The Adoration of Borders
Once, he ate the same cereal for nine months because each carton earned a square inch of Alaska. “Eighteen, all told. You earned them,” his mother said when he was thirty-one, handing him the deeds the summer before she died. Each one was bordered broadly enough to size his claim to the limits of his property.
Lately, at his township’s last farm, surveyors have arrived to arm a developer with the ammunition of deeds. They define dozens of half-acres, measure a small number of what will become larger, corner lots, remaking the fields with borders instructing his children not to breach, the last crop stubble a carpet of knives.
His neighbor’s wife studies borders, analyzing the suggestions offered by the height and thickness of hedgerows, deciphering, from overhead, the aura of fields plowed in whirlpool circles. She tells him that borders funded the invention of guns. She says, “Each mile is a bullet; each wall a bomb.”
His friend insists that German deer, even now, do not cross the Iron Curtain, decades of generations stopping where freedom, for years, began or ended. He describes how hunters crouch in blinds near that border where deer pause as if downwind from danger. Illuminated by November’s moon, their breath is cauliflowered in the air.
To win the next war, a candidate says the army should target cultural sites. When he gives examples, the gods have exotic names. The ancient churches are as large and elaborate as pilgrimages. Look what drones can do, the candidate says, how they can pinpoint the sacred. The holy days are the perfect time to breach each border.
Trenches from his grandfathers’ war waited a century for him to visit. The guide said, ‘Annexed is a synonym for stolen, but history says, “only rented,” and half of the tour group grumbled. He stood deep in the silent half, thinking how everyone was alone in their bodies, ones whose borders were easily breached.
His father, past ninety, loves the slow drives through neighborhoods where the ghosts he knew still live. Houses, like aging aunts, turn their best sides toward the car until his voice emerges from the hush of sweaters that swaddle his thinning body. “Back then,” he begins, the tone no longer reedy, while the future holds its breath for a moment before returning to its work, sanding the loved names from the elaborate woodwork of the past, leaving the borders intact, the surface available for what is worshipped with longing.
Gary Fincke's flash fiction collection The Corridors of Longing was published by Pelekinesis in 2022, His long-form story collections have won th Flannery O'Connor Prize and the Elixir Press Fiction Prize. He is co-editor of the annual anthology Best Microfiction.