You would think the end of the world would happen all at once, you know kind of like what you see in the movies. Some military-type standing in front of half the military with a bullhorn announcing: “Alright, gentle folk! This is the big ‘un. We’re going over there, and we’re gonna wipe ‘em out. This is for our children, and their children, and so on and so forth!” But that’s not how it happened at all.
When I returned to work on Monday morning, I was stopped at the gate by a security guard named Joe. Nobody knew Joe’s last name, we just called him Joe. He stopped me a few feet from the main gate and pulled down his glasses and gave me a look-over.
“You don’t look ill, Mr. Jake.”
“No, sir. I don’t feel sick.”
“I heard about your trick on Friday. They said you nailed it.”
“Yeah, it was something special, Joe. Why are you stopping me from going in?”
“Oh yeah, that. Um, one of the sound people came out ‘ere and said some of the production team was puking up the place.”
“Yeah, Mr. Jake. They said ain’t nobody coming in until they know what’s going on.”
“Alright, then. Should I stick around?”
“I don’t rightly know. They might get it cleared up, or maybe they’ll send y’all home.”
“We can only hope.”
“I hear you, boss man.”
I pulled out my keys and turned around to leave, when I heard a familiar sound. It was Ted’s truck. He like the way it sounded without an exhaust, and he refused to comply with the environmental regulations.
“Let ‘em fine me, I don’t care about the stupid environment.”
You couldn’t argue with Ted. He was excitable, and when he got rolling you couldn’t stop him. So, more times than not, it was best to avoid getting him wound up. He parked in a handicap spot and jumped out.
“Hey, Jake! What are you doing outside?”
“Do you know that you parked in a handicap spot?”
“You’re not handicapped, dude.”
“Screw ‘em. Let ‘em fine me.”
“Why are you outside?”
“Because Ted. Someone is sick inside.”
“What kind of sick? Vomit, sick? Or drug overdose, sick?”
I shrugged my shoulders, and Ted brushed past me. Joe sat in the little shack, a phone to his ear. Ted banged on the window until Joe looked up.
“What,” Joe snapped.
“What kind of sick is it? Can we go home?”
Joe motioned at the phone and waved Ted off. That didn’t sit well with Ted. He came over and punched me on the shoulder.
“Dude! Joe won’t tell me nothing!”
“Probably because he’s on the phone, brother.”
“We didn’t have this problem in war. If a dude couldn’t multi-task it was because he was dead.”
“Hard to multi-task with a bullet stuck in your brain pan.”
“Yep,” I said. “That’s the truth of it.”
Joe walked out to us. He gave Ted an ugly look, sort of like that look your momma gave you when you disobeyed her about eating candy before dinner, and then said:
“It’s bad in there. Y’all can go on home. They’ll call you when it’s time to come back to work.”
“They got any kind of timeframe,” I asked, but Joe shook his head.
“No. The person who called the gate said it was contagious. Most of the people inside were ‘xhibiting symptoms.”
“What kind of symptoms,” Ted yelled. Joe and I both grimaced. Ted had no idea what an ‘indoor voice’ was, and even if he had, he wouldn’t have used it.
“They thought it was allergies,” Joe said, wringing his cap between his two massive hands, “but now, they’re struggling to breathe. They said it’s escalating.”
“Well, ain’t nothing I can do for them,” Ted said. “Y’all call me when it’s safe to come back to work.”
Joe and I watched as Ted walked to his truck. An old lady in a Bentley with a handicapped license plate watched as Ted got into the truck. We watched as she climbed out of the Bentley and walked up to the truck. She rapped on the window with her cane, Ted rolled down the window.
“Are you handicapped,” the woman snapped at Ted.
“Maybe mentally,” Joe muttered under his breath. I guffawed and waited for Ted’s reaction.
Ted has two speeds, he overreacts and the second is, HE OVERREACTS. The old woman banged her cane against the door while waiting for Ted to say something. From where Joe and I stood, we had a front row seat.
“WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
The old woman backed up as Ted leapt from the driver’s seat. Ted snatched the cane out of the old woman’s hand as he closed on the Bentley.
“Now, you look here…”
Ted banged the cane against the driver window and hollered, “how you like that, old woman? Do you like people banging on your junk?”
Joe and I cracked up watching Ted bang that wooden cane with an expensive jewel at the head of it against that expensive vehicle. The old woman paled as she watched as Ted acted a fool. Joe pulled out his cell just in case the old woman had a heart attack.
“I’m sorry,” the old woman yelled. “Is that what you want me to say?”
“I don’t give a hoot what you say, old woman. Don’t hit my truck no more,” he hollered. Then, he threw the old woman’s cane in the drainage ditch, climbed in his truck, and sped out of the parking lot. Joe doubled over with laughter.
“That boy ain’t got bat sense,” he snickered.
“If you think that’s bad,” I told Joe, “You should have seen him at war. He was unstoppable. If you don’t mind Joe, call me when they get this sorted out. Here’s my number,” I said, handing him my card.
“Will do. Maybe it won’t take too long.”
I didn’t know about anybody else, but I loved my job. Time off was nice but jumping speeding cars was about as close as I had come to replicating the rush a soldier gets from combat. Drugs hadn’t done it for me, neither had alcohol. Even if I had slept with a beautiful starlet every night, it wouldn’t have come close.
There wasn’t nothing left for me to do, so I went home. My extra bedroom in my two-bedroom apartment was converted into a library. I logged my thoughts into my journal.
On the 30th of April, I wrote and circled: Apocalypse?