Wednesday, August 16, 2006

And So It Begins

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

It was dusk when Sandra came out. Stanislav watched her against the light shining through the sliding glass doors, watched his wife's bare legs, still nice after twenty years of marriage. By the time she got to the green plastic picnic table his eyes were still focused where her legs were fifty feet ago.

"What are you going to do?" she asked.

"I don't know." And he didn't. God spoke to him eleven days ago, told him in twelve days the world was going to begin. What the hell do you do with information like that? "The world ends, everyone knows what to do," he said to Sandra. "Rape, steal, cry, scream, kick. People always say, if the world was ending what would you do? Who the heck asks, What would you do if the world was beginning?' What does that even mean?" He'd been asking these questions since he got the news.

"Didn't it already begin?" Sandra asked.

"That's what I said. But he seemed real sure of himself." At first, Stan wondered if he should tell anybody, he felt pretty stupid. But then they saw other people announcing that they'd gotten the same information from different sources: a fire hose, goat's entrails, Zeus Amon, and so forth. It was all over the news, but except for a few nutballs, the world at large wasn't buying it. Why should they?

"Maybe he meant it was going to end," Sandra offered.

"No, no. I didn't get that feeling at all from him. He wasn't pissed at all, it was like run of the mill stuff to him."

"I s'pose it would be." She slapped herself. "You ready to come in? The mosquitoes are coming out."

"Yeah, okay. I want to come back out at midnight, see if anything's happening."


They held hands on the way in, something they hadn't done in a long time.

"You suppose he's starting the day by our time zone?" she asked.

"I didn't think about that. Maybe " he stopped and looked at the sky.

"What is it?"

"The Jews. Doesn't their day start at sundown instead of midnight?"

"I don't know, maybe. You think God's Jewish?"

"Well, he was before he converted, right? The bible says so. Maybe he didn't adjust his clock." They both looked up at the sky again.

"Nothing's happening," she said.

"Awright. He must be on Christian Standard Time."

They went back out at midnight and stayed outside till dawn. At about eight, they both called out at their jobs. They ate breakfast and slept for some hours. In the early afternoon they looked out the window and then made love and fell asleep again. They watched the news until well into the next morning, when they were good and sure that the day had to be considered over by any reasonable person. They figured it was safe to decide that nothing had happened. They showered together, washing each other's backs. Stan insisted that he wash Sandra's front.

Back in bed, Stan said, "Oh, I get it," while staring at the ceiling. Sandra bolted up from a dead sleep.

"What? What was it?"

"Think about all the kids that were born yesterday. For them, the world began."

"Oh. But then the world ended for a lot of people yesterday, too."

"Yeah, but I'm sure I'm right about the baby thing. It's too perfect."

"Mm." Sandra fell back onto the bed and closed her eyes. She wiggled around a bit before taking a deep breath and stopping. "It could still be that nothing happened at all."

"There's that," Stan conceded.

"Course, the guy seemed so sure of himself."

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