Alternate Histories: 5/16, 4/4


[These two were a couple.]

HER: I feel like I grew up in the age of environmental anxiety. Food security is a huge thing. These bugs don’t die as much over winter–there are so many bugs on potatoes and cucumbers. It only takes like 5 degrees.


Are you a farmer, or a gardener?


I grow things in small little pots. We had a farm in Philadelphia, but we moved up here because we figured in 20 years it’s going to be colder up here. We don’t own a car–I feel like we lose a lot socially but that’s the one big thing we do. No matter what you do, the weather’s gonna pick anybody. It’s not going to spare the communities that do the most. Everybody’s worried but nobody’s pissed off. I think because we’re not desperate enough, we’re still comfortable. And we’re the largest source of the reason it’s happening. It’s still a question up in the air in the media–they say one out of four Americans don’t believe in climate change instead of saying three out of four do … I don’t think we have the infrastructure for what new world might happen. So much relies on fossil fuels and electricity. Clean water, sewage — if people have a plan, they’re not making it transparent to the layperson. It’s a big spiral.

HIM: The state of RI and the city are super into subsidizing cars, parking garages; they have these half-baked plans for a bike lane combined with a bus lane, I call it the leper lane for people who aren’t in a car. These half-baked people–they drive to work every day and they’re making policy. And the oceans are gonna acidify and kill everything.

You laugh when you say that, like it’s a joke, but do you believe it? Or what?


I believe it. I go between it’s so bad I don’t even know if I can do anything about this, and trying to put enough blinders on to do what I can. Insects and parasites moving but trees can’t move fast enough, so whole forests are just dying. We’re just done, can’t breathe. When I’m optimistic I hope people will be forced to change their ways, but when I’m pessimistic I think people with money will just keep going and people without money will be the ones who have the problems, maybe die. It isn’t like all humanity dies or nobody dies. It’ll be the end of the world for people who can’t get food. I sort of think the world will move on, but I don’t know if people will.



The world is a world of difference.

Later that year, L and L, in love, read about Cyzenis albicans, a fly brought in by humans to eat the larvae of the winter moth–also brought in by humans–that turned the leaves of trees in Blackstone Park and Swan Point Cemetery to skeletons. Hope is like a worm in the heart. How can it possibly learn to live without destroying the heart?

L got a vasectomy. L thought, where else can we undo ourselves, or where can we do more? How far down do you go: the root hair, the microbe, the genome? Do you pull your hand away or do you keep it there, putting pressure on the wound you made? Together they made out the deed that transferred ownership of their house to the Narragansett Tribe.

L and L, getting older now, stole signs from the highway department, and some tarps with bright green grass blades printed on them from a construction site. The lanes they blocked off, one on each side of the highway, looked very official.

L and L died. The saplings began to open up the pavement. The wiry grasses rooted, and the tough lichens clung on.

The great-grandchildren of the people who lived in that house don’t sleep much at night. That’s when they bring the larva to the surface of the trees and pack them up for the bug-protein maker. When you kill someone, even by accident, you have to take on some of their responsibilities. Their piss fuels generators and bacteria transform their shit to fertilizer. They grow pennyroyal in small little pots, to keep the fleas off, and their eyes open widely in the dark. Through the hot days, slung in the shade of the trees, they sleep in hammocks of mosquito net, except in storms.


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