The cranes arrived in the dead of winter. They nested on the causeway. Their necks stretched across Gallants Channel. We did not want them. We could not move them.
The house was new when I moved in. Strong and solid, rising on stout beams, close to the water, but far enough to be safe from floods. It was empty, but it soon filled with roommates and memories, a stream of students and interns looking for short-term housing. Some stayed longer than others. We weren’t married when my wife moved in, but we soon would be. We planted a garden, then another, then came the chickens, the ducks, the goats. It was our own tiny, self-sustaining island.
There was a small white one-eyed cat, feral but friendly. She would sleep on our porch. She lost her eye in a fight with our chickens, so we left food and water for her. She kept the roaches at bay, the only prey she could hunt.
A sign appeared on the street, marking the high water line. A few years later, it was moved further back, almost to our yard.
We left on a Saturday afternoon as the tide crept up past the high water sign. We sold the chickens, ate the ducks, and loaded the goats into the back of our truck. We left the cat. We went west, leaving the last decade behind.
I was already gone when the cranes arrived. They stretched into the sky, waiting for earthmovers to reclaim the channel, burying wetlands. With foundations laid, the cranes rolled into the marsh, driving concrete pilings into the shallow passage. The bridge will rise, eventually, isolating our town from the great coastal migrations that came each year. But for now, Beaufort belongs to the cranes.
I come back, occasionally, to visit friends and share stories at the Backstreet Pub, but I can’t come home. It isn’t my town anymore, and it can never be again.