This is the week a lot of people have been waiting for. Is the Mayan calendar correct? Will the world end Friday? Should I make sure my will’s up to date … just in case? Or would that be acting out an oxymoron?
I mention this because if it ends this week, this could be my last column. Even if I do survive, there could be few or no readers left. Just in case, I already wrote my next two. After all, what’s a columnist to do?
Returning from my native Pennsylvania recently, I recalled a conversation two seniors had who were a bit long in the tooth. They were living out their golden years in peace and tranquility in the eastern foothills of the Keystone State. Clarence, a dedicated worrier, was a semiretired author who farmed occasionally. His wife, Zoe Bobbie Jo, was normal and a homemaker who designs men’s handkerchiefs on the side.
As the temperature inched toward the freezing mark, their hound, Hot Dog, curled up by Clarence near a roaring fire.
“ ‘Something for no one.’ It’s my new book,” he told Hot Dog. “By the way, some lady called this morning,” he casually mentioned to his wife. “Something about New Year’s Eve reservations. We going?”
“Not my call,” Zoe Bobbie Jo answered as she knitted. “That’s yours. Just remember, last year you fell asleep at the table and woke up with a startle when everyone sang ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ You’re not as young as you used to be.”
“Hmm. Indeed. And an expensive way to get naps.”
“Speak for yourself, ol’ man,” Zoe Bobbie Jo said. “It wasn’t me sleeping. I was just resting my eyes, waiting for you to wake up.”
Clarence digested her every word.
And then, with a look of panic on his face, he sputtered, “I’m not sure how to tell you, Honey, because I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
“Why do men start conversations in the middle of thoughts?” his wife asked no one in particular. Hot Dog wagged his tail in agreement. “When did I ever earn a college degree in mind reading? From the beginning, Clarence! From the very beginning, please.”
“OK,” he mumbled. “It’s just that my mind’s been preoccupied with events that are supposed to happen near the end of the year. So this may be my final book. That is, if I can get it finished. That, and I suppose there’s no need to do any Christmas shopping.”
“The no shopping doesn’t surprise me,” she fired back. “You always were a Scrooge. But leaving your publisher? Of course, I can understand how that first action might play havoc with the second. But you’ve been writing for 45 years and you’ve always loved it. Why? Was it something I said?”
Page 2 of 3 - “I do love it,” he answered. “Writing’s very soothing to my spirit. But if what happens actually happens when they say it happens, it’ll then happen four days before the yule happens.”
Clarence tried explaining it in as simplified a way as he knew how.
“Unless, of course it doesn’t happen!”
“You had me up to the second ‘happens,’” she said. “Let’s backtrack. Start again.”
Giving him her undivided attention, she set her work aside.
“It all happens on Dec. 21,” he said. “You know what that means?”
“Of course I do,” Zoe Bobbie Jo answered. “Everyone knows. And it couldn’t happen sooner.”
He looked at her quizzically.
“It means snow, hot chocolates, chestnuts roasting on open fires, sleigh rides, snow angels, the yule and more,” she continued. “It’s the winter solstice. The first day of winter. The shortest day of the year. From then on, all the days get longer.”
“No, no, no!” he quickly corrected. “That’s when it all ends, Honey. It’s the end of the world! And if it ends then, why spend money Christmas shopping when there won’t be a Christmas? Why write books that will never be published and why keep financial records when we won’t be around next year to file income taxes?”
She looked at him oddly, as if he were trying to explain why a baker’s dozen is 13 and not 12. Admitting she was thrilled with not having to file taxes, she nevertheless reminded him the 21st is a Friday.
“Why not a Monday?” she asked. “At least we’d have the weekend. Besides, my church blanket group meets that day. What time is all this supposed to happen?”
“In the evening,” he said. “About 11:11. Good grief, Sugar, we get three supermarket tabloids, the Farmer’s Daily for grain and feed costs and the weekly Grit. Don’t you ever read?”
“Just your books,” she answered. “I figure if it’s that important, you’d include it in one. Besides, life’s short, so why waste precious time?”
She took a sip of hot chocolate and continued.
“Is that Eastern, Central, Mountain or Pacific Standard Time? And how’s this end scenario supposed to happen?”
“Greenwich Mean Time,” he answered. “And according to John, an Internet writer who claims to be an ‘expert’ but doesn’t give his last name or where he’s from, he says science gives many scenarios. Yellowstone could erupt into a volcanic explosion in minutes. It would make Mount St. Helens’ blowup either look like a Bic lighter or those Portage Lakes fireworks that we saw last July. It would cause enormous asteroids, violent solar activity and the emergence of a planet called Nibiru, which no one seems to have heard of before now. Even the devastating possibility of planetary alignment has been studied by world scientists.”
Page 3 of 3 - She stared at him blankly.
“Is this John another of those goofy California prophets who hope to get rich on phony predictions?” she asked, suddenly starting to see the light. “Remember that one minister about a year ago, who predicted the world would end on May 21 and to send him your money? When it failed to happen he gave some silly excuse, and then it started all over when he moved the date up to Oct. 21.”
He nodded his head.
“Yes, but this has nothing to do with him. Besides, when he woke up the next day, he retired from the prediction business and either went into pearl diving, some other line of restaurant work or checked into some old folks’ home. No dear, this was predicted hundreds of years ago on a calendar made by the Mayans of Central America.”
“Oh, before I forget, here’s today’s mail,” she said as if she hadn’t heard a word of her husband’s explanation. “Here are bills due on the 23rd. Make sure they’re paid by the 20th. You know how I hate calls from bill collectors over the holidays.
“And those New Year’s Eve reservations have to be in by 5. Where are you going?” she asked as he opened the front door.
“Be right back.” He kissed her on the cheek and, as he was leaving, said, “Gotta make sure our will’s up to date!”
I suppose I could wish everyone a very Merry Christmas now. But I think I’ll just wait until next week.
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