Saturday, May 22, 5:50 pm.
I could tell you the reason why I’m presently walking the widow Pence’s dog has nothing at all to do with Harold Camping’s promise that the Rapture is mere minutes away, but I’d be lying. The truth is that I’m doing this precisely because we’re all going to die.
You’ve heard of Harold Camping, yes? Me neither. Not until this week, when the Drudge Report got hold of his story. Seems Mr. Camping, who runs some sort of religious broadcasting network in California, fancies himself a bit of a math whiz. He’s crunched the numbers and decided that according to the Bible, Saturday is the beginning of the end. Better hang on folks, he says, because this ain’t gonna be pretty.
This is what I’m thinking about while walking widow Pence’s dog—Buttercup is her name, a white poodle who looks like the business end of the mop I use on the wood floors in the house. She’s a happy dog, unlike her grouchy owner.
The problem with Buttercup in general and the widow Pence in particular began a few Saturdays ago. Ms. Pence had moved into the house down the road and minded her own business. There was no neighborliness about her. Rumor on the street was that she chased away a few neighborhood kids whose kickball had strayed into her front yard. That seemed to be the sum total of her social interaction.
She’s a non-waver too, which does not help her case. Neighbors wave to one another. It’s common courtesy. Ms. Pence was not interested in waving, much less saying hello. She walked Buttercup nightly around the block, their heads both high and pompous and their eyes fixed straight ahead.
So, Saturday a few weeks ago.
Busy day, lots to do, the first of which was to pile a load of trash and brush onto the back of my redneck hoopty truck and haul it all to the dump. I pulled out of the driveway and turned left—why it was left and not right I do not know, I can only assume God decided to teach me something—past the widow Pence’s house.
I assumed the white mass in the middle of the road was a bit of discarded trash whipped there by the wind, but then it moved. Wagged, actually.
She did not move, merely sat right there where she was and looked at me. I stopped ten feet in front of her, the hoopty’s engine growing, impatient, as if asking me what was going on and hurry up already because we had a lot to do that day.
I put the truck into neutral and gunned the engine, thinking that would be enough to scare her out of the middle of the road. No such luck. Tried the horn. Same result. She just sat there with her tongue out, which was likely because she was hot but I nonetheless took for mockery.
I couldn’t pull around her to either side; a boat and a car were blocking the way. So there I sat, my Saturday and my pride in peril because some little pansy dog wouldn’t get out of my way.
I stuck my head out the window. Said, “Hey dummy, get outta my way.”
So I tried louder, “I’m gonna squish you into a fluffy white pancake.”
At which point Buttercup sauntered toward her front yard. Not because of me, mind you. Because of the widow Pence. Who had been standing there watching and listening the whole time.
“You have some nerve, young man,” she said. “How dare you speak that way?”
What followed was not among my brighter moments. In deference to space and time, I’ll skip over that. Suffice it to say that by the time I pulled away, the widow Pence and I did not like each other. At all.
And that’s how it stood between us until this week, when I read about Mr. Harold Camping’s math skills. The truth is that I fully expect this world to chug on as it always has in the next ten minutes. If Jesus doesn’t know when the end is going to come, I doubt some guy with a pencil and a piece of paper does.
But still, the end will come. Sometime.
We don’t know when or where, but it’ll happen for each of us. We’d better be ready. Say the things we need to say, do the things we need to go. Love and make amends.
Which is why I walked over to the widow Pence’s house and apologized. Why I talked her into letting me take Buttercup for a walk. And why she is at this moment two steps in front of me on the leash, no doubt relishing in the snickers I’m getting from the other people on the street.
But that’s okay. Because if my end doesn’t come in the next few minutes, it will eventually. At least I’ll have one less thing on my mind when I go.