Alternate Histories: 10/14, 11/25


When my son was seven, he heard there was an asteroid heading toward the Earth and he could not sleep. So we talked about it, and he read about it a lot, and he learned about it. In high school he took an environmental science class and it was back to the not sleeping. And that’s what he’s doing in college right now, and I say, “I’m sorry this is the planet my generation is leaving you.” … I think the wrong people are worried about it. My effort to do all this is nothing. The people who are causing this, the construction industry, the hospital industry–they’re not worried.



Now W is twenty-five; he has a job with the state foresters. Now he is thirty-three, training deer hunters and guerilla protectors of the state’s forests in the Arcadia Management Area. Now he is six, learning the deep names of the plants and landforms from his grandmother and aunties. Now he is thirty-five and the seedlings he and his cousins planted have reached hip height and then succumbed to an illness that drifted up from the south. Now he is seven, staying up all night, reading books about craters and trajectories and blast radii and impact sites; the flashlight they keep handy for when National Grid turns the power off is like a bright heavenly body that should not be there, and his mother comes in to sit with him. Now he is forty, leaning off a ladder to help his other cousins encrust a disused coal plant with solar cells and vine grafts. Now he is fifty-nine and chewing culen, which drifted up from the south, to manage his diabetes. Now he is twenty-one, dancing in honor of his history, in the presence of his future.

There is no construction industry anymore; there are people who build things, and people who advise them on building things, old people who squat beside heaps of excavated earth or lean on a piece of reclaimed lumber or roll up, nudging the controls of their balloon-tired power chairs with their chins, or are carried on the back of a stalwart grandchild. There is no hospital industry anymore; there is, sort of, a pharmaceutical industry, since some medicines and medical supplies are best made at a factory scale, but people care for each other’s bodies and minds on a case-by-case basis. They are tender, vulgar, exhausted; they don’t see death as anybody’s failure. Every year, the time comes to send some of them on their way. It doesn’t matter which year it is.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s