As we move into fall the mornings have started to get foggy. Mostly it’s only the low-lying areas, but I’m sure in another week or two I’ll step outside and instead of looking through the trees for Venus in the southeast I’ll see mist. Every time I see fog it brings back a strange childhood memory. My friend Troy and I were standing on my driveway. This was at the house where I lived from when I was four until I finished college. The house is just at the edge of a ridge. Troy’s house was at the bottom so I could look down on it. In the distance ridges of hills seemed to go all the way around so sometimes I’d sit in my room and feel like I was on the inside edge of a giant bowl.
It was cloudy and I think there might have even been a light rain. Troy and I were looking toward the Brentwood area, off to the northwest, to the hills just this side of I-65 where new apartment and business complexes were being built. That must have been why there were cranes that we could barely see through the thick mist. It was miles away but I swear I could hear gears grinding.
“A cloud fell,” Troy said. “They’re trying to put it back up.”
This is one of those memories that’s completely isolated from anything else, like a loose bead that used to be part of a necklace. I can’t remember why we were there or what I said after Troy said that. He may have even been kidding, but from his face he was completely serious. And it made me wonder about clouds. If they could be put back up were they solid? I imagined that people must live in the clouds—and this was years before I read James And The Giant Peach, but when I did I felt a strange sense of recognition. Dahl’s “Cloud-Men” are frightening and take sadistic pleasure in sending down hail and other bad weather, but they’re also seen painting a rainbow and getting ready to lower it to Earth. They’re not all good and they’re not all bad. They’re like everybody else. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t bother me, when I see fog, to think that maybe it’s brought some of the cloud people down with it. And I wonder if they need help getting back up.