Alternate Histories: 5/21, 4/13

[Note: I took 2 days a week off during the first round of Climate Anxiety Counseling sessions, so this is an alternate history from a day I’ve already visited.]


I’m just glad I have darker skin, there’s gonna be a lot of cancer. You kill all the plants, you don’t have any medicines. It’s gonna be a tough world.

What are you–what can you see yourself doing to help people survive that tough world?

We’ve been collecting natural seeds that haven’t been messed up. I work at a veterans’ garden in NY on a hundred acres. The vets work on the farm–it’s more of a buffering system for PTSD. There’s no bees left, we’re killing ’em all. A lot of people here don’t care. Too many harder things to worry about. 90% of the population is unemployed, homeless. Keep ’em hungry, keep ’em confused, don’t educate people …



The farm was a dream, not real yet. The next day H decided to make it. He didn’t have a hundred acres, but he knew somebody did.

H texted the ten guys he knew best and trusted most from church, the VA and the shelter. Eight responded and four wanted to go. One of them had a car he slept in sometimes, and the rest of them helped him clean it out. By the end of the week they were on their way upstate. They mainly ate at diners at the end of the night or in the early morning, when the cooks weren’t busy and could make them something for free.

It was the beginning of the planting season, which started late in the east that year because of the cold and rainy spring. The nights were colder yet and one of the guys decided to stay behind in Binghamton where his sister used to live, he said, he thought he’d see if her kids were still around. H was patient, hoping for the weather to turn. They took turns reading from the Bible and leading prayer and meditation. When one guy got the sweats and shakes, two others sat on either side of him, their shoulders pressing his shoulders, trying to stay calm themselves, hoping their calm would soak into him through his skin.

The sixth day of asking was warm and bright and you could almost see the dirt beckoning the planting. The couple in their 50s whose farm it was looked at each other and at H and the remaining three other guys and said, “Come over to the barn and we can talk about it.” They sat at a card table in the barn between the manure sprayer and the fridge, and talking out the summer. Outside, the swallows dipped down for the new hatch of insects.

They built cold frames. A shrink from Potsdam made house calls twice a month. They set aside money for a real seed vault. One of the guys went into town and came back high and they lost a good week’s work helping him when he got sick. Another one’s ulcer acted up and one of the farmers rode to the hospital with him in the ambulance. They adopted two donkeys anyway, when the opportunity came up, because it turned out it helped H a lot to be around animals.

Four years later, H and one of the other original guys were still working alongside the two original farmers; they’d been joined by seven other guys and two women who stayed all the time, four more people who came and went, another donkey and three goats from a younger couple who’d given up on a farm down the road; they still didn’t have a real seed vault, but the garden of medicines was doing well; hail and thundersnow were common problems; two of the original guys were in graves on the premises, and the living went out to their graves together every Sunday to talk to them and pray and water the saplings planted in them. The shrink made house calls on an electric motorcycle instead of by car.

Fifty years later, the roads in the region led freely and openly and widely toward and away from the food gardens, the medicine gardens, the groveyards, the part of the farm they’d let go back to wild because there weren’t enough people to work it, the water filtration terraces, the small insulin lab with its wind generators and uric-acid batteries, the root cellar/tornado shelter, and the courier-donkey stables.


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