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Jessica sat in the last row of the ugliest van her parents could buy. A Ford Aerostar. All day long, Jesus and Mary and the Apostles walked by the van. Someone in a long robe led a sheep around and encouraged the children to pet it. Father sat just outside the sliding door on a canvas chair reading the Bible aloud to no one.

Mom was with Michael, hurrying to the gas station to use the bathroom. By the way he walked, Jessica suspected it was too late.

“After six, it won’t matter, Michael,” Father kept telling him, except it was a message for mom. This was at five forty and Michael was already not smelling so fresh. It made Jessica wonder though. Which time zone will God use when he ends the world? Did people go to the rapture like a giant vacuum cleaner going along the end of surface of the earth?

At the gate, a quartet of guitar players jammed with the songs she grew up with. A guy in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt kept standing up on a concrete planter and doing solos. It had to be an impromptu band, but better than the guy at the assembly her school held each year.

School. She did not know if she really believed everything her father and Reverend Camp said. Yet it had stopped her from worrying about high school next year.

“Do you want to go to the gate?” Father leaned his head back into the van

She took a long look out the window at people heading towards the gate. They carried shoe-shaped balloons just like the last time and a young girl cry-talked that she would have to let hers go. “I’m good.”

“Maybe when they get back.”

Jessica looked down at her phone. Read Nate’s text. Parents glued to TV. Waiting for report of earthquakes.. She did not understand his parents. Nate said they had no doubts. And yet they worked the week. They did not pull their kids out of school and drive to California. Then the text she dreaded from him appeared. Are we okay? No Regrets?????? It made her slide down behind the seat. She was sure she blushed.

Jessica thought of texting, what does it feel like 2 die do u think. Instead she sat the phone next to her on the seat. She imagined a flash of white. A light in a tunnel and then a foggy landscape. Did it matter where you died? What if the rapture came and you were in a gas station bathroom?

What if you did not want heaven? What if you didn’t want your life, but you did want to be a lawyer and have a handsome husband (not Nate).

Their house on Ferry Street back in Buffalo was covered in snow. Nate sent a snap of the drift over their driveway. Outside the dusty van, the sun shone bright in a cloudless sky. Palm trees. She was seeing palm trees for the first time.

Father was reading from the book of Revelations and all week long he acted as though he was willing this to happen. He hummed while making her ride 3000 miles in mom’s van with soggy crackers smeared on the seats. At night in cheap hotels, father faced her with hands under his cheek as she tried to sleep. She slept on the edge because her brother kicked in his sleep.

So many were gathered at the gate. She wanted to know why no one opened them up and onto the grounds, but everyone else was singing and swaying in front of them.

She was afraid to look at the time on her phone, but it had to be close to 6 now. She trembled at the thought. Felt paralyzed. Yet she climbed out of the van and sat next to her father. People were counting down and Father hugged his book.

Jessica put her head on his shoulder.

Just before six, people counted down from 10. Then they let the balloons go.

At six oh one, she heard Michael giggling. They were back. Mom held Michael in her arms and stood next to Father. Michael was eating a Popsicle.

At six oh two, her phone buzzed. She let herself stay against Father. Mom leaned down and kissed him on his bald head. Then she worked on getting Michael in his car seat while Dad threw his chair into the back and got the van going before the rush to leave.
          Jessica sat behind Michael. He pointed up to the sky where the cloud of balloons bobbed on up.


Thomas Cannon



Thomas Cannon's story about his son is the lead story in Cup of Comfort for Parents of Children with Autism.   His humorous novel The Tao of Apathy is available on Amazon. He is published in: The Battered Suitcase, Midwestern Gothic, On the Premises, Freedom Fiction Journal, Corvus Review and others. He is the cohost of the local TV show Author Showcase in Oshkosh, WI and each year he is part of the planning committee for the Lakefly Writers Conference

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