Foxfire

       Mike Bozart
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an extra-pspatial pSecret pSociety tale
FOXFIRE a novelette by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | MAY 2017




Foxfire
by Mike Bozart
© 2017 Mike Bozart
[|] Convention for the thoughts of characters in this novelette:
Parkaar’s [me, Agent 33] thoughts are in this color/shade. / Monique’s [my wife, Agent 32] thoughts are in this color/shade. / Aristotle’s thought-quotes are in this color/ shade.

In mid-March of 2017, Monique, my forever-fascinating late-30-something Filipina wife (Agent 32), and I (Agent 33), decided to head up to Green Mountain RV Resort in the preliminary eastern range of the Blue Ridge Mountains (NC, USA) for a weekender at the family camper. It was 85 miles (137 km) from our residence in east Charlotte – only about a 100-minute drive if done nonstop; though, such was rare.
It was a sunny, yet quite chilly, Saturday morning in the Queen City as we motored westward on US 74 (Independence Expressway) in our gray, straight-drive with a chattering clutch, 2005 Kia Rio hatchback. Traffic was for the most part on the light side. We were soon passing the uptown towers on the Brookshire Freeway (Interstate 277 / NC 16). The city looked so new, and so quiet. Almost looks like a to-scale balsa wood model – a life-size set for a Toho movie. When does Godzilla appear to wreak havoc? Which building gets smashed to bits first? / Wonder what my crazy kano [Filipino slang for American] husband is thinking now. No, don’t even ask.
We were making good time; we passed under Interstate 40 on US 321 at 10:24 AM. In 73 minutes we had gone 63 miles (101 km), passing through six traffic lights on the way: three in east Charlotte and three in north Gastonia. We got up here a little early for lunch. Should have had a second cup of coffee and left the house a half-hour later. Really don’t want to eat breakfast. / I’m about ready for some food. My stomach is gurgling. Wonder if he heard it.
Twenty hillock-bounding minutes later, we were entering the sleepy foothills town of Lenoir. We took Harper Avenue NW into the downtown area. We parked and started walking on West Avenue NW to pass some time. I spied an ice cream shop across the street.
“Want some ice cream, mahal?” [love in Tagalog] I asked my black-jacketed, black-panted, black-shoed, black-haired Visayan wife.
“Ah, sure, bana. [husband in Cebuano] One scoop will hold me over until we eat lunch.”
And with that reply, we crossed the deserted downtown lane. Corner Creamery was open. The ice cream was pretty good. Much cheaper than Blowing Rock. / So tasty. Yum-yum.
At 11:08 AM we were outside Piccolo’s Italian Restaurant. The ever-grinning, short, dark-haired owner greeted us at the door. He was very gregarious and quite friendly. As a bonus to our pizza order, he threw in a free two-liter (67.6 oz.) bottle of cola (though we’re not big soda drinkers). A near-life-size statue of Humphrey Bogart (Rick Blaine from Casablanca) kept watch over us as we ate the square slices of Chicago-style pie. (By the way, this place is full of interesting pop-culture artifacts, especially memorabilia related to the Windy City. It’s a must-stop-in if in the area.)
Next, we had a few craft beers at Howard’s Brewing (unfortunately, now defunct) around the corner on Boundary Street NW. The Mistletoe porter was distinctly divine. Strangely, the 30-ish, suds-slinging, tattooed, dirty-blonde-haired waitress mistook me for another red-haired dude that was in there last week. She was so dead-sure that I was that guy that I went along with it; I didn’t correct her. She told me that I was funny last Saturday. Hope my doppeldonger [sic] didn’t say or do something foul. Doppeldonger, where did that coinage come from? What warped my mind?
Fast-forward five hours. Monique and I are now on the wooden deck that wraps around two sides of the camper. We’re relaxing on the rear (west) side that projects into the dense woods. As the sun begins to set, critters start to move about below, crunching down upon the carpet of dry fallen leaves. Yikes! We’re not alone. What is down there?
I sipped on my tall goblet of Merlot as Monique nursed her demitasse of pink Zinfandel. It was a nice late winter evening with the temperature in the low 50s (Fahrenheit; 10 to 11º Celsius). I think that we have enough propane for the night. Sure don’t want to go out again. It won’t get as cold as last night. / The heat had better not go off in the middle of the night like last time.
“What kinds of animals are in this forest?” Monique asked, looking very concerned all of a sudden.
“Oh, there are many species, mahal. Way too many to enumerate.”
“I mean, what threatening four-legged mammals might be out tonight?”
“Well, I’m sure that there are foxes, coyotes, wolves and bears up here.” Bears?!
“Oi! Well, when it gets dark, I am going inside. And, I strongly suggest that you do likewise, Agent 33.” Agent 33? Hmmm … She suspects that I’m recording. / I just know that he’ll write up this outing later. He might as well record and get the dialogue correct. His memory is so bad now. He can’t remember two days ago.
“Oh, honey, all of those animals that I just mentioned are afraid of humans.” Not if they are hungry!
“Ok, suit yourself, Parkaar. [my ailing alias] But, this pinay [a Philippine woman] is going inside in ten minutes.” She’s spooked.
“You don’t want to savor the sylvan gloaming with me, lovely Agent 32?” Sylvan gloaming? He’s already sauced.
“No, I’ll let you have it all to yourself, dear.”
The softly spreading drapery of darkness settled on the 80% hardwood / 20% conifer forest. It was so tranquil. The campground’s year-rounders were already in for the night. Sure is peaceful up here tonight. / It’s so quiet that it’s creepy. Feels like a horror movie setting. It’s about time to go inside.
Then I suddenly noticed a greenish glow off in the woods. It was probably about 100 feet (30 meters) away. Did someone smear the contents of a lightstick on a tree?
I stood up and pointed. “Monique, do you see that greenish glow down there?”
“Yes!” she screamed. “Well, that’s it. I’m going inside now. There’s a mumu [phantom in Tagalog] down there.” She then got up from her lawn chair and began walking towards the front door, where she stopped and turned towards me. “How long will you be staying out here, 33?”
“Maybe for a little while, 32. I want to check out that eerie glow. I want to know what it is.” Oh, boy. I just knew it. Men!
“Ok, that’s your choice. But, I’m locking the door, bana.”
“That’s fine, my extra-cautious wife. I’ll knock in a three-four-three pattern when I return.” What?!
“That’s a losing formation, Parkaar.” Huh? Oh, a pun on soccer setups. Very clever of her.
“Ok, it will be four-four-two, Monique.” That’s better.
“Stay safe. Bye. Oh, do you have your cell phone?”
“Yes, I’ve got it.”
“Is it charged?”
“Uh, let me check.” I fumbled for my phone in my pants pocket. Once I had it extracted, I checked the battery gauge. “Ok, it’s at 67%. All good for at least two days, mahal.”
“Ok, see you later, Mr. Nocturnal Explorer.”
“Ok, dear. Just text me if you get scared.”
“I most certainly will. And, you do the same, bana.”
I blew her a kiss. She returned fire and stepped inside.
Next, I heard her successfully lock the door. Then I walked off the deck to the asphalt parking space. I checked our car. It was all locked-up. The just-up-the-street neighbor’s camper still had their tiny, white, camper-outlining Christmas lights up; they were on and blithely twinkling away in silence. They probably got tired of putting them up and taking them down. Well, in another three months, they will have been deemed to have set up their lights early.
I then walked around to the other side of our Denali-branded camper. A faint deer path curled to the left and descended into the woods. Soon I was walking past the deck posts. Moonlight filtered through the gaps between the deck planks, thirteen feet (four meters) overhead. Good. We’ve got some natural illumination tonight. Forgot the working flashlight again. The one in the camper has dead batteries. Bad planning. Par for the curse. [sic]
I looked off in the distance, moving my head from side to side so that I could relocate that strange green glow. It didn’t take that long, as there were hardly any leaves yet on the deciduous trees. Ah, there it is. Looks to be less than a foot (30.5 cm) in height. Looks like something right out of a sci-fi flick. Or, a horror movie? Hope not.
Small fallen tree limbs and twigs crackled under foot as I moved towards my target. I heard small animals – probably squirrels and other rodents – scurrying away from me. Then I heard a much larger mammal walking – steadily advancing. Is that a wolf? Darn! Forgot the damn pepper spray. Let’s grab a nice-size rock and a thick stick. Well, just in case.
I stopped walking and was very still. The unseen animal – whatever it was – kept progressing at the same, slow, measured pace up a small ridge off to my right. It then seemed to be going away from me. And, ten seconds later, this was confirmed, as the sound of the animal’s steps diminished and faded away. Whew! I bet that was a wolf. Or, I guess that it could have been a deer. Maybe a wolf tracking a sick or injured deer. It probably picked up the scent. Canis stalkerazzi. [sic]
Everything was quiet again. I looked up at the sky. Some thin cirrus clouds formed elongated zones for the emerging stars. Two stars
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