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November 4, 2016 | Fiction

Tribulation

Steve Trumpeter

Tribulation photo

Roscoe is our dog, an old mutt and dumber than a bag full of hammers, but right now, he’s the only one not barking or fighting or shitting on the floor, and I love him all the more for it. When he rests his head on my leg and looks up at me with those big dopey eyes, I can’t help but think of you. He’s comforting in that regard.

Thirteen other dogs have the run of our house these days, big ones, mostly, and I can’t kick them outside because it hasn’t stopped raining in the week since the Rapture happened. In my weaker moments, I imagine stuffing all of them but Roscoe into potato sacks and tossing them off the Lamar Boulevard Bridge, but of course I wouldn’t really do it. I’m a good person in my heart, regardless of what God might think.

These dogs are my fault, anyway. I stole the idea from the internet somewhere, a way to bilk Bible thumpers out of an easy $100. We took out an ad in the Austin Chronicle advertising Pentecostal Pet Insurance. In the event of Rapture, the dogs that would be left behind would be cared for by two friendly, trustworthy animal lovers who hadn’t let their atheism corrupt their spirits to the point where they’d allow puppies to starve. $100 guaranteed that Fido would have a good home while his owners basked in the glory of the Almighty. Cash only, up front.

It was a goof, but nine suckers took us up on the offer. Thirteen dogs in total meant two months rent right there, with money left over for a sizable bag of weed that lasted us right until those trumpets blared across the sky last week and everything went to hell. And now you’re nowhere to be found, leaving me holding 13 leashes and worrying about your immortal soul.

I pour kibble from a thirty-pound bag that I looted from one of our clients, and the dogs come running. I put on my rain gear while they eat, then two by two, I take them out to do their business and try my best to keep them out of the mud puddles. I save Roscoe for last, because I want to check the bulletin boards at Zilker Park and he misses you just as much as I do.

We had thought ourselves pretty clever. “Whenever you’re ready,” we had told God as we lounged in bed on that first Sunday morning after our ad had gone out. “Rapture away.” We imagined a world where some of the most insufferable pricks imaginable simply flew off to their salvation. No more arguments about how gay marriage will wreck society. Sixth grade science teachers who teach science instead of magic and miracles.

“It’ll be the death of the Republican party,” you said.

“We’ll be able to buy beer on Sunday mornings,” I said.

What we hadn’t imagined was the practical reality of such a swift reduction in the human population. First and foremost was the fact that Christians apparently drive everywhere, and when they suddenly jumped straight to heaven, God chose not to add to his list of miracles the power to stop runaway cars. Instead, they continued along their trajectories until the car/building/wall in front of them brought them to a halt. The sounds of crunching metal and screeching tires drowned out Gabriel’s trumpet real fast.

Since the roadways are such carnage, Roscoe and I have to walk. By the time we make it to the park, the place is packed. There is a large gazebo near the springs where an impromptu bazaar has sprung up for people to barter for food or medicine or ammo. Despite the rain, Roscoe seems excited to stretch his legs and sniff at the crotch of anyone who pays him any attention.

Someone is still printing newspapers, and thin copies of the Chronicle are piled up under the gazebo where I stand in line to snag one. There isn’t much to report. Apparently the government is still functioning, save for a couple of absent congressmen. Of more interest to me are the lists they’ve printed, divided into “bodies” and “clothes.” The clothes list comes from the ID’s that were fished out of the pockets of crumpled outfits found wherever they’d pooled. The bodies list is where I look for your name, amongst the innocent victims of God’s salvation.

Nearby, a barefoot woman wrapped in a bedsheet is holding a megaphone and shouting to us that it’s not too late to repent. This is the end times, she says, the Great Tribulation. Our suffering is just beginning. And it blows my mind to see a crowd gathering around her, listening. She reads from the Bible, and it reminds me of how you used to cry when you’d get pulled over for a speeding ticket and promise the officer you’d never do it again, time after time.

“The rain is just the first of it,” she says. “Famine, pestilence, war and death will follow. We must heed God’s word.”

I believe it now—I’d be a fool not to—but that doesn’t mean I agree with it.

Roscoe shakes himself off, spraying wet dog water in a six-foot radius, and one of the woman’s disciples glares at me despite the fact that, in this rain, it’s not like Roscoe made her any wetter. The adventure of the day’s excursion is beginning to wane for him, and he’s ready to go back home. Sometime in the next seven years, this nutjob promises, Jesus will return, riding his white horse straight down from heaven to usher in a new era of peace. I hope when he does, he lands right in the middle of Austin, Texas and I’m there to greet him. I’d like a word.

image: Aaron Burch


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