Alternate Histories: 5/14, 6/11


The climate has changed a lot since I was a kid. Winters are a lot colder and summers–it’s like winter’s going into summer and summer’s going into winter. I’m 47, I’ve lived here all my life, I’m from Burrilville. [I give him a #RIorganisms card.] Oh–I love lady slippers.

Pink or yellow?

The pink ones.


The next day, G sat at one of the library computers, with people sighing all around him, and looked up the pink lady’s-slipper, which looks like a ballsack and grows in acidic soils throughout New England. He read that it can survive in “anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed) habitats”, and felt a flash of irritation, like maybe it wasn’t as special as he thought. “Pollinated by bumblebees,” he read. Hadn’t he read or heard something about bumblebees recently?

G’s life at this time was not easy or pleasant. His arm was healing from a fracture; it hurt and the wrappings itched. His access to safe places to sleep and bathe, and his ability to work for money, were limited and sporadic. In some ways, it was easier to think about the pink lady’s-slipper than about himself. He wanted to rescue it, to protect it, to shelter it. He imagined himself sleeping curled around it. And now the internet was telling him it might be just fine, or it might not. Could it just barely hang on in human places, or did it like them, like pigeons and rats and house sparrows? To protect the lady’s-slipper, did he have to help the bumblebees? He hated bees. They’d stung him when he was a kid, but that wasn’t why. There was just something about them he didn’t like. G moved to scratch his head and winced as his arm reminded him that it was broken.

G traded two cigarettes for a RIPTIK and rode the 10X bus to Snake Den State Park. He knew, or thought he knew, it was too late in the season to see the lady’s-slippers blooming, although he wasn’t sure because of the slipped seasons and the burst of warm days. But he thought he had the leaf shape pretty well fixed in his mind after looking at it on the computer screen. Some of the new leaves on the trees were already lacy from caterpillars chowing down–shit, shit, he thought, remembering the previous summer, they need forests to live in, they like forests, right? Sunlight drew dry fragrance out of last year’s leaves. We both need a place to sleep, he thought. The commoner we are, the more we need it.

G at this time was not an easy or pleasant person. Cravings made him irritable, he dealt with fear and disrespect by getting aggressive, and his default mode with women was smarmy; sometimes he recognized these things, and sometimes not. He did know that a lot of the people he saw most were much the same. He didn’t want to talk to them or listen to them more than he could help, and he was pretty sure it was mutual. But shit, he thought, I might have to. I might have to.


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