Last Friday night, I kissed all of my children, tucked them in, said my prayers and went to bed. Sometime later, something awoke me. Bright light streamed in the window. Sounds -- birds, a television, voices arguing. I looked at my cell phone. 8:38. Morning. We were still here. Not here, as in Tybee Island, but here, as in not in heaven. I got up, made breakfast, drank a cup of coffee, resolved not to use my fuss voice and got ready to go to the beach to await the end. There was no better day than this, I decided, to start living right.
Thus, I must apologize for the condition of today's column. It's not my best work. I put it off like a school child in the Deep South skipping homework in the face of the weatherman's forecast of a chance of snow; it probably won't happen but why risk doing the unnecessary. I put it off because, according to Harold Camping, 89 year-old president of the Family Radio Network, the world was supposed to end on Saturday. Though I harbored skepticism, there was no sense in writing a column that might never be read.
With complete disregard for my responsibilities, I packed up the kids Friday morning and drove to Tybee. I couldn't think of a better place to be when the world ends. Just to be clear, I didn't put much credence in Camping's call for the apocalypse. I've always thought of it as a dramatic convergence of human, atmospheric and geologic unraveling, that people see coming but choose to ignore.
Camping's mathematical acrobatics and media campaign didn't fit. End-time calculations are muddled by design, to keep us on our toes. The science is tricky. Lots of people have tried to name the precise day and time and all of them have gotten it wrong. Camping himself has been wrong twice now.
But I took a chance. I didn't compose a column.
Based on Tybee's scarcity of parking Saturday, I concluded that the rapture hadn't yet happened. Either that or I'd picked one of the most hedonistic places in Georgia to attend Judgment Day. Either way, we would get in at least one more good day at the beach. I lounged on the sand, took in the ocean view, inhaled the summery smell of sunscreen, read my book.
Then, a sudden shadow fell over my page. I felt the cold drip of the sky on my shoulder. This is it, I thought, bracing myself for a naked whoosh straight to eternity. Then a voice from above said, "I'm hungry. Did we bring anything to eat?"
I pointed to the cooler. My heart pounded like I'd skidded to a stop at an unanticipated four-way intersection.
Not long after, I heard the wing beat of Armageddon, swooping in closer. Children on the beach ran and pointed and, being innocent with no questionable personal histories to blight their souls, looked joyful in the face of earthly destruction. I froze, afraid to look the end in the eyes.
A Coast Guard helicopter made a slow pass north up the beach. A close call, I thought, returning to my book.
Saturday night, I kissed my children, tucked them in, said my prayers and went to bed. There was still time for a thief in the night.
Sunday I woke up and eyed my surroundings. No streets of gold. No ethereal cloud. I groaned like a school child waking to no snow, "I've got to write that column."
(Lucy Adams is the author of Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run . She lives in Thomson. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.IfMama.com.)