John McDaid's "(Nothing But) Flowers", sweet and haunting sf story

When Alice and I got married last autumn, we received many wonderful gifts from our friends, but one of the absolute standouts came from John McDaid and his family. John — a brilliant, award-winning science fiction writer — wrote a story for us called "(Nothing But) Flowers," a sad, haunting, hopeful post-apocalyptic tale that we both read with delight and wonder on our honeymoon. Now John has released the story as a Creative Commons download (natch!), and you can read it too.

Every afternoon the rains, as they had for generations, swept in from the saltlands to the west and drove the scavengers into the shelter of the ruins ringing the lagoon. The sky grayed, and wind, pungent with ozone and canebrake, flung stinging flights of droplets into the dank concrete holes.

The Fox Man ran from squat to squat, warning. "Big storm coming." He wore an outfit of scraggy orange fur, scabrous and holed, and as he pranced past, fat raindrops spattered his costume to a blotchy patchwork. Women set out plastic jugs, gathered utensils, and shoveled coals from cooking fires into logs to hustle indoors. Naked children danced in the puddles.

Donal paid no mind to either the storm or the Fox Man, but he always had to smile at that fancy outfit, in a World of loincloths and grass skirts. To Donal, the costume looked more like a dog, though for effect the Fox Man — or someone who owed him a favor, he was no Hunter — had hung a poorly preserved fox head from a leather necklace. All Donal wore was a deerskin belt in which was tucked a roughly hammered machete. His dozen braves followed behind like ducklings, spread out in a widening wake; the first rank had knives, as befitting his sidemen, but Donal alone carried a blade longer than his hand.

(Nothing But) Flowers