They’re going to cut funding any day now. No one wants to think about pre-Apoc. They’re just waiting for the last of us to die.
My kids tolerate my vocation. They think I’m trying to find Dwayne in the rubble. Dwayne is pre-Apoc. I can’t say their wrong.
But it’s important to preserve unpleasant pasts. They know it too, which is why they don’t shut down the program. But they are waiting for that last of us to die. Three of us obliged with suicide.
I can’t blame them. So much has been lost. So much of our humanity.
I have to believe it even if I’m one of the last people who do.
The ruddy sun blisters the sky. A steady rev of Geiger clicks tickles my eardrum.
The photo comes out of an era they thought the world had ended. The world hadn’t seen anything yet. I traced the photograph’s molecules and quality of light to this dustbowl. Rusty shreds of barbed wire twine with wild thyme on rotted fenceposts.
“Gift of Providence” is straight fiction, though it strays more than I’d like into Chicken-Soup territory with its sappiness. I have ideas on how to salvage it, so nothing is lost (it never is, really):
Here comes one, a kid shambling up the rutted road. I hoist my Stetson and hustle to the barn.
My kids think me addled as egg salad keeping the stables going, figure I’m keeping Abigail’s memory alive. They ain’t half-wrong about both.
Providence ambles from her stall, ribs barring her buckskin, but we share a forbearance that a few skipped meals can’t scratch.
As Providence nuzzles dry grass from the boy’s hand, he dares a smile, as if afraid fate’ll smack happiness clean off his face.
“Pa,” my eldest explained, “no one can afford charity anymore.”
Yet there’s never been more need.
Part’s for my Abby, sure, but more’s for them. The ones that manage to steal a day from scraping coin out of the gutters.
By the time they jaunt twice around the ring, laughter shares his saddle. It’s a joy that’ll mount his heart and ride with him back to the soot-choked city, bolstering him against fate’s blows.