Peeling paint and tired, sagging fence lines speak to the weary feeling that has settled over my town, my country, and my life. When I was younger, those fences were straight and even like the perfect, even teeth of a movie star. Now they lean to the side, valiantly defying the will of the weather, sun, and time that have rusted their nails, torn their clapboards, and broken their supports.
Vines, invasive and choking, crawl over trees and buildings. They could be pretty if they weren’t trying to kill everything, carpeting it in a toxic green death, swallowing the local plants, driving out the flowers, and leaving them a thorny wasteland. Nobody can keep up with them anymore, so the best we can do is ignore them. They flourish when we aren’t looking, but tearing them out requires a community effort nobody has time for.
When I was young, there were orchards. Wide, open spaces with apples bowed down so low that even my small hands could capture them without straining. I used to sneak in with my best friend, stealing apples until our faces were sticky and bellies full. We then ran, giggling and rushing into the safety of the forested buffer between the houses and the farm, dodging patches of skunk cabbage and poison ivy. The apple trees never chased us.
These days, the orchards are vanishing, replaced by garish new homes nobody can afford. “For sale,” they scream from their monochrome, cookie-cutter windows. “Newly built!” The empty windows stare vacant and glassy, as if even they know nobody wants them.
The people I went to school with laugh. “As if we can afford you,” we say back. “Can we have our apple trees back?”
Everything new is made of cardboard and aluminum and sheetrock that looks like it belongs in California, not here. Not where the apples grew plentiful and the bees hummed on long summer days where we ran barefoot through the open spaces.
Everything old needs several new coats of paint, new nails, and a roof that doesn’t leak. It needs love and the hands of a carpenter who remembers how to put things back together again. Or maybe it can just lean forever, a guttural sigh echoed from the lips of ancestors who remember when there were horses in the barn. Or at least goats.
We can’t afford those either.
Instead, we pack together in tenements in the city, far away from the trees and the creeping green vines and the memory of apples. We tell ourselves we like the hustle and bustle. We like the convenience. Our eyes are as empty as the new houses on side roads carved into the orchards.
Our children won’t remember the trees or the bees. They’ll grow up knowing only sagging fences, peeling paint, and empty windows framed by curling green vines ready to choke out whatever light remains.
E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.
Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.
When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.