Phil Gulley Welcomes the Apocalypse
If you’re reading this, the world didn’t end. This past fall, a man in Danville assured me it would when I ran into him at the town library. He quoted from the book of Revelation, telling me we were living in the last days. I didn’t know the man well, but he seemed perfectly sincere, so on the off chance he was right, I thought it might be wise to put off a few things I had been planning to do when I believed my future was secure. But autumn and winter came and went, and here we are in spring, so it appears he was mistaken. Now I’m going to have to get with it and accomplish a few things.
Back in October, my neighbor Brian, who sells flooring, suggested I carpet my garage. It seemed like a good idea at the time, before I thought the world was ending, so I bought 10 boxes of carpet tiles from him. Then I went to the library, was informed of the apocalypse, and decided not to go through all the work of laying the tiles. They’re still stacked on my table saw. The carpet purchase was impulsive, like most of my acquisitions, and not the first time Brian has sold me something I don’t need. He has a knack for making you think you can’t live without whatever it is he’s peddling. He once sold a broken-down speedboat named The Lucky Lemon to our friend, who already had a boat. And I watched, mouth agape, as Brian sold a sidewalk edger I had given him just five minutes before to a man who didn’t have sidewalks. When the world does end, I know where Brian is going.
Right after I heard about the impending apocalypse, my gastroenterologist phoned to tell me it was time to have a colonoscopy. With Armageddon looming, medical procedures seemed pointless, so I told her not to worry about it. Then I invited her to visit our Quaker meeting, thinking she might want to get right with God. Now I’ve rescheduled my colonoscopy and I’m hoping she doesn’t show up at our church. It’s awkward giving a sermon when you know someone sitting in the congregation has seen your butt. There ought to be an atheist doctor in every town for the pastors to go to. Speaking of pastors and doctors, I wonder if Benny Hinn, the TV evangelist who purportedly heals people, goes to a physician when he’s sick, or if he just heals himself. You can probably guess by my use of the word “purportedly” that I think Benny is a quack. I wouldn’t be surprised if the man at the library got his idea about the end of the world from him.
Twelve years ago, I used exterior house paint that was guaranteed for life against cracking, flaking, and fading. This past fall, I noticed the paint was cracking, flaking, and fading, and I realized I would have to paint the house again. You can imagine how pleased I was to learn the world was ending. But when it became clear we were going to stick around a bit longer, I went to the paint store, where the salesman pointed out the small print on the paint can that listed all the exceptions to the lifetime guarantee, several of which applied to me. Now I won’t be getting my money back and still have to paint my house. Knowing my luck, it will turn out the man in the library wasn’t entirely wrong, just off by a few months, and the world will end just after I’ve painted the last clapboard.
This spring, I’m scheduled to deliver several lectures at a university. Back when things were iffy in the future department, I suggested they pay me in advance, which they did. I felt pretty smart, pulling one over on a university, getting paid for lectures I wouldn’t have to give. Now I feel like an idiot because I haven’t written the speeches and have no idea what to say.
And that’s not even the worst of my problems. With the world ending, I decided to take our retirement savings and bet on the ponies, which didn’t pan out. It turns out I’m a poor judge of racehorses. I have maybe 10 years of work left in me, so if the world doesn’t end in the next decade or I don’t die, I’m in a lot of trouble when my wife finds out. You know you have problems if your retirement plan is based on the hope you’ll kick the bucket the same week you work your last day. Though I have always relied heavily upon good luck in meeting my financial goals, I might be stretching matters this time.
To be sure, there have been some advantages to the world not ending. Every fall, I carry our wicker porch furniture down to the basement—a swing, a couch, two chairs, three rockers, and three tables. It’s a lot of work, and I usually fall down the stairs and bust my head open or break a leg. So when I was anticipating the arrival of the seven-headed beast of Revelation, I decided to leave the furniture out all winter, since I wouldn’t be needing it again. Now it’s spring and my porch furniture is all set up, right where I left it, thanks to the library man.
When the man first told me the world was ending, I was relieved. Things had been going really well for me, and the thought of ending on a high note had a certain appeal. Plus, I bought some land a few years ago and owe the bank a gob of money. Sticking it to the bank is one of the best feelings in the world, so that cheerful thought carried me right through the winter, lifting my spirits each time I went to make the monthly payment. “See you next month,” I would say to Beverly, the bank teller. “Then again, maybe not!”
It’s a sobering thought to contemplate our end, until you realize it would make very little difference to anyone but us. Astronomers say there are more than 100 billion planets in our galaxy, which itself is just one of about 100 billion galaxies in the universe. The world will go right on without us, just as it did after the dinosaurs died off. With us gone, another higher life form will likely evolve in a few million years. It probably won’t look anything like us, since the environment that shapes it will differ significantly from the one that shaped us. Nevertheless, I bet there will be some nimrod constantly going around telling everyone the world is ending, and some idiot like me will believe him and not paint his house or carry his porch furniture down to the basement, then be in trouble with his wife. Even though our replacements won’t look anything like us, I’m betting the male of the species will irritate the female of the species. Some things seem likely to survive even the apocalypse.