Middle Of Nowhere

Entry by: Jim bob

9th September 2016
Although Ralph thought he was lost in the middle of nowhere, he realised quite confidently he was, essentially, lost in the middle of somewhere. But, where that somewhere was, he had no idea. None at all.
Well, we are someplace,’ he said to Mort, his aged, tired Labrador. Mort’s wet black fur, dampened from a brief shower, and speckled with grey, glistened against the moonlight that peered through the barren trees of the forest.
'And I don’t really care, Mort,' he continued, his deep voice sounding dull against clammy evening humidity. Mort didn't seem to care one way or another; he had laid down next to a blackberry bush, above him, a few bees buzzing around its decaying fruit. Unexpectedly, a small rabbit darted directly in front of Ralph and then was gone. Ralph knew the rabbit was black. That much he did notice.

He sat down next to Mort, removed his Stetson, pulled out a hip flask and drank from it.
'We have to be somewhere' he said aloud mostly to himself; the dog had closed its eyes, its body stretched wildly across the forest floor. Ralph allowed the brandy to engage him, the warm October evening tempering him as he watched the sky, gradually filling with stars. He sipped again from the copper vessel, and lay back, using an old ruck sack he'd discovered earlier in the day to support his head. A rabbit shot against his vision again. It was so fast this time that Ralph thought it could have been his imagination instead. Mort slept.
'This somewhere, has to be close to somewhere familiar,’ he said, shaking his head. For a while, he racked his brains, retracing his steps to the point at which they’d become lost. But, for the life of him he couldn't. Ralph didn't mind being missing; it was a relief from the all the problems of the last few months. Nothing but quarrels and clashes, he thought. He also considered the idea that it had all been her fault; the over-spending, deliberately becoming pregnant. No, Ralph didn't mind being lost, but would like to have some idea of how to get back to civilisation. Not now though, he decided. Not now. As the booze released his mind to further contentment, he kicked away his worn-out trainers, and stretched out under the bush with his long-time companion. Then, like Mort, he slept.

Trickles of rain awoke him. Dawn had approached, a misty stillness shrouding their vision. Ralph sat up. He noticed Mort urinating against another bush several yards away, steam from the piss joining the existing mist. From what he could see, which was very little, the surroundings appeared barren, lifeless. And for the first time, Ralph thought he really could be in the middle of nowhere, not even the middle of somewhere. A few rays of sun tried to burn through the foggy haze, but this just added to the atmosphere of isolation, bleaching his vision, creating a bigger doubt to his whereabouts.
'Here Mort’, he said getting up. Mort approached him, his tongue hanging out, warm vapours drifting from it in short wafts. His brown eyes looked at his master. Ralph had known this look for nearly fifteen years, and that one said ‘feed me’. He looked in the ruck sack and pulled out the contents; two packs of crackers, a bottle of water, and a half eaten sandwich. Ralph wasn’t feeling hungry so he fed the small feast to the mutt, who ate them with the pace of a pensioner. He looked in the ruck sack again to see if there was any evidence of its owner. Nothing showed up, except for a small brown comb, knotted with long blonde hairs. For a moment Ralph ran the tips of his fingers over it, sensing the softness of the locks.
‘Probably belongs to a lady, then,’ he says matter-of-factly, and put the comb back in the bag. He shoved the empty biscuit packs in too, along with a slim piece of cling wrap that had recently covered the half-eaten sandwich. He put the bag over his shoulder.
‘Come on then, my boy,’ he said. The haze had lifted a little, and Ralphs previous uncertainty of his whereabouts abated. But he knew that soon he’d better find a way out of here.

They walked on for some time without sighting any indication of familiarity. Not a building, nor a church- a construction not un-common within districts of rural England. Ralphs footwear became wet from the moisture of the ground; gradually seeping through the tired trainers, trainers he’d used to walk Mort with for a many years. His wet feet prompted him to buy a new pair when he got home. The land seemed to steepen partially, now, the narrow path becoming tighter, making it difficult for Mort to negotiate the overgrown wilds and bushes. Eventually they were forced to walking in single file, Ralph turning his head every few seconds to check his old friend was managing okay.
‘I remember Caroline saying she’d wanted to go to the shops before taking us to the park. What dy’a think fella,’ he said. Ralph tried again to remember when they’d parted company with each other for the afternoon. She’d wanted to buy baby food from the store, he remembered. Another argument had taken place. All about the new baby. Ralph wiped moisture off his forehead.
‘Why did she want another one ay Mort, why,’ he said, turning round to the dog. He patted his head, Mort’s eyes flickering sensitively to the light impact from Ralphs hand.
‘We can barely afford the one, as lovely as the little angel is.’
He thought about little Emma, his two-year-old daughter for a moment and remembered it would be the time of day now that Caroline would be taking her for her walk. He looked at his watch to confirm this, but discovered it had stopped. It read 5.36PM. The path twisted and turned, still inclining. They passed several flowery shrubs. Ralph thought he recognised the names of them to begin with. Then, after closer observation realised they were the wrong colour, for the ones he was thinking of. Come to think of it, the hues were quite unusual. Being a bit of a gardener, Ralph realised he’d never actually seen petals this shade before. He thought they looked beautiful. They gave off a fine scent that reminded him of the taste of honey he’d had on his toast yesterday morning, only this smell was sweeter, even pungent. Mort huddled up against his master, curious. He sneezed several times, then looked up at Ralph, as if quizzically, the bright eyes also suggesting that it was feeding time again.
‘We are out of food my old friend,’ Ralph patted him again, Mort’s eyes flickered again.
‘We need to get home fella,’
Mort barked.

After walking about mile or so, another rabbit quickly appeared in his field of vision, but this time Ralph saw enough to know it was for real. It had a grey line of fur running across the centre of its back, he’d noticed, and one of its ears was missing. Ralph put his hands on his hips, feeling muddled. Then, for a moment he gathered his thoughts, and continued, Mort following closely behind, oblivious to much that had been going on over the last day, it seemed.
‘I’m hungry now,’ said Ralph. It was the first time he’d felt hungry since when, he wondered. The last time he’d eaten had been breakfast yesterday- the toast and honey. What he’d give for a few slices of that now, he believed.

The late morning took on a dullness; slate-grey skyline, a damp drizzle as fine as powder, an odour of mustiness. They meandered the hilly path, the scenery changing gradually from heavy growth and weeds to rough terrain. As the trail widened again, Mort resumed his pace alongside Ralph. They drank greedily from a small stream they came across, that had run for a short time alongside them. Ralph thought the water, although quenched his thirst, tasted stale, almost flat, unlike the assumed taste of freshwater. It left a flavour of yeast in his mouth, not unpleasant but nonetheless, dodgy. He was grateful despite this, and it helped to douse his appetite too; less for the thirst quenching impact, more so for the uncanny after taste.

Ultimately, they had to rest; Mort was half asleep on his feet, his tongue issuing heavy drops of saliva that fell in patient consistent drips, his tail drooping, almost still. Ralph, wet through, mostly through perspiration looked for an area they could get a break. And for some time, perhaps twenty minutes, he couldn’t spot anything that could keep them dry and covered. Not even a tree. They’d mostly gone now. Eventually, though, Mort came across a small burrow-like entrance, where a stream had developed at the foot of a slope. If it hadn’t been for Mort’s inquisitiveness, Ralph knew they would have missed it. Although the cavity was barely sizeable for them, they managed to squeeze in; the dog having to rest its head against Mort’s mid-riff so the lack of space could accommodate them.
‘Well it isn’t the Park Lane, but it’ll do for now, ‘he said, pulling the coppery flask out of his jacket despite his restricted movement. He took a large swig, then allowed his partner to share some of the treat, by dabbing generous drops on his fingers. Mort greedily, licked the booze off, thoroughly. Ralph stroked the top of Mort’s head gently, caressing it. His brown eyes didn’t flinch this time, and just before he slept he craned his neck and gave its master a lick across his stubbly cheek. Ralph dozed off moments later.

Bird song, a sound they hadn’t been familiar with since being here played some part in reviving Ralph, however the tiredness didn’t leave him very quickly. He wished for a coffee. Evening twilight started to envelope them, again, but as he crept from the little hole, he was stunned at how loud the birds sounded.
‘Blimey’ he said. ‘What a racket.’ But Ralph knew it was a kind of pretty racket, and when Mort emerged, his ears stood up, tail wagging. Ralph couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see any birds, but he didn’t mind; the sound was all-encompassing to be troubled. After all it was dusk, and it is often difficult to spot these creatures at this time of day, he considered.
Standing up, he saw a distant sun-set; pale orange with gold boundaries.
‘We could be in for a warm day tomorrow,’ he said chuckling to himself.
They walked on, and soon enough they came to a precipice that overlooked a huge landscape, stretching out across miles. Mort woofed, at the hundreds of rabbits below them running in all directions, seemingly going nowhere. Ralph noticed that a few had grey streaks across their backs. Through the empty pastures they darted here and there, jumping, leaping, the strong sunset colours casting a rich hue over the background. Then birds appeared, ducking and diving from the sky- several missing the lost pair by several inches. It was some sight for poor Ralph, but he smiled. There they stood at the edge of the height, colours of the evening shining about them.
‘We are in the middle of nowhere, Mort,’
‘But we are going somewhere.’ A few tears fell down his cheeks
‘I just hope you will stay with me, my old friend,’ he concluded, stroking the old dogs head. Again, Morts eyes never flickered.