Issue No. 16, Spring 2016

Tony and the Apocalypse
Andrew Hogan

I glided to a stop in front of the Portsmouth Security and Social Services Station. My client, an eleven year old geek holding a BlazeMasterIX V-phone, was waiting for me at the second pickup station, accompanied by a frightened policewoman. I lowered the window.

“Tony?” He nodded. “Hop in, kiddo.” I waved to the policewoman, who was scanning the buildings around the Station; she gave me a painful wink and then scuttled back toward the station ready to dodge any sulfurous missiles that might be sent at her.

“Nice to meet you, Tony. I’m Burt.” We shook hands, Tony’s was limp. “Ready to ride?” Tony nodded. “Buckle up. I gave Lizzie,” patting the vehicle control panel, “an extra charge of double ionization, just in case we need to speed.” Tony gave me a half smile. I couldn’t tell if he was scared or depressed. He’d just lost both of his parents in what everybody was calling the Impending Apocalypse, but don’t get me started on that load of crap.

Lizzie powered up to nice, gentle 2.5 megavolt cruise down Gallia Street. It gave me the chance to talk to the kid a little before we got on the highway.

“My file says your parents just died recently. What happened?” I needed to know how traumatized the kid might be.

“Hounds of hell got them.”

“Hounds of hell? Where?”

“We were having a picnic in Riverside Park. The hounds of hell came racing out of a fissure near the river. Ma and Pa got me and Janey into the backseat of the car, but the hounds of hell caught them before they could get in the front.”

“How’d you and you sister get away?”

“There was a crack of doom, and then all the hounds went away. I got in the front seat and pressed the OnStar button. They sent an ambulance, but it was too late.”

I patted Tony on the shoulder as I drove through traffic. “That’s terrible. I’m sorry. Did any of those dogs look like the pit bulls the drug runners keep?”

“I don’t know. Their eyes were red.”

“Yeah, they do that to scare people who believe in the Apocalypse,” I said. “Where’s your sister?”

“I don’t know. We were separated when we got to the Station. I asked the lady about Janey; she said the computer system was failing because of the Impending Apocalypse, so she couldn’t find her right then.”

“That’s a load of crap,” I said. “The damn power grid’s been failing for years, and the State won’t pay for backup generators.”

“A couple hours later the police lady took me outside to be picked up. I said Janey and I should be together. ‘What difference would it make,’ was all she said.”

“You guys got a Facebook page? Maybe she posted where she is?” I said.

“They took our V-phones before they put us in the cells.”

So the cops did think the deaths might have been a drug hit. “How old is Janey?” I said.

“She’s fourteen.”

“Oh, crap. They probably put her in with the hookers.” I hung a hard left, chucking a u-ey on Gallia, then I punched the ionization drive. We were back at the Station in two minutes. I parked around back in the jail entrance. “Stay in the car,” I told Tony.

Half an hour later I was back in front of the car, resisting the urge to kick the magnetic boosters, which I did a couple of months ago and broke my toe. I took a couple of breaths, so as not to get Tony too excited, and opened the door. “They lost her, or said they did. But I made them copy me the surveillance video of the hooker lockup. Does this look like Janey?” I flashed the snippet of surveillance video on my V-phone.

“It looks like her,” Tony said. “I can’t see her face very well, but the hair’s the right length and color.”

“Okay, it looks like they shipped her off with a load of hookers to the Fredericksburgh detention center. I got her case transferred to me, so now I’ve got her chip ID.” I fired up Lizzie and headed towards Fredericksburgh. “We’ll get her scanned and spring her from the detention center.”

I put Lizzie on autopilot and opened up the traffic cam feed. There’d been a morning news tweet about a chasm of doom opening up along US-35, spewing fire and brimstone. Damn apocalypticists were setting fires and bombing buildings to make people think the Great Tribulation had really started, herding them into Salvation Centers, where they signed away all their worldly possessions to whatever bogus church they had joined—there were now more churches than nail-salons, each one promising to get the convert off the late great planet earth before the Battle of Armageddon. In the last two years, five prophets of doom had replaced power grid owners on the list of the ten richest people in the world.

Sure enough, US-35 was closed at Chillicothe due to low visibility. I entered a route modification into Lizzie’s navigation system and punched the speed up to 8.5 megavolts.

“Tony, do you think your Aunt Edna will be able to take both you and Janey? When I spoke to her on the phone, she said her place was already pretty crowded with orphans from her husband’s family.”

“Aunt Edna don’t like Janey too much, but maybe she could sleep on the floor for a couple of days,” Tony said. “That’s all we got anyways.”

“What do you mean?”

“My End-of-Times app countdown clock’s only showing 49 hours and 7 minutes left before the Battle of Armageddon starts,” Tony said, showing me the screen on his V-phone. “All of us mid-tribulationists will be rapturing once the Battle begins.”

“You’ve been following that for a while?”

“Yeah. A couple of months, ever since Mom and Dad got us baptized,” Tony said.

“How many times they push back the date since you’ve been following it?”

“Sure, a couple of times, but they changed it the other way too,” Tony said. “Like when the Lady of Guadalupe re-appeared last month in Mexico City, they set the clock forward because of what she said.”

“The world’s fucked up, kiddo, but don’t get your hopes up about it ending any time soon. You and Janey have got long and miserable lives ahead of you, especially her, if I can’t get her out of that detention center.” Damn, wish I hadn’t said that; don’t want Tony to be any more upset than he already is.

I had to swerve to avoid hitting a baby rabbit that some kids had chased into the street; it wouldn’t have made much of a stew if I pulverized it with my boosters—besides I’d just run Lizzie through the sonic wash this morning.

There was a large cloud of brimstone blowing south across the Old Frederickburgh Road. I popped open the glove compartment and gave Tony one of the masks. I was glad I opted for the Tribulation Special at the carwash, the polymer coating they’d applied after the sonic wash would keep Lizzie’s finish from eroding in the brimstone cloud.

“Look,” Tony said, after we emerged from the brimstone cloud. “Dragons. They’re chasing the planes.”

“No, they’re not,” I said. “The planes are pulling the dragon decoys behind them. They’ve got a winch on the plane. It pulls the dragon closer. Then they fly off and let it out again. You ever see the dragon catch the plane?”

“I’ve seen video. The dragon gets close, blasts the plane with fire, and then eats the cooked passengers after the plan crashes. They don’t like raw meat.”

“It’s all faked,” I said. “They’re just scaring people so they’ll convert to some church and donate all their possessions.”

“You’re going to be one of the ones left behind when the Battle of Armageddon starts.”

“I’ll keep Lizzie all charged up, just in case,” I said. “Okay, here’s the detention center. Whatever you do, don’t get out of the car. I don’t want to have to spring you out of this place as well.”

I went through the pink door of the detention center. Forty-five minutes later I came out with Janey. Back in the car, Tony was surprised by how Janey looked.

“Whoa, what happened to you? You got different clothes, and they painted your face.”

“This is rouge, you moron. And the ladies swapped me for some of my clothes. What do you think?” Janey said, expanding her chest to show off her rather unimpressive cleavage.

“You look like the pictures they show of the Whore of Babylon,” Tony said.

“The ladies said I was nobile.”

“You mean nubile?” I said.

“Whatever, it means I look young and innocent,” Janey said.

“You are young and innocent,” I said.

“Hey, I done stuff at school,” she said, “with some of the guys in the Grand Theft Auto Gaming Club.”

“Janey, you’re going to get stuck here in the Tribulation if you don’t act good,” Tony said.

Janey turned to Tony. “Yeah, well, the ladies told me that there’s guys that would pay me 300 bitcoins to go all the way with them.”

“Whoa,” Tony said.

“I could buy the whole 59-volume set of dramatized Left Behind audiobooks,” Janey said. “All I have to do is repent before the Seventh Trumpet sounds, and I can still avoid the worst of the Tribulations.”

“According to the End-of-Times Prophecy Center, you’ve only got 49, no 48 hours left,” Tony said. “Can you arrange a hook-up that fast?”

Before Janey could answer, I said, “You’re not becoming a hooker while you’re my case.” Janey slumped back in her seat, putting on her best face of teenage disgust. “Listen up, you two. We need to cross the Carl Perkins Bridge to get to your Aunt Edna’s place.”

“Aunt Edna,” Janey said, bringing her hands to her head. “No way, no way I’m going to live with that witch.”

“The Great Tribulation Navigator app says that bridge has been taken over by vampires,” Tony said. “We can’t go that way.”

“Sure we can. There’s plenty of daylight,” I said. “There won’t be any vampires out now.”

“They’ve got Renfields that do their bidding during the daylight.”

“That’s why you’re both going to put on your second safety restraint, and I’m going to punch Lizzie up to 8.89 megavolts.”

“It says here,” Tony said, holding up his V-phone, “you can make a 20 bitcoin offering at the gate, and the vampires will let you pass.”

“It just encourages them,” I said.

“I’d rather have my veins sucked dry than live with Aunt Edna,” Janey said.

“As long as you’re my case, you’ll keep your blood pumping through your cold little heart.” I hit the button for the front force field and upped the juice to Lizzie’s magnetic boosters. Working for social services got you low pay and no respect, but all the best leftover military hardware. It would take more than a couple of pretend vampires to stop Lizzie.

We blew through the gate and glided over the deluge-swollen Ohio River.

“Look, there’s a sea monster chasing the boat.” Tony said.

“No, it’s a decoy, just like the plane,” I said.

“Watch out,” Tony said, pointing to dark figures on the bridge trusses. They were dropping two-by-fours.

“They’re going to need something a lot harder than wood to dent Lizzie,” I said, as a beam bounced off the trunk.

“Hey, driver,” Janey said.

“Name’s  Burt,” I said.

“Butt, I got a text from my BGF4L Darbi. Says I can crash at her place until the End Time. Her brother was gulped by one of those Serpents of Satan, so they’ve got an empty room. Like, they get paid, right?”

“Darbi’s parents got an R-16 foster care license?” I said. Janey tapped away on her screen. After a moment, a beep.

“No,” she said. “But they got an R-12.”

“No good. They’re not licensed to foster a child going through puberty, and honey, you’re way past going through.”

“What difference does it make? The fucking world’s going to fall apart in a couple of days.”

“And when it does, your ass is going to be sitting in appropriately licensed foster care home or the residence of a blood relative.”

“I should laser-tattoo the Mark of the Beast onto my forehead right now and go directly to Hell. It’d be better than living with Aunt Edna,” Janey said.

“Living with Aunt Edna will get you some time off in Purgatory,” I said.

“I’m not a goddamned Catholic. I don’t believe in Purgatory. I’ll be called straight to Heaven.”

I took the first right off the bridge onto Ferry Street, which merged onto Beattyville Road. Aunt Edna’s house was the first one on the left. We pulled into the driveway, and Lizzie released the doors. Tony and I went up to the door, Janey stayed in the car.

“Tony, thank God you’re safe,” Aunt Edna said, after opening the door. “I’m so sorry about your mom and dad. Come in.” Aunt Edna looked around after we entered. “Where’s Janey? You brought her, didn’t you?”

“She’s afraid to come in because of what happened with her and Tommy,” Tony said.

Aunt Edna looked at me. “My son, well, late son, Tommy and Janey, well, let’s just say there was a little horseplay, too much horseplay, there was a bit of a scene, some stuff was said, in the heat of the moment, maybe some feelings got hurt. You know, let me go out and talk with her myself, just for a minute. We can get this straightened out.”

“Sure,” I said.

While Aunt Edna was gone, Tony came closer and whispered, “Tommy died of an overdose. He was doing that Take-Me-Now drug, the one they say gives you the glimpse of the other side.”

“I had a couple of orphans last week whose parents were doing it.”

“Don’t say anything to Aunt Edna. She’s telling everybody Tommy’s been raptured.”

Outside we heard some shouting, maybe a slap. I went out to look, but Aunt Edna and Janey were already at the door. Janey’s face was flush, maybe a little red on one side.

“Everything okay, Janey?” I said.

“Oh, she’s fine,” Aunt Edna said. “My sister was such a wonderful mother, who wouldn’t be upset, what with the way she passed and all.”

“Fine,” Janey said, clearly lying.

“Okay, then, if I can get your thumb print here on this foster agreement, Mrs. Tutwell, I’ll leave both the kids in your custody. You’ll get the first prorated foster stipend later today, if the system stays up, and then full payments at the first of every month. In about ten days, a clothing allowance will be credited to your account. After things settle down a bit….”

“We’re only just about finished with the Beginnings of Sorrows,” Tony said. “Things are going to get a lot worse for the next three and a half years.”

“No matter how bad things get, I’ll still be checking back with you on how the kids are doing.” I waved goodbye. Tony and Janey were standing next to each other; he looked scared and she looked pissed. Aunt Edna several feet away looked like a snake who’d just swallowed a juicy mouse. It wasn’t my best orphan placement, but what the hell, the world was coming to an end and I had another kid waiting for me back at the Security and Social Services Center.


A couple of days later I got a v-tweet from Tony, “Janey’s run away. Aunt Edna put her in the basement to keep her away from the boys.”

I was making an orphan placement on the other side of the River that afternoon, so I swung by Aunt Edna’s place. She had quite a swarm of kids, three orphans from her husband’s side of the family along with Tony and Janey. Two of the older boys were outside by the pool, smoking cigarettes and rough-housing around; maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to keep Janey away from them. Aunt Edna came to the door.

“I heard Janey’s gone missing.”

“Yeah, she’s been acting out,” Aunt Edna said. “Losing your parents like that, it’s not unusual.”

“You know the rules. You have to report a missing foster kid.”

“I know. I didn’t want to get her in trouble,” Aunt Edna said.

More likely didn’t want to lose the foster placement and the stipend. “You got any idea where she went?” I said.

“Over to her friend Darbi’s. But Darbi’s parents said Darbi was on a sleepover at another friend’s house, and they hadn’t seen Janey.” There was a crash from inside the house. Aunt Edna turned away and screamed, “What’d I tell you two about throwing the football in the house.”

“Tony around?” I said.

“Up in his room. Come on in. He’s been pretty mopey since he got here.”

Tony was sitting on the top bunk in a dark corner of what must be the boys’ bedroom with two sets of bunk beds. He looked up from his tablet, “Burt, I might know where Janey is going. I bet Darbi and her other friend, Silki, are going too. Look.”

Tony’s tablet displayed a webpage, Early Ascension to Heaven. There was a picture of Horseshoe Mound Park, the only Hopewell mound to survive the agricultural and industrial boom that transformed Portsmouth in the early twentieth century. Next to the picture was a diagram of the mound, with the title Nephite Rapture Station. According to the webpage, the Nephites, one of the ten lost tribes of Israel, built the mound, actually two mounds, one having been turned into farmland and later a residential development, as a depot for the faithful to be transported to heaven during the Second Coming—all this supposedly described in the Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith.

“This is a bunch of crap, Tony,” I said. “The whole lost tribe of Israel story was debunked decades ago. Colonial settlers couldn’t believe the Indians were capable of building all these massive mounds, so they invented a myth about the Lost Tribes of Israel migrating here before Christ, and then somehow they converted to Christianity, in spite of being so far away.”

“What happened to them?” Tony said.

“Well, it never happened, but, in the myth, I guess you might say they suffered their own apocalypse. One of the two tribes, the dark-skinned Lamanites lost their faith and went to war with the Nephites, destroying them, and then the Lamanites degenerated into the primitive Indians that Joseph Smith met on his travels through the Midwest.”

“That’s like what’s happening to us now,” Tony said. “We’re degenerating.”

“Okay, things are bad right now, but that was all just a myth. There was no scientific evidence of any Israelites in Ohio or any state. Besides, look at the corner of the webpage. It says, ‘Not Affiliated with the Mormon Church,’” I said. “We need to find Janey and get her set up in a better place—don’t say anything to Aunt Edna.”

“I think Janey and Darbi and Silki are going to the Early Ascension event at the Park,” Tony said. “Says here to arrive at 4:30 pm for preadmission preparations.”

“Want to go for a ride?” I said. We didn’t exactly tell Aunt Edna where we were going. In a couple of minutes we were across the River and riding up Grant Street to Horseshoe Mound Park. As we got close, clutches of teens and preteens were walking along the sidewalks and even in the road. By the time we got to Greenlawn Cemetery, the road was too crowded to drive; we pulled into the old Ralph Scott Funeral Home parking lot and walked the rest of the way.

Next to Highland Elementary we found a line forming. Young men and women wearing what looked like traditional Mormon underwear over their street clothes were moving up the line handing out forms. Tony got a copy, but the teenager in the underwear told me, “You’re too old to be saved prematurely.”

“What do you mean, too old?”

“I can’t give nobody over twenty a form. You got to get out of the line.”

“And if I don’t.”

She didn’t answer. She clicked on her walkie-talkie. “I need the hounds, southwest entrance.” She turned her back to me and raised a hand with a laser pointer that she flicked back and forth. A large guy in a black robe and hockey mask came over with a couple of pit bulls, their eyes stained red. The girl pointed, “That’s him.”

“Out of the line, old fella.”

I leaned over to Tony. “Close your eyes and hold your breath.”

The black robe came closer, the dogs growled, he loosened their leads, the dogs came forward and I left loose the military grade pepper spray, closing my eyes quickly. In seconds there was a chorus of whimpering, the dogs ran off, dragging the black cloak behind him. “Shit, man, what’d you do to my dogs?”  Lizzie wasn’t the only military equipment Social Services got for me.

I nudged Tony. “Let’s go up to the front of the line.” I took the sheet Tony got from the underwear girl. It was a disclaimer form, releasing the Early Ascension to Heaven Transport Company, LLC, from liability due to the failure of celestial transport during the Early Ascension Ceremony. EAHTC is not able to determine the salvation status of Early Ascension celebrants prior to the Ceremony. Failure to ascend is proof that the celebrant is not saved. No refund will be provided to unascended celebrants. However, unascended celebrants will be entitled to two more ascension attempts at half price, as well as discounted fees for their Ascension Prep Courses, which according to a study by the graduate theology students in the End-Times Seminar of the New Resurrection Bible School was shown to increase the likelihood of early ascension by fifteen to forty-three percent, depending on the seminar package selected.

“Do you think your sister believes this crap,” I said, while Tony and I walked up to the Park’s southwest gate.

“She’s pretty desperate. Aunt Edna called her a slut and made her stay downstairs during the day after she caught her flirting with my cousins Tom and Jeb.”

Tony had tears running down his face. “What?” I said. “Are you afraid for Janey?

“No, I really want to get out of here too. Get back with my parents. Not be afraid all the time.” He looked up at me. I felt like a veterinarian with a sick dog begging to be put to sleep.

“Hey, things’ll get better. I’ll find you and Janey a better place to live.”

“Not on this earth. Not in the middle of the Great Tribulation.”

I wasn’t much of a hugger, but I put my arm around him and gave him a little squeeze. “Things are screwed up, but it’s not the Black Death, it’s not the Holocaust…”


“Didn’t you take world history in seventh grade?”

“It was boring. Mostly I played the pyramid building game. I learned the names of all the Pharaohs.”

“Is that Janey?” I pointed to three girls just about to pass through the Park entrance.

“Yes, and that’s Darbi and Silki with her. They’re already inside.”

I walked up to the gate. Off to the side, the black cloak security guard was rinsing out his dogs’ eyes with a hose. I took out my Social Services laser ID and flashed it in the face of the Pearly Gates Admissions Assistant. “Social Services. We had a report of child abuse inside the Park.” She let me pass.

I’d lost track of Janey in the crowd, but Tony picked up her two friends standing next to some kind of bubbling cauldron. When we got there, the girls were removing their earrings, toe-rings, eyebrow and navel studs. They dropped them in the boiling cauldron, which wasn’t giving off any kind of heat, probably a sonic jewelry bath.

“Where’s Janey?” I said.

“Who are you, perv?” said the girl I subsequently learned was Darbi. “You’re too old to be in here?”

“He’s our caseworker,” Tony said. “Where’s my sister?”

“She’s in there,” pointing to a long tent of what looked like changing rooms.

“What’s that for?” Tony said.

“To remove genital piercings. We don’t have any,” Darbi said.

“Yet,” Silki giggled.

“Why are you putting your jewelry into this cauldron?” I said.

“They said our jewelry would interfere with the ascension process,” Darbi said. “You know, like metal in a microwave.”

“How are you going to get it back?” I said.

“We don’t need it where we’re going, you know, to Heaven.”

“And if you don’t ascend?” I said.

“That hardly ever happens, they told us,” Darbi said. “If something goes wrong, they’ve got those buses over there to take us to the Octagon Mound up at Newark. It’s bigger and higher, everybody ascends from there, practically.”

“There’s Janey,” Tony said. “Janey,” he shouted to her, waving.

Janey saw us and ran around behind the tent. Tony ran after her.

“Tony, wait,” I said, but he kept going. The organizers began herding the celebrants, who had purple stick-on crosses on their chests, into the valley of the horseshoe mound. I lost track of both the kids in the commotion. Within fifteen minutes the interior of the horseshoe mound was filled with teenagers. There was a chain-link fence around the exterior of the mound. By the time I finished unsuccessfully scanning the crowd, the gate to the fence was closed and locked. Flashing my laser ID badge had no effect. All I could do was wait.

The organizers had placed a series of fog machines along the top of the mound. Soon fog poured down into the interior of the mound where the celebrants were assembled. It was getting dark, and the organizers turned on the strobe lights located in between the fog machines. Large concert speakers placed outside of the fence began blaring The Day of Doom sung by Enoch and the Four Horseman, the Christian Punk Rock version of Wigglesworth’s 1662 poem that had been topping the pop charts for the last several months.

Virgins unwise, who through disguise

Amongst the best were number’d,

Had clos’d their eyes; yea, and the wise

Through sloth and frailty slumber’d.

At the open end of the horseshoe mound where the fog wasn’t quite as dense, I could see the celebrants milling around, apparently making way for people with black light headlamps. Every few minutes a cross would fluoresce in the black light and then disappear. After forty-five minutes, the fog machines were turned off and the lights were switched from strobe to constant. The gates of the chain link fence were opened, and the music stopped.

Then came the announcement, “Congratulations to all those who ascended early out of our time of tribulation. For those of you still aspiring to ascend before the Seventh Trumpet sounds, please, proceed to the information desks on the southeast corner of the Park to receive your half price coupon for the next Early Ascension celebration at a location to be announced on the website identified on the coupon. If you deposited any jewelry prior to entering the Ascension arena, you can retrieve it at the tables on the south side of the Park.”

As the crowd cleared, I looked for Tony and Janey. Only after the crowd thinned out did I find Tony wandering back and forth in the rear on the horseshoe mound.

“Janey, Janey, where are you?” He was screaming. He seemed oblivious to the remaining left-behind celebrants, sometimes bumping into them in his search. Someone Tony bumped into pushed him to the ground. I got to him and helped him up.

“What’s wrong with your eyes?” I said.

“Somebody sprayed me. I wouldn’t let go of Janey.”

“They took her away?”

“No, she wanted to go. ‘I want to be saved, Tony. Let me go,’ she said. ‘Take me too,’ I said. ‘I can’t. It’s not up to me. You’ve got to believe, really believe,’ she said. ‘I do believe. Take me,’ I said. Then somebody squirted stuff in my eye. Janey went away after that. I’ve got to find her. I don’t want to be left alone.”

I looked around. The crowd had cleared out of the mound. The buses parked on the north side of the Park were gone. “Let me take you back to Aunt Edna,” I said. “You’ll be safe there, until you get called up.”

Tony struggled against me as I led him out, but his heart was broken and he didn’t have much fight left in him. “Wait,” he said. “I got to get my Dad’s Christian Soldier ring. I had to take it off for the ceremony.”

We went over to the table where all of the jewelry dropped off in the cauldrons had been spread out. A couple dozen teenagers were sorting through the pile. One of the teens threw a handful of jewelry onto the table. “This stuff is all junk. Nobody I know would wear this crap.”

Tony looked for almost a quarter of an hour but couldn’t find the ring. “Maybe somebody took it by mistake?”

“You’re probably right,” I said. “Keep an eye on the lost and found section of this church’s webpage. I bet it’ll turn up.” I couldn’t kick the kid in the teeth again, not after he’d lost his parents and his sister.

“Okay,” he said. “I guess I can’t take it with me anyway.”

“That’s right. You won’t need any jewelry in Heaven.”

“You don’t believe in Heaven,” Tony said.

“No, but you do.”

“You think this is all a big hoax,” he said.

I put my hand on his shoulder and led him toward the exit. “Look, it’s possible everybody is right. Like it’s all subjective. You’ll end up the Heaven, the place you believe in, and I’ll get stuck here in this crappy world, because that’s what I believe in. It’s all a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

“What do you really think happened to Janey?” Tony said.

I wasn’t going to tell the kid his sister was probably on her way to a whorehouse in Anguilla or one of the other Pleasure Islands. “I don’t know. Maybe some kind of special bible camp. Like they thought she was really close to being saved but needed a little boost.” He looked up at me. “She has kind of an attitude, you know.” Maybe he agreed a little. “They left you behind because you’re all set to go, if and when the Rapture happens.”

Tony didn’t say anything. Nothing turns a kid into a cynic faster than inept lying. He’d be better off a little more cynical. “So, let’s get you back home. Aunt Edna’s probably worried about you.”

“Right,” Tony said.

See what I mean. Another week with Aunt Edna, and he won’t believe anybody about anything. A healthy attitude if you’re living through the Great Tribulation, or whatever the hell you want to call this mess we’re in.

Andrew Hogan received his doctorate in development studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before retirement, he was a faculty member at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the University of Michigan, and Michigan State University, where he taught medical ethics, health policy, and the social organization of medicine in the College of Human Medicine. Dr. Hogan published more than five-dozen professional articles on health services research and health policy. He has also published fifty-two works of fiction in magazines like OASIS Journal (1st Prize, Fiction 2014), Hobo Pancakes, Subtopian Magazine, Twisted Dreams, Midnight Circus, Stockholm Review of Literature, The Beechwood Review, Cyclamens and Swords, Festival Writer (Pushcart Nominee), and many others.