by Gayle Brandeis
The babysitter said the Rapture was coming, and it was coming now. “Sorry you’ll be left behind, Jew boy,” the babysitter said, even though his charge—namely me—was a girl. He unfolded himself from the couch where we had been watching Let’s Make a Deal. A man in a lobster suit had just won a donkey, a real donkey hitched to a cart and wearing a sombrero. I wondered if the lobster man actually had to bring the donkey home. I wondered if the game show people taught him how to take care of it.
“Gotta go!” he said. “Gotta go to God!” He saluted me, clicked the heels of his white tennis shoes, and ran out the door.
I watched him race past the bay window, his arms waving over his head, his face upturned, laughing, like he was running to catch a bus, a bus that was going to take him to the best summer camp ever.
I called my mom at the insurance office where she worked. “What’s the Rapture?” I asked. The only place I knew the word from was a Blondie song; it was on the radio a lot those days. The way Blondie sang the word scared me—kind of slow and drawn out, like she was falling asleep. And then there was a weird part I didn’t really understand about an alien eating cars. I hoped an alien wasn’t going to come eat our Cutlass Ciera now that the Rapture was here.
“Is that Daniel reading the Bible to you again?” she asked.
“No,” I said, even though he had read a freaky passage to me earlier that day about a lady riding a serpent.
“It’s a Christian thing,” she said. “At the end of the world, Jesus is going to come take all the Christians away or something like that.”
“What happens to the rest of us?” I asked.
“We all die a fiery death, I guess. I have to go, Janie. Be good.” She hung up. She hung up on me even though we were both about to die. The phone squawked and squawked. It sounded like when the Emergency Broadcast System blats on the radio for a tornado or a flood. When I set the phone in its cradle, the quiet was almost more alarming. I looked out the window. The street was completely empty. The leaves on the trees were completely still. All the Christians were probably gone already. The fireball was probably on its way.
On Let’s Make a Deal, a woman in an angel costume chose what was behind door number three. It was a boat, a glittery blue powerboat. She climbed up into the powerboat and I could see the jeans under her white angel robes. I could see her white tennis shoes, too, just like Daniel’s. Christian tennis shoes. And she waved to the camera and I knew she was waving at me, and I knew she was waving goodbye.
Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh (HarperSanFrancisco) and The Book of Dead Birds: A Novel (HarperCollins), which won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction. Her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in such places as Salon.com, Pindeldyboz, and McSweeney’s, and have won several awards, including the QPB/Story Magazine Short Story Award. She lives in Riverside, CA with her husband and two children.