Pete and I first became friends at Chaney High School in Youngstown, Ohio. The bond has held through four decades and multiple cross-country relocations. The last time I saw Pete was in the summer of ’09 at our 40-yr. Chaney reunion where we jumped right into an easy banter as if we chatted every day. That night he confided that he and his wife, Jana, had gotten heavily into the teachings of one Harold Camping. Mr. Camping is the major proponent of the idea that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the accompanying Rapture, when all the Faithful will be bodily transported up to heaven, will occur on May 21st, 2011.
   When he let this bombshell drop, the big day was almost two years away, but since it’s only about ten weeks from now I wanted to check in with my old buddy to see how he’s coping. I had called him on Jan.1st to wish him a happy new year, but after a few rings a weird, loud sireny sound kicked in, like a miniature ambulance trapped in the receiver. I didn’t know what to make of that. Was Pete living “off the grid” in a subterranean bunker at an undisclosed location somewhere? Had he installed a non-believer repellent filter on his outgoing message? Was he walking the streets of his new hometown of Palm Springs, CA, with a hand-made sign exhorting local heathens to “REPENT!” ?
    I tried reaching him again this week. I was happy to hear Pete pick up after a couple of rings, sounding his same old self. I was also happy to hear that I’d interrupted him as he was painting his living room. That, I figured, was not an activity I would associate with a guy who’s getting ready to be whisked into the hereafter in a couple of months.
The easy banter showed up right on cue: He told me about Jana’s inroads in the local art scene. He enthused about how great his new Bose system sounded. We talked politics. (His Lefty leanings jibe with mine, in stark contrast to the stereotypically right-wing politics of most fundamentalist Christians.)
    I told him that if I believed The End was imminent I’d probably be spending my time on something of a bit more epic nature than painting the living room …Did this mean he was backing off on the May 21st expiration date? “Nope”, he said, “I just want to leave it looking nice.” I applauded his decision to remain fully engaged in the day-to-day. Had he made any lifestyle changes, I wondered? “Just one”, says Pete—“I left my job in June and have been getting unemployment.’’
    When he asked me about the latest developments in my life I started telling him how much fun Susan and I have been having planning our once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris and Rome in the fall. He listened and interjected sincere-sounding “oohs” and “aahs” in appropriate places.
    All in all it was a very pleasant catching-up conversation and it wasn’t until an hour or so after I’d hung up did the folly sink in. He’d been supportive of my trip, all the time thinking that the world as we know it won’t even exist in six months. I’d been supportive of his Doomsday, I’m-going-to-heaven-and-you’re-not scenario, meanwhile thinking the poor guy’s gone off the deep end. Just two old pals enjoying the easy banter.


© 2019 Tom Manche