I heard about a short story contest that was looking for speculative tales related to climate change, so I decided to see what I could do.
I wasn’t interested in penning a Mad Max dystopian tome, though. I wanted to step just a few decades into the future, drawing some reasonable conclusions about what might happen. The megadrought in the western U.S. was getting a lot of attention--it’s still happening, by the way—as was the rapidly shrinking Ogallala Aquifer, the largest underground water source in the United States. And there was the ongoing discussion about piping freshwater from the Great Lakes to arid regions elsewhere.
So my thought became: What if drought-struck communities, having lost a war for freshwater, started a “wet market” (not in the way the term is typically used) to purchase stolen water from the Great Lakes? And what if the states around those lakes formed a law enforcement group to stop it?
It’s an interesting premise, but not a particularly human one. And I definitely wanted a human perspective. Thus was formed Brooks and his little daughter, Dayla, who presents her dad with a moral dilemma: When does compassion for others overrule dispassionate laws, especially those rooted in greed? “I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, or wealth lost to some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit.” (Ecclesiastes 5:13-14).
Much of “Thicker Than” is set along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Two of my favorite haunts get a shout-out, South Haven and Saugatuck. And I tapped the cop language of TV shows and novels, perhaps a bit too cliché, for the back and forth of the AquaMarines. I loved coming up with that name, by the way.
Finally, Dayla plays rugby because that’s the only organized sport I pay any attention to, thanks to my son. I imagine she’s a great player.