flickering movie-reel light, and it was the bog that grew submerged in blue.

“I don’t know what it can be,” Dana murmured. But he began to walk, then jog, down the plank way, making for the road.

“We’d better go,” Laurel said. “I don’t see how we can stay.”


“Leave it.”


He’d tended to stick to his mother a little, a forty-nine-year-old man reverting in her presence—and with his doubts about Laurel—to dependent apron-stringing. But this had been short-lived. Jeff got over mumbling asides to Rachel and found himself able to chat with his sister-in-law. Even to laugh apologetically when his mother asked, “Did you make this turkey?”

“It came from Mrs. Penfold.”

The news accounts had reminded Harry’s wife, a woman Laurel had met once or twice…so many years ago…of her existence. Their charity was likely mutual, this perhaps the first holiday of her marriage Mrs. Penfold had garnered an excuse to stop the rituals, cancel the heavy preparations.




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(2017, Stephanie Foster)



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