The End of the World (Isn’t Good for You)

I will be presenting a collaboration with Gregory Hischak tomorrow night at Richard Hugo House on the topic of “The End.”

Here is an illustration of the first stage of the End of the World Sequence:


My mailbox was flattened that October, not like mailbox baseball, but flattened like a steam roller had passed over the metal post, leaving it crushed into the clover and gravel growing in the no man land region between the curb and the fence edging my yard.

My first thought was that I had enemies that I didn’t know about. The enemies lurked in front of their plasma TV screens with the curtains drawn. Only the faint blue light leaked out at the edges of their drapes. I lived near a highway that is often described in the local media as “an abandoned strip of highway.” As if even the traffic that pours across the highway isn’t really aware of where it is passing, as if even though this strip of highway passes through decades old planned unit developments, edged with unfinished furniture stores and motels, it is still wilderness.

This was another thought: my crushed mailbox was a warning.

I began to look for whoever had committed this crime against me. The mailbox itself had been targeted. There weren’t tire tracks. A drunk driver would have left tracks. A drunk driver would have been unable to hit the target with such precision. The fence would have been damaged. Less malicious activity would have left evidence.

In a short period of time, though, an epidemic of other apparently unrelated acts swept the neighborhood. I ignored the signs because I do not believe in prophecies.

A swarm of possums gushed down the middle of the street at ten thirty Wednesday morning. The entire street filled with slick and furry white bodies with pink noses. Where the possums came from and where they went I don’t know. Many were hit on the abandoned strip of highway. Their carcasses attracted swarms of crows. For several days the din was unbearable.

In the middle of the night, half my neighbors disappeared. Since I wasn’t aware of their activity, their disappearance didn’t alarm me until their dogs went unfed. Three days after the event — marked only by the darkness in the evening as plasmas TVs were not turned on — dogs began to escape their chains and backyard kennels and look for food. Those of us who hadn’t disappeared marked the change in circumstance by calling animal control. In the morning, I rushed out to our cars before the dogs noticed us.

A blue van playing “Pop Goes the Weasel” drove through the abandoned suburb and children didn’t rush out to great it because many of the children were no longer present or if they were, they hid from the packs of dogs.

We were all more afraid than we normally were.


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