M was the Catholic kid next door. Our families have been neighbors for as long as I can remember. M was raised in a structured, consistent environment, the kind Dr. Spock would have prescribed, with a Dad who worked shifts at the paper mill and a Mom who stayed home with the kids, managing their time and driving them to various activities. They went to the Catholic church in town on weekends and, when the time came, to CCD during the week.
I had no such restrictions on my time; provided I was at the dinner table by 5, I was good.
All of this extra instruction going on next door, however, tipped the scales, giving M a worldly edge. She became my main source of information related to anything happening outside of my own imagination.
On school mornings the kids in the neighborhood walked to the bus stop at the end of Fuller Road. I learned a lot waiting for the bus. I learned about the birds and the bees, for one, complete with visual aids scratched on a frosty wind shield by a boy named Timmy.
One morning at the bus stop, compliments of M, I learned that I was doomed. M. had recently heard, through her various affiliations, that the Devil would be taking over the earth in the year 2000. Luckily for her, she was Catholic, and God would be sending his kid to pick up all the Catholics before the destruction began. Or maybe they would just ascend on their own. She wasn’t sure how that part was going to go down. But she did know for sure that I was screwed.
This information was most distressing. What the bloody hell did I ever do to deserve eternal damnation? If I had had this information before I was a newly fertilized baby egg, I would have picked different parents, now, wouldn’t I have? I was upset that apocalypse knowledge was not built into my DNA, allowing me to make better parental and religious choices. Now, the end was near and I was stuck with my pagan loser family and destined to a fiery eternity. I envisioned a big, beautiful white bus emerging from the clouds with Jesus at the wheel, stopping to pick up all the Catholics in the neighborhood while I cried in vain as the devil blew his searing breath down my neck and yelled at me to get back to work digging coal to feed his inferno.
After a couple nights of not sleeping well, and staring up at the sky, worrying that the apocalypse might show up early, my stepmother’s radar went off. I gave a tearful synopsis of the bus stop religious instruction.
She claimed it wasn’t true. That M was sadly mistaken. I finally got back to sleep.
A couple days later at the very same bus stop I learned that M had indeed been mistaken about the year 2000. Jesus wasn’t coming to pick up anyone and we were all screwed.
|All Aboard the Jesus Bus. Next Stop Pearly Gates.|