A Glibertarians Exclusive – The River I
Sunday: Three days until impact
Astronomers had named the space-going rock 4292-Arawn, after the Celtic god of the underworld. It carried this name because it was a world-killer, almost nine miles across, and it was on a collision course with Earth.
Most people simply called it the World-Killer. Nothing on Earth was expected to survive, not even cockroaches; the impact and its aftermath would reduce Earth to a smoking, molten ruin.
4292-Arawn was scheduled to make impact in three days. Ground Zero would be in Alabama, just east of the small town of Pollard, smack dab on the Conecuh River.
The locals in Pollard, accustomed to being ignored, suddenly found themselves the center of global attention, and were somewhat nonplussed.
Not the least of these was twenty-eight-year-old James Earl Davidson, who lived in an elderly Winnebago parked in the vacant lot he owned on the edge of town. Up until the news of the World-Killer, James had worked as a janitor and maintenance man in the Pollard-McCall Junior High School a few miles away. The school was closed now. Local parents saw little point, most wanted to spend the remaining time with their children.
James had no family. He was spending his time as he had always spent his non-work hours: In a lawn chair, either in front of his Winnebago or, as now, on the sandy banks of the Conecuh, usually with a bottle of Rebel Yell Bourbon or, if he was feeling like indulging himself, Jack Daniels.
James was a man of no real ambition. But now he had set one goal for himself: To enjoy the best front-row seat for the end of the world.
This Sunday morning, hot and humid as only southern Alabama can be, found James parked on a sandbar watching the Conecuh and half in the bag from Rebel Yell bourbon. He had just lifted the bottle for another small snort when he heard footsteps behind him.
“’Morning, Ty,” he said, without looking around.
“Jim,” his old childhood friend, Tyrone “call me Ty” Hoobler replied. “Sure is a good old hot day. Ain’t it?”
“Your Ma made you go on to church again this week?”
“You know it.” Ty placed his own lawn chair in the sand next to James. He sat down. James wordlessly handed him the bourbon bottle; Ty took a good drink. “Yeah,” he repeated, “You know it. She reckons its time to get ready for Judgement Day, you know? Says we ain’t got but a few days left.” He handed the bourbon bottle back.
“She might be right.”
“What if she is? Ain’t no Jesus getting us out of this. Your Mama would have said the same thing.”
“I s’pose she woulda.”
“Well,” Ty leaned back in his chair and looked up at the blue sky. On clear evenings, he had read, the World-Killer was now visible to the naked eye. He hadn’t looked. He didn’t want to see it until the last moments. “We sure as hell got front-row seats.”
“Best possible,” James agreed.
“What’d y’all do while I was in the church?”
“Didn’t sleep last night,” James answered his old friend. Nobody was sleeping much of late, so that was no surprise. “Went for a walk about sunup. Walked out to the highway, had some breakfast at the truck stop. Surprising how much traffic still on the highway, you know? Truckers still haulin’ stuff. The truck stop’s still open. Ol’ Sally Young, she’s still in there scrambling eggs and slingin’ hash. Anyways, once I’d et, I went back the house, got my chair and my bottle, and come on down here.”
“Funny, how folks just keep on doing what they do, what with all this. You’d figger people would be a bit more panicky about it. I’d say, ‘life goes on,’ but I guess it ain’t this time.”
“Women and children hardest hit,” James chuckled.
“Yeah,” Ty joshed, “Y’all’s white privilege ain’t gettin’ you outta this shit, is it?”
James snorted. “Some privilege. It done got me a double-wide trailer in Pollard and a job as a janitor.”
“And a meteor in the face. Black or white, ain’t nothing now.”
It was a common line of repartee between the two old friends, one white, one black, friends since kindergarten.
“Shoulda brought a fishing pole,” Ty said.
“S’pose so,” James replied. “Maybe tomorrow.”
“We’re fast runnin’ out of tomorrows, buddy.”
James looked up at the sky with a suspiciously narrowed gaze. The World-Killer wasn’t yet visible in daylight, but that wouldn’t last. “Maybe it just don’t feel real yet,” he offered.
“What? The meteor?”
“Yeah. Like I said, all these folks just going about their business. Hear tell there’s riots in some of the big cities, but out here? Folks just keepin’ on keepin’ on. That seem right to you?”
“What else?” Ty reached for the bourbon bottle and took another hit. “Panic? Run ‘round hollerin’ about the end of days? May as well go out with a little dignity. Wouldn’t you say?”
James took the bourbon bottle back. “May as well go out with a good load on, is what I say,” he replied.
“I’ve heard ideas I liked less,” Ty chuckled. “I’ve got some Jack Black at the house. I’ll bring it along tomorrow.”
“Good deal,” James said. He looked up at the sky again and took another hit of Rebel Yell. “Ain’t no sense in saving it for a special occasion or nothin’.”
The two old friends slumped down in their lawn chairs. In front of them, the muddy Conecuh flowed on.
What’s the matter with me
I don’t have much to say
Daylight sneakin’ through the window
And I’m still in this all-night cafe
Walkin’ to and fro beneath the moon
Out to where the trucks are rollin’ slow
To sit down on this bank of sand
And watch the river flow