—Jesus, said Frank, where the hell is he?
Gordon, with his best friend Frank, sat on the bench by the concession stand at Green Lakes State Park where they always sat, and stared at his Bon Jovi tickets in awe.
—I mean, seriously, two o’ clock is not a difficult time to make. Or maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know, am I wrong, is it difficult?
There were only two weeks left until the big show, and he was ready. In two weeks, hundreds of millions of people would flock from all over the world to see their favorite arena-rock star. And he would be right there with them. And even though all those other people would be there in the arena, they’d still save him a spot. Because yesterday he bought his tickets. Yes sir, one hundred dollars a pop. And no nose-bleed section seats like before. This time he did his homework.
—And yeah, I know, he’s trying to hook up with that girl, and they really hit it off and whatever, but shit. You know, I’m getting really sick of them getting on my ass about how we can never win one goddamned game. Not one.
It was so close he could feel it deep inside the inner core of his being, He felt it so deep he wished that things could be felt deeper than inside the inner core of one’s own being so that he could feel it even deeper now. He would approach the turnstile, where the nice three-hundred-fifty pound man waits, with those black wand things that squeak when you try to bring in guns. He would hand the man his precious ticket, and the man would rip it in half and tell him he’s all set. He would enter the venue and the lights would go down and people would start cheering and then the opening band would start.
—Well, I suppose tardiness doesn’t have a direct effect on performance, but still…
The opening band will probably not be very good. He would have to remember to bring some rotten vegetables with him just in case. He’ll wonder why Bon Jovi wanted them to open for him in the first place. Maybe he’s not very smart. No, that can’t be. He already has the musical prowess to keep up a lucrative, multi-million dollar career in arena-rockitude, so he’s got to have some pretty impressive brain power.
—But still, I mean, if there’s no focus, you know, if your mind’s not on the game, on the matter at hand, you know, if you aren’t thinking about…
Maybe it was some kind of secret strategy he had. Maybe, as a general rule, he deliberately signs on mediocre opening bands. That way, his audience, riled up by sub-par rocking, gets really anxious for a non-sub-par rocking, and that’s when he turns up the rockulidge. Yes, he knew it, Bon Jovi had smarts. Yes sir, when the opening band leaves amid the derisive jeers of himself and the rest of the hundreds of millions of audience, that’s when the lights go down a second time, and the hundreds of millions of audience suddenly stop their jeers and trade them for cheers made in earnest, please sir, please Mr. Jovi, please rock us, and rock us hard. Then, the pyrotechnics will erupt on each side and Bon Jovi will appear next to the microphone, guitar strapped on and in hand, and Ritchie Sambora will appear next to him and he’ll sing in Bon Jovi’s microphone sometimes too, because they don’t give him his own microphone probably because he’s not Bon Jovi, and he’ll have his guitar strapped on and in hand as well, and the other musicians in the band will all appear too and take their places at their own instruments. And Bon Jovi will walk up to the microphone and say hey everybody I just heard those cheers you’ve all been making for the past fifteen minutes. Word on the street is you’re all in the mood for a giant, heaping, piping-hot helping of ROCK. And by rock, he’ll helpfully add, I don’t mean those hard substances composed of mineral that can consist in particulate form or in large form such as mountains, tectonic plates or planets, but the colloquial term used to describe the type of loud, aggressive music played with the emphasis on the second and fourth beats of a measure with a prominent vocal melody and accompaniment by electric guitar, bass guitar and drums. And the audience will cheer, yes, yes, that’s the kind of rock we want to hear, none of that tectonic stuff. Then he’ll approach his microphone even closer than he did the first time and say, are you ready to ROCK? At this most people will say yes, but a few stragglers will say, oops, not me, not yet, hold on, and strap on their protective seatbelts so the massive cosmic power of rock won’t launch them to Venus and fasten on their protective helmets so their heads won’t blow up due to the massive cosmic power of rock emitted during a typical Bon Jovi rock concert. After about a minute or two, the crowd will say, alright Mr. Jovi sir, now we’re all ready to rock, and then Mr. Jovi and Mr. Sambora and Messrs. the rest of the people in the band will strike the first chord! At that moment a few unfortunate concertgoers, a little too lax in their seatbelt or helmet preparations, will wake up the next morning either in Venus or without a head, but the rest of us, yes sir, the rest of us will be LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER! Tommy used to work on the docks with his six-string in hock and Gina brings home her pay from the man at the diner where she works all day and dreams of running away but don’t cry in the night Gina don’t cry in the night you’ve got to hold on to what you got and give it a shot and hold on to your pay from the man and live for the fight when it’s all that you’ve got and then they stop and then they sing the chorus in a higher key than they did befoooore…
Gordon sat up from the bench and, while his left fist held the precious tickets, pumped his right fist like he was pumping the heaviest dumbbell in the world, the dumbbell of rock. He soon after found himself sitting up from the bench by the concession stand at Green Lakes State Park, where they always sat. Frank paced back and forth in front of the bench and flipped his Frisbee up in the air, his flip-flops flapping and dragging sand across the pavement. He dropped his Frisbee, bent down to pick it up, and turned toward Gordon.
—I mean, am I wrong, here, Gordon? Can I get an amen or something?
—Were you listening to a word I was saying?
—The chorus. It modulated…
Frank let out a sigh and threw the Frisbee onto the pavement. Gordon sat back down on the bench.
—Right here this is exactly what I’m talking about Gordon I’m telling you. There’s no focus. We just, you know… Eyes on the prize, that’s what they say, right?
He walked over to the nearby blue cooler where they kept their snacks and pulled out a bag of potato chips.
—Who says that, Frank?
—I don’t know, gym teachers I guess, sometimes, or people who win Ultimate Frisbee games. Eyes on the prize, they’ve got that on the shirts they wear and stuff.
Frank and Gordon looked out into the sand, out where the opposing team, their eyes on the prize, underwent their usual rigorous regiment of Ultimate Frisbee calisthenics, reviewed and rehearsed Ultimate Frisbee plays they found advantageous, discussed and discarded Ultimate Frisbee plays they found disadvantageous, all the while looking forward to a sound victory against their opposing team, whose eyes at that moment were not on the prize, but on their opposing team.
—I mean, look at that shit. Theyffrg grfofth drfflghth.
—I don’t know, Frank. Things might turn around today.
—Thf frghthigth hethlth thywifth. Igthfth, shtfth thergthfothigth!
—You really think so?
—You bet your ass I do. I’m really sick of them getting on my ass. Really sick of it.
—It’s not so bad. I mean, it’s all in good fun.
—Ngth nogth ith fhgtrhhgth gthfgn!
Gordon heard another pair of feet flapping and scratching across the sandy pavement and looked over his shoulder.
—Gth wth thegthfth dtcfthafg, anftythgt kthrfty… and instead we’re sitting here, sitting with our thumbs up our asses, no focus on the game, sitting here waiting for…
—Jamie’s here, Frank.
—Hey guys. Sorry I’m late.
—It’s about time. Where the hell were you?
—Hey, Jamie, guess what? I got the tickets!
—I mean, seriously, is two ‘o clock that difficult of a time to make?
—That’s cool, Gordon. How are they?
—Oh, they’re incredible seats. Yes sir, I sure did my homework this time, no nosebleed seats like last time. One hundred dollars a pop.
—Awesome. Hey, that reminds me, I guess I owe you. Here… Oh, duh. My wallet’s still in my pants, I was going to try and reach into the back pocket of my shorts. Isn’t that funny? Because there is no back pocket, you see?
—Are you listening to a goddamned word I’m saying?
—Yes, yes, I’m listening. I said I was sorry I’m late.
—Well, shit. That’s wonderful that you’re sorry, and now the whole world has your permission to go ‘round again, but, you know, I’m real sick of them getting on my ass about us never winning a game.
—Well, you know what they say, after all. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, as long as there’s no “I” in team.
—Well, if it’s any of your business, I had to talk to Becky before I came here.
—I saw that on somebody’s shirt too.
—Oh, Jesus, I knew it.
—Oh, Jesus, you knew what?
—You know, I knew it.
—Wait, that’s not right.
—You know, if everyone else in the world were as preoccupied with reproduction as you were, there’d be no progress. We’d all still be living in caves, you know, foraging for berries and animal carcasses.
—What does that have to do with anything?
—I’m saying, there’s more to life than, I’m saying, that–
—It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s, how you use it?
—Well, I bet you’ll be happy to know that I won’t be seeing her much anymore.
—No. Hm, this is hard.
—What do you mean? What happened?
—She turned me down today. That’s why I was late.
—Really? I thought you said you guys hit it off.
—Yeah, we did. But she’s a Christian. She only goes out with other Christians. And nothing until marriage either. No kissing, holding hands…
—Wait a minute. Weren’t you raised Catholic? Doesn’t that make you a Christian?
—Do you really think it makes any more sense to me?
—Well, shit. That, that really just…
—Wait, whose getting married, guys?
—Come on, she’s not a succubus, Frank.
—What’s a succubus?
—You know, you hit it off really well, and she leads you on like that, and then just because you’re Catholic, she…
—A succubus is a demon that appears in the shape of a voluptuous woman with the intent to ensnare an innocent man into eternal perdition by means of seduction and fornication. Look, Frank, It’s not like that. She’s just, you know, married to Jesus, that’s all.
—She told you that? Jesus I hate Christians!
For a moment everything was revealed to Jamie. Holy seals were opened, trumpets were sounded, bowls were poured. People burned in great wildfires, drowned in rivers of blood, were tormented by locusts, wandered in darkness, died of plagues, earthquakes, lightning flashes, rumblings, peals of thunder, hailstorms, angels who were granted permission to kill a third of the population by God, etc. The Antichrist was apparently Steven Gilhurst of 72 Shacksbush Drive, Barkhamstead, CT. It didn’t matter all that much, however, since he and the rest of the world were killed off in the monumental battle between the forces of God and Satan, Armageddon. The sheer force of the clashes between angel and demon created even more earthquakes, lightning flashes, rumblings, etc., than ever before. Hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of trillions of quadrillions of celestial and infernal beings fell from the sky like flies hitting an electric insect killer. Years passed, and the battle raged on, because to supernatural beings like angels and demons, a year feels like nothing more than a moment. And finally, the battle was down to one angel and one demon. They both put up quite a fight, but soon the angel plunged his sword into the demon’s belly. However, before the angel could proclaim victory, he suffered from a massive coronary and died on the spot. After that there was nothing left.
—So I wonder if this counts as a loss.
Jamie found himself sprawled on the sand of the Green Lakes State Park, where he very rarely ever found himself sprawled out, surrounded by teammates and opposing players, their eyes, in lieu of the prize, fixated on him.
—I mean, the game isn’t over yet, right guys? Technically we’re not done yet. Technically this is just a time-out that hasn’t been called a time-in yet, right?
—You know, Frank, you sure knocked him out pretty good.
—I did not! He must have hit his head on a rock or driftwood or something on the way down. You can’t knock someone out with a plastic Frisbee, give me a break!
—I just hope he’ll be able to go to the show now.
Jamie attempted to rise to his feet and felt a stabbing pain in the back of his head. The opposing team rushed to his side and told him to take it easy, give him some room, and get him some ice.
—See? He’s putting it on the back of his head, and I hit him with the Frisbee, I distinctly hit him, on his forehead! So there!
The opponents, the well-being of their injured opponent adequately seen to, huddled together, mumbled to themselves and, consensus reached, turned to Frank.
—So look, Frank. I think this is a draw.
—A draw. That’s good. It means we won too! So what’s our record?
—It’s a draw, stupid, not a tie. It means neither of us won. See you losers tomorrow. Hope you get better, Jamie.
The decision relayed, the opponents took their leave, mumbling and laughing at various insults too quiet to hear but, all things considered, probably pertained to Frank in some way.
—So neither of us won. That’s okay I guess. It means we didn’t lose either.
—Guys. I have to tell you something.
Frank and Gordon found Jamie on two feet, still clutching the ice-pack to his head.
—Hey Jamie, you’ve come back. Good news, we didn’t lose this time.
—Guys, I’m really worried about us.
—Don’t worry about it. That crack on the head of yours did us some good after all.
—Yeah, and at least now you’ll still be able to come to the show.
—No, it’s not that… Alright, look. I saw something just now, and, well… the apocalypse is coming.
—And I’m not sure if we’re all going to be raptured when it happens, so we should–
—Oh, Jesus Christ, Jamie…
—Don’t say that! You’ll bring about the apocalypse faster!
—Alright, Jamie, look, this isn’t you, this is the crack on your head talking, okay?
—No, it’s true! I saw the end of the world!
—Jamie, you’re not making any sense. I mean, seriously, some things are not worth a girl. If you tell a girl you’ve seen the apocalypse, I don’t care how devout they are, it’s really not something they go moist over…
Forget these men.
—What? I said, I was telling you…
—Forget what? What are you talking about, Jamie? Jesus, I’m trying to tell you…
These men are useless to me. Forget them, I said.
—Alright, what should I do then?
—I’m trying to tell you what you should do. You have to forget this…
Come walk with me.
—I have to go, you guys.
—Jamie! Where are you going?
—I have to go walk with God.
—Walk with God? You’re not even a Christian! You’re… Catholic!
Jamie was indeed raised in the Roman Catholic Church; however, his friend’s riposte was unheard as he began his stroll with God. Frank sighed and turned to Gordon.
—Wow. Can you believe that, Gordon?
—I think Catholics are Christians, Frank.
That afternoon Jamie walked with the Lord along the Green Lakes State Park beach, where the Lord always walked with people. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene Jamie noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonging to his own feet and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of his life flashed before him he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of his life. This really bothered him, and he questioned the Lord about it.
—Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. However, I noticed that during the most troublesome times of my life there was only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed you most, you would leave me.
My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.
—I didn’t know that.
Well, you do now.
—I guess so.
—Hey, thanks, by the way.
Don’t mention it.
—But I never felt like I was being carried. I could have sworn I’d feel something like that.
What can I say, I’m a pretty discreet carrier. That’s just how I carry. I carry a good five hundred people a day, so I’ve pretty much got my carrying technique down pat.
A time out called, Frank joined his friend Gordon, sitting by the blue cooler where they always kept their snacks, for a short break in the proceedings of Ultimate Frisbee at the Green Lakes State Park, where they always played Ultimate, etc. He grasped a bottle of hydrating sports drink, blue like the cooler it resided in, and sat down next to Gordon, who was whistling the dramatic modulation that occurred at the end of his favorite song. Why do people cling to feeble dreams, Frank thought. Stupid to hope for anything good to happen to you in this, or any life.
—We’ll give it a shot…
Most people have dreams. Want to be a rock star, or Hollywood actor. Maybe want to win a Frisbee game once in a while. Won’t ever happen. People cling to them anyway, all they have sometimes. Why? Tragic really.
—Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear…
Strange. Don’t ever remember him liking Bon Jovi. Don’t remember most of America still liking him, now that I think about it. Wasn’t he popular in eighties? Isn’t he fifty-eight or really old or something? Pretty good seats though, must admit. Still, since when does he have money? He doesn’t have a job, not that I can recall. None of us do, just play Frisbee mostly…
—Woooh, livin’ on a prayer.
Living on a prayer. Pretty catchy I suppose. What I was talking about before. People live on prayers and dreams. Like Jamie. What’s his problem? Is she really worth it, is anyone worth it? Apocalypse? That the best he could do? Are Catholics Christians?
Frank, Gordon, opposing players, everyone else, all looked up at the sandy hill that divided the sandy pavement by the concession stand and the sand proper. They found Jamie, his flip-flops gone, carrying a shriveled piece of driftwood as a walking staff and wearing a filthy, ragged bathrobe.
—THOSE WHO HAVE EARS, HARKEN! I HAVE SEEN THE FALL OF BABYLON!
Anyone present who had ears, and yet did not harken beforehand, harkened, awaiting news of the fall of Babylon.
—VERILY, I SAY TO YOU! UNLESS YOU REPENT AND CUT YOUR HAIR AND CLOTHE YOURSELF WITH SACKCLOTH, YOU WILL NOT BE SPARED THE WRATH OF THE LORD GOD! HOT WILL BE THE BLAZING INFERNOS OF HELLFIRE!
Don’t forget to tell them about the boils.
—EXACTLY THREE INCHES IN DIAMETER WILL BE THE BOILS THAT FESTER UPON YOUR FLESH!
Those who had ears, who were not Jamie or his friends, having harkened upon his admonition to harken so, and having thus found the harkings to be disappointingly not pertaining to Babylon and its fall, took their leave, mumbling and laughing at insults too quiet to hear, but all things considered probably pertained to Jamie.
—FOOLS! WHERE ARE YOU GOING?! DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND THE HORRORS THAT AWAIT YOU?! THE APOCALYPSE IS AT HAND…
Thonk. The prophet fell on his back upon being struck in the forehead by a Frisbee, apparently let loose by one of the disappointed harkeners. Gordon rushed to his friend’s side and helped him to his feet, and Frank followed while keeping his distance, careful not to get too close so as to suggest his friendship to the prophet.
—Jamie! It’s nice to see you. You’ve been gone for a while, we were worried you wouldn’t be able to come to the show.
—Jesus, Jamie, what the hell was all that about?!
—MY PEOPLE! THEY HAVE ABANDONED HOPE!
—And why are you shouting like that, we’re right next to you…
—THIS IS THE DECIBEL LEVEL WHICH THE LORD YOUR GOD HATH BESTOWED UPON ME, THAT I MIGHT DISTRIBUTE THE HONEYED WORDS THAT THE LORD YOUR GOD ALMIGHTY HATH COMMANDED ME TO–
—Okay, you know what, Jamie, I’m gonna tell you right now. I’m sure she’s a very nice girl, and yeah, you really hit it off, and whatever, that’s fine, but really, you can’t just go around and proclaim the fall of Babylon…
This one means to impede you and your righteous charge. Silence him.
—What, did you just say silence?
—YOU MEAN TO IMPEDE ME AND MY RIGHTEOUS CHARGE! BUT TELL YOU YOUR EFFORTS ARE IN VAIN! MY RESOLVE IS LIKE THAT OF THE, OF THE,
Now banish him from whence he came.
—I BANISH YOU FROM WHENCE YOU CAME! BEGONE!
Frank stood fixed upon the sandy ground, unable to comprehend anything that was happening to him at the moment.
—Did you, did you really just try to banish me from whence I came?
Frank let out a sigh, took a moment to try to remember where it was from whence he came, and resigned himself to be banished there. Before leaving the other two he said,
—Let me know when you get your shit together, Jamie.
The prophet turned his attention to his other friend.
—WHAT OF YOU, O GORDON? WILL YOU ABANDON ME AS WELL?
Gordon took a moment to decide.
—Well, you have been acting pretty strange. But, you are my friend, and friends stick by each other no matter what.
The prophet’s heart was gladdened by this news, and to show it smiled and patted his friend’s back with a gentle, prophetly hand.
—IT GLADDENS MY HEART TO HEAR OF SUCH FAITH IN A VALUED FRIEND. MY THANKS FOR YOUR LOYALTY, O GORDON.
—You’re welcome, Jamie.
—I BELIEVE, THROUGH YOUR UNWAVERING DEVOTION TO THE GREAT CAUSE, YOU HAVE PROVEN YOURSELF WORTHY. I HAVE DECIDED TO MAKE YOU MY DISCIPLE.
—Oh, wow, Jamie! Really? That’s wonderful! What’s a disciple?
—THOUGH I WARN YOU, FOLLOW ME, AND YOU WILL WITNESS HORRORS UNLIKE ANYONE HAS EVER SEEN. I OFFER YOU ONE CHANCE TO TURN AWAY, WHILE YOU STILL CAN, AND THEN THERE WILL BE NO TURNING BACK.
—SO BE IT! PREPARE TO RECEIVE MY BAD MEDICINE!
For a moment everything was revealed to Gordon. Holy seals were opened, trumpets were sounded, bowls were poured. People burned in great wildfires, drowned in rivers of blood, were tormented by locusts, wandered in darkness, died of plagues, earthquakes, lightning flashes, rumblings, peals of thunder, hailstorms, angels who were granted permission to kill a third of the population by God, etc. The Antichrist was apparently Steven Gilhurst of 72 Shacksbush Dr., Barkhamstead, CT. It didn’t matter all that much, however, since he and the rest of the world were killed off in the monumental battle between the forces of God and Satan, Armageddon. The sheer force of the clashes between angel and demon created even more earthquakes, lightning flashes, rumblings, etc., than ever before. Hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of trillions of quadrillions of celestial and infernal beings fell from the sky like flies hitting an electric insect killer. Years passed, and the battle raged on, because to supernatural beings like angels and demons, a year feels like nothing more than a moment. And finally, the battle was down to one angel and one demon. They both put up quite a fight, but soon the angel plunged his sword into the demon’s belly. However, before the angel could proclaim victory, he suffered from a massive coronary and died on the spot.
Gordon found himself on the sandy ground of Green Lakes State Park where they, etc. The prophet helped him to his feet as he took a few breaths and regained his composure. My God, he thought, I saw everything! So many small children, never to be cradled in the arms of sweet Jesus! And to think I’ve been living my life indulging in every vice and iniquity I could!
—Your bad medicine is what I need.
Frank sat down on the bench by the concession stand from whence he came, opened an Astro-Pop and bit a chunk off of the top, still angry from his earlier banishment. While he chewed his cold icy treat he could hear from behind him the pat-pat-pat of some small children jumping rope, the rope scratching against the sandy pavement. They were singing a Protestant jingle in rhythm to the jumping. Jesus loves me this I know, pat-scratch pat scratch pat-pat-pat. At this Frank realized it was Sunday morning. Weird, he thought. If they’re going to bother singing that, why don’t they just do it at church and leave the rest of us alone? He grumbled and bit off another chunk of Astro-Pop. They are weak but he is strong.
After a while an elderly woman slowly crept toward the bench, scraping along the pavement inch by inch while leaning on a cumbersome walker. Aren’t those supposed to help people who can’t walk? Has two wheels and two prongs on the bottom, can’t see how that could possibly aid mobility. Obviously not working for her anyway. After about a minute and a half she reached a distance close enough to the bench where she could relinquish the walking apparatus and take her seat. Having sat herself down a few feet away from Frank, she slowly turned her head toward him and gave him a faint smile coupled with the tiniest wave of her hand. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so. He did not think much about it for long, because as soon as he swallowed a chunk of Astro-Pop he felt a cold, numbing pain on the entire right side of his face and clutched his temple.
When Frank regained his composure and wiped away the involuntary tears which formed on his right eye, he realized that the children were no longer singing. Their clothing had been left behind, neatly arranged and spread out on the ground, as if the girls were making snow angels in the sand and had evaporated through their clothes by the sun. Heard about his, Frank thought. Hundreds of people on a plane disappear all at once. Couldn’t be the same thing? What happened to plane? Crash somewhere? No, must be some rational explanation. Maybe they changed into different clothes, and, I dunno, didn’t like these enough to bring with them, but, liked them enough to arrange them so. Frank shrugged off the strange occurrence and headed back to his seat on the bench.
When he returned to the bench his jaw dropped, along with his Astro-Pop (albeit in different locations; the former an inch or so away from his face, the latter onto the sandy pavement by the concession stand). The old woman was also gone, and the clothes she was wearing were arranged in the same way.
The next morning Frank met his two friends at the Esoteric Shrine of the Honey-Worded Prophet of the Most Holy Lord Your God at the Green Lakes State Park, where he never before met his two friends in his entire life. He found them surrounded by a circle of rocks, Jamie looking off into the shore, no doubt contemplating mystical wonders of the universe, with his new disciple Gordon keeping watch, standing on his head for as long as he could at a time. Frank frowned at his friends and stepped through the circle. Gordon’s legs toppled down onto the sandy ground and went over his head. He rose to his feet and stuck out his hand in front of Frank.
—REMOVE YOUR SANALDS, YOU WALK ON CONSECRATED GROUND!
Frank looked at his sandaled feet, saw the rocky threshold he had crossed and, not wanting to give them cause to act stranger than they already had been acting, decided to oblige them. He then reentered the Esoteric Shrine of the Honey-Worded Prophet of the Most Holy Lord Your, etc.
—HALT! GO NO FURTHER!
—Oh, great, so now you’re going to yell in my face too?
—WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS WITH THE PROPHET?
—What’s my business? Well, lemme see, my business is, I waited for you and Jamie for two hours to show up to the game, you know, the Frisbee game that we always play, and whaddaya know, you’re here, waiting for the apocalypse, doing god knows what the hell…
—I AM NOT JAMIE.
—MY NAME IS TITANIA PRIME.
Gordon attempted another disciplely headstand, his feet flapping in the air.
—Titania Prime? What are you, L. Ron Hubbard now?
—NO, HE IS TITANIA PRIME.
Having made this clarification for his friend, the disciple toppled onto the sand, breaking his fall with a somersault.
—Alright, fine, you’re Titania Prime. I don’t even want to know, Jesus Christ…
Any of you think you could stop this guy from wearing out my name so much?
—TITANIA PRIME, HONEY-WORDED PROPHET OF THE MOST HOLY LORD YOU GOD, IS CHARGED BY THE MOST HOLY LORD YOUR GOD TO PROCLAIM TO ALL THAT THE MOST HOLY LORD YOUR GOD WOULD PREFER THAT YOU DID NOT TAKE HIS NAME IN VAIN SO FRIVOLOUSLY AS YOU DO, O FRANK.
—Okay, fine, never mind that, look…
—TITANIA PRIME, HONEY-WORDED PROPHET OF THE MOST HOLY LORD YOU GOD, HAVING BEEN CHARGED BY THE HOLY LORD YOUR GOD TO PROCLAIM TO ALL THAT THE MOST HOLY LORD YOUR GOD WOULD PREFER THAT YOU DID NOT TAKE HIS NAME IN VAIN SO FRIVOLOUSLY AS YOU DO, O FRANK, HAS THUSLY CHARGED HIS DISCIPLE TO SIMILARLY PROCLAIM TO ALL THAT THE LORD YOUR GOD WOULD PREFER THAT YOU DID NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE MOST HOLY LORD YOUR GOD IN VAIN SO FRIVOLOUSLY AS YOU DO, O FRANK.
—I didn’t even say anything that time…
—YES YOU DID.
—Gordon, Goddamn it…
—SEE? YOU JUST DID IT THAT TIME.
—Jesus, Gordon, would you stop…
—YOU DID IT AGAIN.
—Gordon, for christsake…
—DID IT AGAIN.
—DID IT AGAIN.
—DID IT AGAIN.
Ha! Now there’s a bit that never gets old.
—Look, you guys, you can’t keep this up forever.
—WHEN THE END OF DAYS DRAWS NEAR OUR WORK SHALL BE FINISHED.
—No, really, I’m serious. You too, Gordon, you can’t just…
—THE DISCIPLE OF TITANIA PRIME INDEED CAN NOT PERFORM HIS DUITES INDEFINITELY, FOR HE IS HONOR BOUND TO ATTEND A GATHERING OF THOSE WHO WOULD WITNESS THE MOST AWESOME ROCKULIDGE OF SERVANTS OF THE MOST HOLY LORD YOUR GOD BON JOVI, RITCHIE SAMBORA, AND THE REST OF THE PEOPLE IN HIS BAND, TO BE ATTENDED BY MYSELF, THE PROPHET TITANIA PRIME, AND YOURSELF, O FRANK
—And what the hell is it with you and Bon Jovi all of a sudden?! No one likes Bon Jovi, no one ever has since the eighties! No one likes Bon Jovi except you!
—THE PROPHET TITANIA PRIME, HONEY-WORDED PROPHET OF THE MOST HOLY LORD YOU GOD, IS CHARGED TO PROCLAIM TO ALL THAT HE THINKS THAT SONG ‘IT’S MY LIFE’ IS PRETTY CATCHY.
—I THINK THAT SONG IS PRETTY CATCHY MYSELF. DON’T YOU THINK SO?
—YEAH, IT’S PRETTY GOOD. A REAL THREE MINUTE POP MASTERPIECE, IF I DON’T SAY SO MYSELF.
—WHAT DO YOU THINK, O FRANK? CATCHY, HUH?
—I can’t even believe I’m having this conversation. Jesus Christ. Jesus goddamned Christ on a goddamned stick.
Frank, having concluded stating his business to the honey-worded prophet, turned away from his friends and took leave of the consecrated sand.
—YOU JUST DID IT AGAIN. LIKE, THREE TIMES IN A ROW…
—SHUT UP, GORDON!
That afternoon Jamie walked again with the Lord along the Green Lakes State Park beach, where the Lord always walked with people. Across the sky flashed various scenes from his life. For each scene Jamie noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonging to his own feet and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of his life flashed before him he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of his life. This really bothered him, and he questioned the Lord about it.
—WHAT ABOUT NOW?
You don’t have to shout, you know. I’m right here.
—So, what about now?
What about now?
—You aren’t carrying me now.
Yes I am.
—No, you’re not.
You can’t prove it, can you?
—There’s only one set of footprints here, and they obviously belong to me, and right now it is very plain to see that I am walking by myself and no one is carrying me.
Alright, fine, I’m not carrying you. So what?
—Well, this is a troublesome part of my life right now.
Really, you think so?
—Well, yes, I think so. Why don’t you try prophesying, getting persecuted, speaking in a weird, archaic manner of language with an unnecessarily loud voice and see how you like it?
—Whatever? Whatever?! What happened to “my precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you” thing?
You really want me to carry you?
You mean like, literally?
Are you sure you don’t mean allegorically?
—That means the same thing!
Look, I’m not really sure it’s a good idea. I’ve had some back problems lately, I have to wear this special apparatus for lumbar support.
—Lumbar support? What kind of an all-powerful deity are you?
Come on, don’t judge me. I’ve been going through a lot of hardships lately.
—Oh, well, that’s too bad! Why don’t I just carry you for a while then?
Would you please? I’ve been lifting people up for the rapture, and that plus all this walking on the beach is really bad for my alignment…
—Oh, forget it. I quit.
Frank checked the number fastened to the front of the white suburban house he was standing in front of, and, having made sure the number corresponded with his hastily written directions to the house in question, pressed the doorbell with his outstretched index finger. After a minute a girl his age, wearing a white turtle-necked knitted wool sweater, a pair of thick black horn-rimmed glasses, her brown hair tied in a bun on the back of her head, and carrying a steaming cup of hot cocoa with floating melted white marshmallows, opened the door.
Frank said instinctively, as turned to face the expectant inhabitant of the white suburban house,
—Did you just call me a succubus?
—No. I didn’t.
—Can I help you?
—Yes. Are you Rebecca Callahan?
—Ah, good. May I come in?
He offered to shake her hand, who, taking and shaking said hand, replied,
—Alright, no biggie. I, uh, wanted to talk to you about Jamie. You guys really hit it off or something, is that right?
—Yeah, I guess. Is he okay?
—Yeah, he’s fine. Well, he’s not injured, anyway. Apparently you broke the news to him that you’re, uh, married to Jesus, and that’s cool, because, you know, this is America, and we are constitutionally guaranteed to worship in any, I mean as long as the rights of others aren’t impugned upon in any…
—So, what happened to Jamie?
—Well, he, really didn’t take the news of your nuptials very well…
—Look, I’m not literally…
—Yeah, I know, it’s just a weird thing to say when you dump someone. Anyway, since then Jamie’s been in a slump, and I think you’re the only one who can help him out of it.
—No. Forget it. Look, Jamie was a really nice guy, and yeah, we hit it off and whatever, but I’m not ready for a relationship at the moment.
—I understand that, and that’s perfectly alright. I just need something temporary, to snap him out of it.
—Yeah. Like, flash him your boobs or something, for two seconds or so.
Rebecca Callahan choked on her steaming cup of hot cocoa.
—Or, you know, if that’s not your thing, whatever. Maybe just, I don’t know, dress kind of slutty around him. Show him some cleavage, he might like that.
—Are you out of your mind?
—Look, I’m not a monster, I know this is a hard ask, but you have to understand that billions of lives are at stake. Are you familiar with the apocalypse…
Rebecca Callahan responded with a hard sock to Frank’s right eye with her corresponding clenched fist, punctuated by a loud slam of the front door of her white suburban house. Frank clutched his injured right eye with his corresponding unclenched hand and rose to his feet.
—I just need you to show my friend your boobs for like, two seconds! Tops!
Gordon sat at the, etc., and, taking a momentary break from discipleism, opened his Astro-Pop (which came highly recommended by Frank) and commenced the consumption of his tasty frozen treat with a gingerly lick of all three flavors from top to bottom. Delicious. Frank sure was right about these Astro-Pops. Yes sir, on a hot day like this an Astro-Pop makes for a mighty fine frozen treat indeed. Each of these three flavors, all delicious in their own right, together for the first time. Red, white, blue. America’s Popsicle. I wonder if Bon Jovi likes them.
Hey, it’s me.
I’m not having a very good day. Mind if we talk?
You don’t have to shout, you know. I’m right here.
—Want some of my Astro-Pop?
No thanks, I’m good.
—So, what’s up?
Oh, I’ve been omnipotent, mostly. And yourself?
—Oh, you know, just livin’ on a prayer.
—So, is it true? Is the end really, nigh?
—How come, if I may ask?
Oh, you know.
—No, not really.
I don’t really want to talk about it.
—Are you sure?
Alright. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t Lord over an entire world anymore. I just want to flush the whole thing away, you know?
Far beyond the reaches of infinite space and time in which no moral mind can comprehend, Gordon could inexplicably feel a mighty, phenomenal cosmic entity take a long swig from a flask full of Bourbon whiskey.
—Hm. That’s pretty deep. I’m not sure if I can give you much advice, I just kind of try to live by the example of Jon Bon Jovi.
Jon Bon Jovi?
—You know, the greatest hair metalist whoever lived?
Far beyond the reaches of infinite space and time in which no moral mind can comprehend, Gordon could inexplicably feel a mighty, phenomenal cosmic entity shrug his shoulders.
—Would you like me to tell you about Bon Jovi?
Far beyond the reaches of infinite space and time in which no moral mind can comprehend, Gordon could inexplicably feel a mighty, phenomenal cosmic entity nod his head.
—Well. As you know, the world can be a terrible place. And sometimes you just feel like there’s no reason to keep going. But sometimes, there comes a man so great, so wonderful, that all your troubles melt away. Such a man is Bon Jovi.
Please, tell me more about Bon Jovi!
—His voice has the sound of angels, and his righteous solos give strength to the downtrodden man. But, some people, cynical people who chose not to see the light, they persecute and revile him! They call his lyrics hackneyed and trite, his populist working-man ethos too derivative of Bruce Springsteen! And yet, Jon Bon Jovi so loves rock and roll, that he still rocks to this day!
Does Bon Jovi rock for me? No, he couldn’t possibly rock for someone like me!
—He rocks for you, Lord! And me, and everyone in the whole wide world! Just say you love Bon Jovi with all your heart and soul, open your heart and invite the spirit of Bon Jovi inside you!
I love Bon Jovi with all my heart and all my soul!
Far beyond the reaches of infinite space and time in which no moral mind can comprehend, Gordon could inexplicably feel a mighty, phenomenal cosmic entity tightly grasp his hand and bow his head to the ground.
—Dear Bon Jovi, we ask you to hear the prayer of this troubled soul, to come and abide in his heart forever and always, amen!
Oh, what a glorious day! I feel like I could do a hundred backflips in a row! I won’t though, because I’ve had some issues with lumbar support. Thank you good sir! I would stay and talk of things Bon Jovi, but I’ve got a world to Lord over.
Far beyond the reaches of infinite space and time in which no moral mind can comprehend, Gordon could inexplicably feel a mighty, phenomenal cosmic entity throw a flask of Bourbon whiskey into a nearby garbage can, rise to his feet and skip away to a fulfilling eternal, omnipotent life of world-lording-overing, being careful not to damage his lumbar support and always remembering the good example of Bon Jovi, supreme hair metalist now and ever, world without end amen. Gordon closed his eyes and raised both hands in the general direction of the house of his divine, newly-converted Bon Joviist friend.
—Thank you, Bon Jovi.
—One Astro-Pop please.
—Sorry sir, we’re all out of Astro-Pops. Sold the last one about five minutes ago.
Frank slammed a hand onto the counter of the Green Lakes State Park concession stand, where he always purchased Astro-Pops. He looked at the lengthy line forming from behind him, consisting of other impatient beachgoers who regularly patronized the Green Lakes State Park concession stand.
—Alright, how about a Flintstones Push-Up Pop?
—Nope. Sold out.
—Oh, for Christ sake. Look, buddy, do you have anything frozen, on a stick, that can keep me cool, a goddamned Popsicle of any kind, anywhere, do you have one?!
—Come on, man, I’m only doing my job. What’s your problem?
—What’s my problem? Why sir, do you not know, the apocalypse is at hand? Oh, yes, it is at hand. And instead of enjoying a tasty, frozen Astro-Pop during a time in which I may never have an Astro-Pop again, I’m standing here, wasting my time…
Out of the corner of his eye Frank saw a small pair of worn, knee-less blue jeans, a red t-shirt and sneakers, lain out with arms and legs outstretched as if a young boy, perhaps eleven years of age, were laying on the sandy pavement himself.
—THERE! See, look at this. What does this look like to you?
—It looks like…
—WRONG! This is undeniable proof that Jesus snatched an innocent child and carried him up to heaven, to be cradled in his arms forever!
Though the Green Lakes State Park concession stand clerk, along with the line of accumulated impatient beach going concession stand patrons, all had his undivided attention, Frank nonetheless hesitated, unable to finish stating his proof of impending apocalypse, as a young boy, perhaps eleven years of age, collected his neatly arranged clothes while his mother called to him in the distant sandy beach. The boy gathered the last of his shoes and left Frank, continuing to point to the space where the now missing clothes had previously occupied. With the clerk and impatient concession stand patrons both expecting a response of some kind, Frank let out a sigh, folded his arms and sheepishly looked at the sandy pavement.
—Who just leaves their clothes on the ground like that? I could have taken them, you know. And then what? He’d have no change of clothes. He’d just have to, wander around the beach in his swimsuit. Totally irresponsible.
Frank headed toward the, etc., where he, etc., and saw Gordon with a tasty frozen red white and blue treat, giving a gingerly lick of all three flavors down to up.
—Oh, hey Frank. You were right, these sure are mighty tasty.
—You! You took the last one!
—Oh. Sorry, Frank. You can have it if you want.
Gordon offered his already licked Popsicle to his friend, who scoffed at it and sat down on the, etc., next to him. After a moment’s silence Frank turned to his friend.
—So, how’s Titania Prime?
—Jamie, Gordon! Who else do we ever hang out with?
—Oh. right. Well, I’m not his disciple anymore.
—Ain’t that a crying shame.
—Apparently the Lord isn’t going to bring about the end of days after all.
—Well, that’s a relief.
—Jamie took it pretty hard though. I guess he thinks the Lord was making a fool of him.
—Yeah, I guess that would suck.
—So he found this book by Nyets-chee that gave him a lot of answers. There he is, up on the roof of the concession stand.
Frank looked toward the direction his friend pointed. He saw a faint navy blue dot pacing back and forth on the roof of the concession stand, a throng of concerned beach going patrons congregated around the stand, their eyes fixated on the navy blue dot in question.
—There he is indeed. You think he’s going to jump?
—Maybe. Have you ever heard of Nyets-chee, Frank?
—Can’t say I have.
Frank and Gordon sat together at, etc., in silence, the latter enjoying his frozen triumvirate of America’s Popsicle, the amalgamation of three flavors, delicious in their own right, now together for the very
—Jesus! What are we sitting here for, he’s going to jump!
—HAVE YOU HEARD, GOD IS DEAD!
So proclaimed the madman, clad in navy blue tatters, brandishing a black leather-bound book in front of the throng of beach going patrons, of which his two friends soon joined.
—Jamie! It’s us! Don’t jump, you have every reason to live!
—Hey, Jamie! I’m sorry I took the last Astro-Pop! You can have it if you want!
—OH, HEY GUYS! I JUST READ THIS REALLY GOOD BOOK, IT GAVE ME A LOT OF ANSWERS!
—Jamie, listen to us…
–DID YOU KNOW THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS GOOD OR EVIL? GOD IS DEAD, AND NOTHING MATTERS ANYMORE! YOU SEE, WE GOT IT ALL WRONG BEFORE! IT’S NOT ABOUT WILL TO LIVE! IT’S WHOEVER HAS WILL TO POWER!
—Listen, Jamie, I’m sure she’s a very nice girl, and yeah, you really hit it off, whatever, but I’m telling you, Nietzsche does not give you answers. I mean you really have to be careful not to let the fact that he’s one of the few entertaining philosophers to read fool you into…
—I CAN JUMP OFF THIS CONCESSION STAND RIGHT NOW, AND MY WILL TO POWER WON’T LET ME DIE! I’LL EXPERIENCE MY LIFE ALL OVER AGAIN! ETERNAL RETURN, FRANK! YOU SHOULD TRY IT, REALLY, IT’S AWESOME! I ALREADY ETERNAL RETURNED LIKE, FIVE TIMES!
This is it, Frank thought. His best friend has finally lost his mind. He’s going to jump. And then he’ll be dead. Or maybe he’ll eternal return or something. At the very least he’ll fracture his ankle, and then he won’t be able to play Frisbee anymore. And it was all his fault. He should have been a better friend. He could have played along with the prophet stuff if he really wanted to, he probably didn’t have to take the Lord’s name in vain as much as he did. That smack in the head with his Frisbee probably didn’t help matters much either.
—Jamie, if you were ever my friend, listen to me now!
The madman, having ears but not harkening, stopped his ravings momentarily to harken to his friend’s plea.
—I’m sorry! Alright?! I admit it, I was wrong! You were in a slump, and I should have been there for you like a real friend should. But I wasn’t. Please, find it in your heart to forgive me! I’ll change, I swear to you I’ll change! I’ll even… If you promise me you’ll come down, why, I think I may even never take the Lord’s name in vain ever again!
—I AM THE UBERMENSCH!
—NO, FRANK! GOD IS DEAD! HE CANNOT DAMN ANYTHING!
One time I read one of those church billboards, and you know what it said? ‘Nietzsche is dead.’ –God. Isn’t that funny?
—Who just said that?
You should answer your cell phone, Frank.
—I don’t have a cell phone.
Answer it anyway.
—What’s going on…
Well, I couldn’t help but notice that revelatory third-act character changes don’t amount to much after all. I thought you’d might want to try the deus ex machina.
Frank answered his cell phone. Rebecca Callahan was on the other line.
—Hey, it’s me. Where’s Jamie?
—He’s on top of the concession stand. He’s got a lot of will to power.
—Hm. He might jump then. Eternal return and whatnot.
—Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought.
—Alright, I’ll be there in two minutes.
Frank hung up his cell phone, and two minutes later Rebecca Callahan was there in a swimsuit, dressed a little slutty and showing quite a bit of cleavage.
—Jamie, she said, I dressed kind of slutty! I heard you might like that! I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I really want to be your girlfriend!
She lifted up the top of her swimsuit. Angels from on high parted the clouds from the sky, light poured from the heavens onto the sandy beaches of, etc., loud, harmonious hosannas were heard throughout creation, and all was well.
—There is a God, mused Jamie.
—A miracle, mused Frank.
—Hide your eyes! You’ll melt just like the Nazis did!
With this warning Gordon covered the eyes of his friend Frank and held fast, despite Frank’s fierce protestations. Jamie, no longer mad, and having realized the apparent well-being of the mistakenly deceased, recently-converted Bon-Joviist omnipotent deity, lifted his hands and looked to the abode of the Bon Joviist deity in question.
—O, joyful day! Wonderful and glorious is the world, and the one who made it! Praise the day the Lord has made for us all…
Gordon stopped holding fast, and Frank ceased his fierce protestations, at the sound of a terrified howl, punctuated by the sound of several bones breaking all at once. Frank, Gordon, Rebecca Callahan, et all, saw a still figure wrapped in the tattered rags of the madman, lying supine and contorted in front of the concession stand. Frank and Gordon walked over to the still body of their friend and inspected it. Frank lifted up one of Jamie’s unnaturally bent ankles, and dropped the dead weight back onto the sandy pavement.
—I think his ankle’s fractured. He won’t be able to play Frisbee anymore, that’s for sure.
Gordon lifted one of Jamie’s wrists to his ear and listened carefully for a moment, then sighed sadly and shook his head.
—I’m not hearing a pulse.
Goodnight, sweet prince, thought Gordon, as he gently folded the contorted arms of the former madman’s chest and closed his eyes. May angels sing thee to thy rest. Rebecca Callahan approached the two friends of the late madman.
—So, look. I’m not really attracted to either of you guys, so I’m going to find someone hotter to flash my boobs to, if that’s cool with you guys.
Rebecca Callahan turned toward the former madman’s former throng.
—Who’s hot and wants to see my boobs?!
Frank and Gordon watched as the throng, having replied with fierce exhortations in the positive, walked into the light and hosanna-filled beach horizon with Rebecca Callahan. The members of the throng who possessed an adequate amount of hotness and responded with exhortations in the positive were shown the boobs in question, and all in attendance agreed they were rather hot.
—It sure is a shame. Those were some really nice boobs.
—Well, Gordon, I wouldn’t really know. I didn’t quite get a good look at them myself.