Pet waved bye bye to her old man. He waved back and turned quickly to pretend blow his nose. Pet knew he was crying. Old people are sentimental. Youngsters were more practical. Pet looked up at the weak sun and pretend wiped sweat from her brow. She steered her boat towards the sun.
She sailed until the winds died down. Then she flipped on the solars, cranked the craft’s tiny motor, and sped on. All the while Pet scanned the water’s surface like her old man had taught her. Some fishers always sped across the deep without looking every which way. That’s why SweetCheeks and Little’s boat got damaged by rooftops last time. They limped back to Little Sheep Lake bailing water with no food to show for their troubles. That’s why Love didn’t come back home at all.
But her old man taught her to look forward and never back. He taught her those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. He taught her to measure twice and cut once. He taught her wherever you go there you are. Pet didn’t understand her old man all the time but she believed in him. Pet believed in the old man’s belief in happy endings. The twins MyPrecious and MyHeart said her old man had the oldtimers when he talked about big fur animals and fields of plants and all the foods we used to have. They said her old man should swim away to save precious resources. Pet shook the twins from her mind and weaved her boat down flooded streets. The waters were low this dry season.
Everyone who could work worked in Little Sheep. From the littlest to the oldest, everyone worked, farming mushrooms, drying moss for fuel, purifying the water, reusing what scraps of tech remained from the Before Times. Everyone worked so hard to just live that the people had no time for stories. No one made time to listen except for Pet. Pet adopted the man after they had both lost their families during the Rona outbreak ’86. She soaked up every story and peppered her old man with questions. Her mind held a library of stories of the way the world used to be. He had told her about Sleepless in Seattle and Friends, Good Times and Whose the Boss.
Pet docked against the remains of a lamp post. With sun and wind she had travelled for three days until she had reached dry land. The air shimmered from the moisture rising from the loamy soil. The land had only been here for a few months and would surrender back to the water in a few weeks. The world was an ocean with tides and mountain tops were islands.
While Little Sheep Lake (the old people still call her town a lake when most of the rest of the world was underwater most of the time) had mushrooms and lichen and moss there was a need for more vitamins. During the dry season the fishers searched the wet husk of the outside world for canned goods and green plants. Pet walked quietly and carefully always scanning. A stitch in time saves nine meant don’t fall and break an ankle. She had salvaged some plastic pots and bottles and plenty of wire but no food. Thunder broke like a gunshot. She ducked for cover under the archway of the remains of a brick apartment building. By the fisher marks this building had already been searched and searched. A storm now could mean death. Rain fell hard. Pet hummed the theme to The Flintstones to calm herself. The old man taught her fear is the mind killer.
In the near distance something white waved. It was a tarp. Tarps are always useful. Once the rain slowed Pet ran through the raindrops to the tarp. She traced the red letters on the white background: Walla Walla Downtown Farmers’ Market. Pet cut the nylon rope holding the plastic sign. Her eyes caught a green striped ball. Pet pulled. It was stuck to the moist warm soil. Pet’s knees buckled. She sank to the earth and stared in wonder. The old man had told her of this, of biting its pink flesh or spitting out it black seeds.
Carefully Pet dug into the soil and extracted the plant and its roots. She found dandelions and shoots of onions and wild garlic. With triumphant orange flowers, a pumpkin vine had swaddled a rusted mailbox.
Pet scanned the deep with the sun warm on her back. Laden with produce, her boat was low in the water but steady. She skirted around a church steeple and sang out the theme to Gilligan’s Island. Pet couldn’t wait to tell her old man her story.