Climate Change

by Randall Brown

A month ago, he started going down, something he'd never done before, not even drunk. No explanation. You'd think she'd be happy, post woo-hoo! on Facebook, believe that God really does listen. But it's not like that. Things just don't happen, not to her, especially good things.

They're cleaning up after the storm, piling about a hundred branches onto the mud-covered driveway. Her name's Sandy, like the hurricane, like the Springsteen song, a song about promises and forever. They don't have electricity yet. He keeps wanting to do down in the dark. What has the world come to?

"I hope the lights don't come back," he says, a bundle of sticks in his arms. "I like this. Hunkered down. Holed up."

Gray everywhere, even the twigs and branches that color of an obscured sky. Even in wisps of his hair, just beginning to turn. Even inside, in that dim house, about to go black.

"It's getting cold." She's shivering in fact. She gets the big branches, too heavy to carry, the ones that need dragged up the hill. She's in shape, though. She's fine dragging half-trees split apart and downed by the too-warm earth. "I wouldn't mind heat."

They're walking back from the pile, back to gather the limbs. "I'll keep you warm. Don't you worry." He bends down, shakes his ass at her.

She takes his shoulder, pulls him upright. "Why? Why this sudden desire to, whatever you want to call it." She lets him go, goes back to the broken branches.

He's trotting after her. "What's wrong with you? You cleave to unhappiness, you know that? Everything's a sign of the end."

"I need help with this one." She points to a magnolia tree, one they planted to hide the pool equipment. He fights her way through leaves and branch, grabs the middle.

The gray darkens around them. "Climate change," he says. "Fucking climate change. You must be so scared. How much you like the status quo."

Maybe it's not getting cold. Maybe she's trembling, not shivering. He's right. There's something dark behind change, sudden change, some catastrophic thing. And if it's not an affair, not some other woman that lights his fire, then what might that dark thing be, that thing that arises now, of all times, wanting to go down, again and again, endlessly, like storm after never-before-seen storm.

"So do you want me to stop?" They're dragging that magnolia tree. It still smells alive.

"Yeah," she says. "I want you to stop."

"Every time I put myself out there—" He's stopped; she's still pulling that fucking downed tree without him.

"What?" she yells from the pile of downed limbs.

"Who knows what your mind has conjured up: imaginary demons, imaginary lovers, mysterious forces bent on your ruin." He steps over the branches, now walks with her. "You never know what people are going to end up hating you for, do you?"


"Yes," he says, "people." The clouds crackle. He shifts. "It's just going to get worse, you know. Until everything comes down."

"Everything but you." The wind picks up. The pile of branches rustles. She doesn't want this, his sadness in this darkening place. "I'm sorry," she says. "For this—for everything."

"I know." He heads toward the last of the branches. "We better hurry."

"Yes," she says. "We don't have much time."

The lights inside the house flicker, give up. Can you miss things—people, memories, the world— before they go?

BIO: Randall Brown is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live, his essay on (very) short fiction appears in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, and he appears in Best Small Fictions 2015 and The Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction. He blogs regularly at FlashFiction.Net and has been published and anthologized widely, both online and in print. He is also the founder and managing editor of Matter Press and its Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. He received his MFA in Fiction from Vermont College and is on the faculty of Rosemont College's MFA in Creative Writing Program.