Alternate Histories: 6/4, 4/21


We had an unusually cold winter. The homeless problem was worse than ever–people being on the street. The state was doing a good job of giving out food and clothes. Jobs were down, they’re up now for summertime, but they’ll go back down again. RIPTA’s gone up again–it used to be 10 cents for a transfer, now it’s 50 cents. There should be some type of bracelet, I know you can get the 10 ride cards and the 15 ride cards, but there should be two free transfers or something like that, ’cause say it’s late at night and the last bus is here and you only have $1.50 and you need a dollar. You’re stuck, you could be stuck for 7 hours, especially if you have to go to Newport or something.



The next day Q set to work finding people to agree with him. Spring is the time to rustle things up in New England, between the ice melting and the fights starting. Because the weather is always changing, you can always use it as a reason not to do something, so you have to do it when the air is slightly hopeful.

Q texted his cousins what to put up on Facebook and Instagram, and some of them actually did it. The library printed some notices for him. He said to everybody downtown, “If somebody gives you money, give them this.” He asked around until he found somebody whose brother drove on the 56 and 57 buses, and asked them to pass on the plan to as many drivers as he thought he could trust.

The second thing that happened was that everybody got on the bus. Everybody got on every bus. When the people from one stop got off at the next, there was another line of people waiting to get on. Mostly they were polite, except for one or two people who were out of it and started cursing. Mostly they were quiet, except when people who got on at the Hmong church on Dexter started praying, or when a group of kids who got on at Hope High School–they weren’t planning to be part of the ride, they were just on their ways home–tried to force music out of their earbuds for everyone to hear.

The day of riding slowed things down, not only for the better. RIPTA wrote a “doctor’s note” to bosses and school principals that day and posted it on its website, but that didn’t help the woman who had to wait an extra hour for her caregiver to help her clean herself and dress, or the daycare centers that had to stay open nearly two hours later. “We’re who you said this is for,” they said angrily and publicly, “we’ll work with you, just let us know next time.” So Q did.


Alternate Histories: 6/3, 4/20


[These are from conversations with two pairs of friends, at different times.]

Friend 1: The government. They’re frauds. Changing stuff around.

Like what?

They’re trying to lower the population, make it so there’s one world leader. There’s all these wars to reduce the population.

How does it affect you?

It affects me because I got love for everybody! I don’t want people to die for no reason.

Friend 2: Not only that, but the rich stay rich, the poor stay poor.

How can people help take care of each other?

Friend 1: People build themselves up. Helping the lower class become middle class.


The government’s controlling the weather. If you know how nature works, it usually has seasons, and it didn’t this year. There were no April showers, May had all the showers. And the birds left in March, they know how it’s supposed to be. It doesn’t add up to me. The way animals are behaving — and the trees and stuff, we’re not gonna have oxygen to breathe.



W and Y and K and A all live in the same city. W and Y are friends and so are K and A, but the two pairs don’t know each other. Here in the city, everyone dies for no reason–that is, no one dies for someone else’s bad reason. When there’s dangerous weather, there’s also a plan; when there’s sickness, there’s also care; when there’s not quite enough food, everyone’s hungry together. Everyone in the city, just about, is the same amount of endangered, and the same amount of safe, their whole lives long–not just from sudden changes, but from seeping changes. The ground and the water are low on unpleasant surprises. Cancer, asthma, nightmares, skin trouble are equally common in all areas of the city–which is to say, a little bit common.

Who is responsible for this? The government. It’s partly true to say the government control the weather–for a long time, they controlled it for the worse, by allowing the people and companies making it worse to continue. Having stopped this, they began to unravel themselves piece by piece, to distribute themselves, to share themselves out.

Who are the government now? Here in the city, most people’s sense of who the government are and what they do is pretty clear. They observe the need for large-scale work and organize its carrying out: they came out to help W and the people on his street remove an old tank of cyanide safely; they helped to plan, dig and plant up a heat shelter that K’s neighborhood council requested; they asked people from Y’s neighborhood to go to A’s neighborhood to pick defoliating bugs off trees. They protect and distribute some of the resources of place. They liaise with the governments of other cities, making sure the edges of the city are purposefully porous, and between neighborhood councils, if there’s a question about who gets what or who does what. They don’t respond to contention, or the need for justice and reparation–the neighborhood councils do that. They reinforce the city’s intention to meet the needs of its most fragile living creatures first, to keep its hands open and even. They foster science and observation; they believe what people tell them about what they see. They test soil bacteria and air quality. They keep an eye on salvage operations, the timing of bird migrations, dispatches from people mooring their boats in the harbor. When people ask them to, they make ways. They make paths.

Who is responsible? The ones who respond.

Alternate Histories: 5/31, 4/19


Yeah, I would say I’m definitely anxious about global warming. It’s an interesting problem — there’s a dichotomy of being really concerned and the knowledge that the horrible things about it are probably not going to affect me, so I want to enjoy the state that the world is in now while that’s possible. I mean, according to the predictions that scientists are making–I live in the first world [sic], so it may have dramatic but not life-threatening consequences. I’ll still be able to enjoy life in a way that most people aren’t going to be able to. I do have a fear of getting old and having a lot of things become huge problems around the time that I get old and can’t take care of myself. A fear of not being able to do anything about it — not being able to enjoy the world because you know this horrible thing is coming.

What if it was going to be sooner? You know, what if in the paper you read that instead of fifty years, it’s going to happen in thirty years or whatever?

I hate to say it, but I think that would — rather than wanting to immediately do something, I would be in the mode of trying to enjoy the world and [didn’t catch it] as much as possible. There’s a way to slow but not stop it, and I think a lot of people are like, “Well, fuck it.” If it did look that imminent, there are all these things I would want to do and see.

Do you really hate to say it?

A little bit, because I think it’s a reflection on my weakness as a person, where everyone’s out to have a good life, which got us into this — why should we stop it now?

What do you see yourself doing to look out for people in this harder world?

I think it’s going to require a radically different way of looking at resources that I don’t think anyone in the U.S. is at all used to. I’m a planner, and I try hard to live off not a lot, so that’s a skill I could maybe give to other people — like how not to use an obscene amount of water. I’ll be the jerk who’s like, You can’t take a 20 minute shower, you just can’t.

Are you the jerk now?

No, not really. I try to be mindful of what I use, where my food’s coming from, but Americans are conditioned to not pay attention to that because we don’t have to.



The next day, DD thought: the future is where everything bad happens, like the breakdown of ecologies and supply chains, like getting old and being helpless. It’s also where everything good happens, like seeing things and trying things. She thought, I’m good at doing with less, but I want more.

DD thought about places she would like to have seen. Seeing is having, she thought. She said goodbye to each of them, using the feathers from part of a pigeon wing she picked out of dead oak leaves and Dutch Masters wrappers blown against the side of her apartment house. She gave each feather the name of a place, laid them out on the windowsill, watched the wind lift them. When the last one was gone she washed her hands three times.

Two years later, tourism was down, way down, the bottom. People were still flying to see their families, to do science, for work sometimes, but almost no one, then no one, was flying to devour anyone else’s place. This was difficult for places that had built their living around influxes of expensive strangers. It took some people there a long time to unclench their fists. Skies got quieter, the water cleaner. The sand, too, was cleaner at first (not so many people to pick up after) then dirtier (no one paying money for picking things up) then cleaner again (when everyone got sick of it being dirty). Some of the fish, some of the birds, some of the mosses, and some of the santos started to come back, and then there was more to eat. Others were gone forever. People said goodbye to these in their own ways.

Back at the airports, a few families tried to live in the grounded planes but it turns out that the things that make airplanes good for flying make them bad for almost everything else: not enough light, not enough ventilation, plasticky, weird-shaped, cramped. Mostly people broke them down for materials and parts. The frameworks of wings made good roof supports and squash trellises. Kids took flotation devices to the swimming holes.

Some things we’ll never see because we killed them. Some things we can allow to flourish by never seeing them, letting them rest, secret from us, but not from themselves.


Alternate Histories: 5/30, 4/18


They spend a billion dollars over there, but here, they got the homeless. It was told to me the U.S. was like a bully. My mother always told me, take care of home … In my life I never thought I’d see a black president. I told it to my dying brother, he never thought he’d see it either. I’m living for him.

[At this point, a woman in a wheelchair, whom he knew, came up and asked me if I could tell her how to get dental care, and they got into an argument I couldn’t follow about the ACA.]

Before I leave this earth, not this country but this earth, I wanna get my SSI. To me it’s a conspiracy. Everything in life is a conspiracy.



We can’t give Z a world perfect for him from the day he was born. We can’t even say that in a world perfect for Z he would never be mixed-up, never in distress–partly because we haven’t even tried to make that world. What can we imagine for Z as he is now?

Z’s part of town is mainly on a level–no hills between him and where he wants to go, no steps in the storefronts and churches and short-order clinics and library branch where he is welcome. He’s welcome in all of these places unless he gets combative, which happens when he’s frustrated or loses track of where he is. When that happens, the people in all of these places insist that he go sit on their awninged benches or steps outside, where he sits swearing to himself for a while, or go to the fury shrine a few blocks away, where he can break plates. It took a while for Z to make this a routine but when he does see sense, he sees the sense of it. Sometimes he gets so angry that he sees the solar clotheslines hanging and hits the panels with his stick, and cracks them, but this doesn’t happen that much anymore.

He makes his circuits; he’s restless. He goes to services at three different churches. He listens to people rap, sing, and perform poetry in the park. The food places make sure to have something around that he and other people with not that many teeth can eat. A baked apple, a plate of fufu. “You go to the clinic already today?” they ask. “You get your foot taken care of?”

One place he doesn’t ever stop is at his blood family’s house. He can’t come there. Z carries a burden of guilt. Most people know that he has it, but not what it is. Most of the people who talk to him or respond to him are men, except at the clinics. “Teresa, I heard you used to be a man,” Z says every time. “No no,” she says every time, “I been a woman, I just used to look like a man.” They laugh, now. She re-dresses his foot with disinfectant trucked in from Illinois on a fast road and ointment made by witches here in town.

We can’t erase the pathways and deposits and erosions that history has left in someone. We may help to shift the center of the circle they walk in.

Alternate Histories: 5/29, 4/17


Social unrest and collapse because of food and water shortages. They’re saying corn is going to be a luxury. Especially with kids, it’s very concerning. If I were alone I wouldn’t mind so much, I could just jump in the river with rocks in my pockets.

Why is killing yourself better than dying in one of these other ways?

I think it’s a fear of what’s gonna happen. You can say well, we all die anyway, and if we die in a flood, we all just go at once, you don’t have to grieve … Part of having a kid is it’s forcing me to become more aware in the moment, more present, more spiritual, and consider spirituality even more. I think of spirituality as the bigger picture, bigger than economics or politics — it encompasses everything. I keep hoping for this worldwide awakening.

Do you feel like you work to bring it about?

Yeah, in art–all my paintings the last couple years have been about consciousness or crisis, a crisis of consciousness. It’s got me focused on the two sides of that coin. Making work is part of that awakening processes–it’s flowing through me, that greater collective unconscious, universal mind.



N recognized in himself the lust for enclave and siege, the stockpiler, the man who when the castle’s on the brink of capture by an enemy kills everyone in it and then himself. He countered this by trying to induce visions while he planted tomatoes and corn and tried to nurse an apple tree along in the shadow of his little yard, by meditating in between lessons on sucking chest wounds and keeping someone’s spine immobile in EMT training, by breathing through his older daughter’s desire for princess gear instead of warrior gear, by looking for signs and portents in the smears of sweet potato his younger daughter left on the floor.

The thing about N’s own neighborhood, the place where he lives, is that it’s on a hilltop, and as with most high ground in places near the sea, the people who live there have more money and more status than the people on the lower ground.

N painted spells. He painted at night, at first in his studio. Then on the sidewalks, every few nights, in harmless chalks, starting by the edge of the river. Come out and paint with me, he said to some other artists he knew–white men, feared and fearful. They painted the patterns the wind made in downtown Providence, blowing around the convention center and the Dunkin Donuts Center and the big hotels; they painted the future shadows of the municipal trees; they painted the tracks of animals that once walked there. They exchanged nods, wary at first, with people selling sex, people seeking doorways, people tagging walls and bridges; they worked around the tags, around the sprayed DigSafe instructions. They made nothing that anyone would have to work to clean up. They stashed their chalks in openings at the bottoms of lampposts; they trailed paths from the river’s edge back to higher ground on their way home.

When they went out again after a break of a few nights (it was N’s turn to make dinner and draw baths and read stories and soothe diaper rash and argue about lights-out and lay out school clothes, and he wanted to do it while he still could), sometimes the drawings had changed: the signs, the portents, the directions of the arrows. Sometimes the chalks stashed in the bases of lampposts were more worn down.

“Together” doesn’t always mean at the same time or in the same way. But a lot of people survived the next storm–a “surprising number,” WPRI Eyewitness News said, when they started broadcasting again.

Alternate Histories: 5/28, 4/16


[These were two separate conversations with a total of three people besides me.]

What do you think about it?

I think humans need to take much better care of nonhuman things.

But like, what’s causing it — I think it’s some natural, a lot manmade, and it’s definitely something to be worried about. It affects not only us. This is where we live. But I believe that things happen for the good of the planet eventually — like the ice age helped the planet overall.

I get what you’re saying about the long term, but how do you think people can help each other in the short term?

I feel like it’s the little things that work towards something big. Like some people say “I can’t help because I can’t do that much,” but if everyone does a smaller part, it can have positive effects. Not throwing trash away, recycling–little things.

What about things like driving less?

Driving definitely is a problem, but maybe it’s more like not to drive things that–like some cars, all they do is pollute. Maybe more efficient cars, but that’s companies’ responsibility to make more efficient cars, cars that don’t pollute.


Society doesn’t care until it’s at your back doorstep, and then it’s too late. Let’s find better ways of getting cars not to put so much emissions into the air, factories not to put so much pollution. Let’s find ways to care about the environment. America is one of the best countries in the world. We have every advantage, we just need to appreciate it more.



The third or so thing that happened was that cities, many cities, made buses better, more frequent, easier for people using wheelchairs and walkers and canes to use, and smaller.

The fifth thing that happened was that iron miners in Australia and Brazil, copper miners in Arizona and Chile, and sand and gravel miners in Utah and Washington State walked off the job.

The seventh and eighth things that happened were that several countries announced that they would not be mining or buying mined material anymore after one year. No more mines of any kind, no more mined material imported. The following year, no more smelting, no refineries. People who had been working the mines would now work to bring the mine sites back into accord with the surrounding land and water, to move them into habitability for plants and animals if possible, with people as a cautious option. It would be okay if no people could live there, as long as the people already alive could live somewhere. Because this work was dangerous–unstable terrain, poisonous residues–the former mining companies paid highly for it, and people who didn’t do it honored the people who did.

The ninth thing that happened was a surge of fertile excitement for ethanol engines, algal-fuel engines, electric engines–a flurry of testing, a fever of prototypes–as fossil-fuel companies tried to dump their assets and car companies prepared to phase out gasoline. This was quickly followed by the tenth thing, a buyback and resource recovery plan for gas cars, computers, tires, anything that soon no one would be able to make anymore.

The twelfth and thirteenth things that happened were that a lot of smaller towns voted to consolidate or disperse. A few people who wished passionately to be alone stayed in their old towns.

The fourteenth thing that happened was that some of the former mine sites began to take off ecologically–they arrived at a balance. Humans didn’t go there anymore. Other sites needed vigilance and care, like a garden, or like Central Park. Something or someone can need care forever and still be important. These sites became pilgrimage sites. Many people went at least once in their lives, if they could, to the one nearest them, to contribute to its sustenance. While there, they lived in little crescents of houses near–but not right on–the rims of pits and canyons. They all had someplace to return to when they left.

The fifteenth or so thing that happened was the building of fast roads and slow roads out of recovered resource materials: fast roads and ramps out of asphalt and metal stripped from the slow roads, transported with the last of the gasoline and the first of the electric fleets, built to expand and contract even in severe changes of temperature. There weren’t very many of them, and they mostly led between small towns and were open to the sky. Slow roads out of cinderblocks from barracks, bricks from prisons, structural glass from casinos, with gaps between the stones, raised and bioswaled on both sides, flanked by spindly new trees and undergrowth or by tough-rooted grasses and desert scrub.

There were also roads through the tan cities, roads underwater, graves of roads. You would follow them only if you were in search of a vision. People rolled on pilgrimages in power chairs replenished by the narrow solar roadways, down the green glass paths with water streaming off them from rain into roots, from wayside shelter to wayside shelter.

Alternate Histories: 5/27, 4/15


Speaking for myself, I have huge climate anxiety. It’s the biggest problem we’re facing, and we should be devoting huge amounts of resources to it. Instead, they’re still having debates about whether to give oil and gas leases in national parks. We’re putting the earth, the country, and the climate at risk by looking for oil and gas. It won’t be helped by a piecemeal approach. And I’m not hopeful. I don’t think governments have the guts to face up to oil and gas interests. I think we’re doomed. And my biggest concern is not so much for humans–I’m worried that we’ll make it impossible for anything else to survive. We don’t begin to take this seriously enough …

Do you talk to people about this?

People I know, or people I don’t know?


I have conversations, but about small stuff, like recycling. To people I know, I talk about it a lot. I go to a Unitarian church, many of whose members are left-leaning. But the church can’t even get recycling right. I’m discouraged on a personal and political and countrywide level. They say gas is cleaner, but if getting the gas requires the kind of stuff that’s going on in Canada — I think if we devoted sufficient money to alternatives, in 10 years we could prevent a catastrophe, but we don’t have the will.



The next day, U signed up to work with the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth‘s divestment branch. She begged for donations from people and from businesses, citing black lung and exploding oil rigs; she helped congregations run the numbers for reinvestment programs like Ceres Investment Group. She took over secretarial duties while the church administrator went to an interfaith conference on sustainability. She talked with the Department of Health about setting up the church, with its thick brick walls shaded by large trees, as a daytime heat shelter as well as an emergency shelter. All motions seemed slow. The winter came down like a hammer and the congregation stepped up its work of helping people survive from day to day.

In spring, she read of the plan to expand a gas pipeline running through southern New England. U said to the congregation, “The emergency is now.” The Providence, Fall River and Newport churches became training sites, childcare centers, clearinghouses for bail funds, food banks. U worked with the Parks Department to get camping permits for the Little Compton and Tiverton land where Spectra Energy wanted to build the pipeline; camping stores donated tents; nearby homes opened their doors so that people blocking construction could use their bathrooms, and shower; the University of Rhode Island’s horticulture department helped plan to restore, as best they could, damage to the grasses from people camping on them or standing on them or being dragged across them by police officers.

The summer wore on, flaring hot, cooling slightly, flaring again. Donations of food and blankets, groundsheets and water bottles poured into the two churches, who shared them with ordinary homeless and suffering people as well as the protestors. Representatives of other churches and a temple led services, broke up fights, offered counsel. The days grew shorter, wetter, grayer. U wondered what would happen in the winter, when people remembered what the pipeline could bring them, when they needed to stay warm. Sweaters and gloves and boots–all useful, all wonderful, but not enough to keep anyone alive outside in another winter like last year’s.

I don’t know what happens next in this story, either.

Alternate Histories:

[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.]


School. They have such high standards for grades, for getting into college.

Do you want to go?

Yes. But teachers put a lot of pressure on us.

Are there school things you’re good at?

I like to write, and I like to draw, but art class at our school is mostly curriculum-based.

Do you ever draw while you’re taking notes in class? Does it help you concentrate?

Yeah! I think this stress is more prevalent in this generation because of the economy and debt.



The next day, CC asked her two friends to help her make a list of everything that partakes of them. One said, “What’s partake again?”

“It gets a piece of you,” CC said, opening her notebook to write things down.

“Is that bad?”

“Maybe not always.”

They listed their families right away. They talked about their jobs. One friend remembered from science class the mites that live on your eyelashes and eat your dead skin. The other friend said, “Oh yeah, bacteria! Mr. ________ said there’s more bacterial cells in your body than human cells.”

“Yeah, say more science stuff,” said the first friend. “You pay attention in science.” CC drew swirls and lines around their words.

Three days later, CC raised her hand in science class and asked, “Why?”

“Because that’s what makes a person a productive member of society,” said Mr. _________.

“I am extremely productive,” CC said. “I make eyelid skin for mites to eat. I make a home for a lot of bacteria.” (The other friend nodded approvingly.) I make time for my sister to take a shower by herself, without the baby. I make dinner for my family on Thursdays, even though I hate cooking. I make drawings every day. I make money for my boss because she doesn’t have to pay me very much to sell donuts and coffee, and that makes money for her boss, and that makes money for whoever else is up there. I make carbon dioxide and methane.” (The other friend nodded again.) “If I go to college or if I don’t, I’ll still be producing all those things, so maybe we don’t need to judge people like that.”

Mr. __________ blinked and closed his book. “Okay,” he said. “What do we need to do?”

In this story, a teacher might listen to a student, an administrator to a teacher–hierarchies matter less and less each time this happens–a boss might even listen to an employee. In this story, the standardized testing strike that CC’s school started spread to seven high schools the following year; to forty-eight high schools and ten elementary schools the year after that, when CC graduated; throughout the entire state and into neighboring states the following year, while CC helped to cook the day’s big meal in the kitchen of her former school, even though she hated cooking, and then came to sit at one of the cafeteria tables with her mom and sister and niece, during the time to eat together built into their day.

Who do you work for? CC in the early morning, riding the number 22 and then the number 40 bus up to help transform the old university buildings, drawing the trees outside her window in velvety lines, bacteria at pasture in her innards. Indebted, and owed, by the most constant, shifting, and expansive set of measures.

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.

Alternate Histories: 5/24, 4/12


[Small girls to whom I gave a snapping turtle card and a blue cohosh card yesterday]

Can we use your chalk?


 [They take it into the park and start drawing. Later they’re joined by 2 other girls, around the same age. Later still, girls and chalk are nowhere to be seen. I mentally bid farewell to chalk. A man comes up and we start talking.]

I don’t know that there’s anything we can do to help. We try to think as human beings that we have control over certain things, but we really don’t.

I think we’re talking about different things. I’m talking about like, if there was bad flooding, would you give someone a ride in your car?

No. I’d like to say I’d like to help all these people, but I think when it’s in complete survival mode, it gets to be every man for himself.

So you don’t think people depend on each other.

No, I do think people depend on each other … It’s something that needs looking into, and we’re not doing enough about it. There’s enough methane on the ocean floor–you know about this? What happens when the ocean warms up and releases that methane into the atmosphere? It’ll be a global catastrophe that–[he looks over and sees the girls drawing within earshot]–we’ll all be in trouble.

[About an hour later, one of the original girls brings the box back, chalk sticks well used.]



It is the responsibility of adults not to frighten children.

We talk about the ocean floor, like it’s the floor of a house, but it’s a field.

Around the methane vents deep in the sea, the methanophilic bacteria are at pasture, transforming what’s available to them into what they need.

The floor of a house is also a field, shared, full of inhabitants.

A human can’t throw his body in front of a methane vent, between a pair of children and a methane vent. If R throws his body between a pair of children and, say, a prime minister, who’ll be wise enough to see the line between them, to calculate the trajectory, to understand what he intersects, what he wants to interrupt?

What kind of present do you want for your children?

The methanophilic bacteria would be so happy, fat and full if the methane in the oceans emerged. It would be a rich time for them. Sometimes you have to choose who will get what they want.

Those children weren’t even R’s children, but he wanted something for them.

The best way to not scare someone is to get rid of the things that scare them.

Yes, and while we’re doing that, we can also teach them how to be scared. To be while scared. To not be frozen.