Sometimes when Henry looks out the window he thinks about what might have been if he hadn’t bought this place. But then he can feel his heart start to beat faster and the anxiety that he had pushed down, buried with years of practice, starts to creep up into his throat forming a lump that’s nearly too hard to swallow back down. The fence stands high and strong, just like when he built it only the white paint is peeling and the vines in the far corner are growing thicker. It was almost fifty years ago now. Henry sighs and pushes the curtain over so he can see Kai and Mae. They’re running back and forth to the fence, laughing and yelling, daring each other to climb over, but they know the rules.
He was working for a small fishing town off the coast. That morning, the water was so low that you had to go out miles just to touch wet sand, and even further if you wanted to catch something so Henry walked to the market instead. The market was red and orange, bright and colorful and loud always bustling with people. This morning it was extra loud, too many people unsure of what to do, all buzzing with a nervous energy that made Henry want to turn and leave.
“Morning, Henry.” Lydia called out from her chair. She smiled and winked. “How’s the fish this morning?”
“Nothing but sand for miles. Not sure we can make it out today or even tomorrow. Might be a slow month.” Lydia sucked in her cheeks and stared at him, eyes widening slightly. She knew it was too late. So did Henry. Everyone knew it would happen. Scientists had been warning politicians for years but no one really listened.
“Ray said the same thing. I heard its only worse down south too. I guess his cousins are moving up here since water is too expensive down there. But we don’t have much more here.”
“Really?” Henry rolled his eyes. “Before you know it we’re gonna have the whole country trying to move here.” He played it off like it was an annoyance but he knew what would happen to them once the water supply ran out.
He saw the farm on his walk back home. He took the long way back, avoiding the congested, jittery crowds. The sun shone hot on his back, burning into his shirt. Something about today felt weird, not quite right and maybe it was this feeling that made him feel like he had to do something. There was a little sign out front, a handwritten “For Sale by Owner.” The house looked lonely, empty.
Henry thought about Lydia, sitting on her chair. He thought about Ray’s cousins coming up and he knew soon the water would be too low for anyone. The papers had been saying it for months but people still weren’t listening. He walked slowly, meticulously stepping one foot in front of another around the border, the perfect place for a fence.