The End of The World (USA Day 35)
“Have you noticed the state of the world around us? Feels a bit like the end’s coming, don’t it?” said the jolly man, as we sat in the shade of an old oak tree, licking away at our ice creams.
To be fair, it’s a question of scale. Look no further than the tree, he could not be more wrong. Peanut-butter frozen treats, bicycle-powered travel, good conversation, a solar cell charging our phones. Widen the search parameters by five miles, see the ghost town, its boarded up businesses, bordered by that contradiction of flooded fields and the cloudless, over-baked air, you might agree. Look at the entire nation, the continent, the planet, there’s no question.
I assumed he meant the latter and agreed.
“Just as was foretold in the bible, ain’t it?”
Whoops. Didn’t realise it was one of those conversations. Give me New Testament morals any day of the week, but prophecies? Nah. “Suppose so,” I stammered.
“Anyway, let me give you one of these,” he said, handing us a copy of Watchtower.
We politely declined and made use of our excellent escape vehicles. I love a good Jehovah’s Witness, but only when we’re both aware of their identity from the outset.
We’d started the day early and were due to finish it only a little later. The heat had been unmatched, but storms were coming, and after our luxurious ice-cream break we’d peeked behind us to see the encroaching black clouds. With a cross-tailwind and the strong desire to only be wet by means of perspiration, we bolted southwest at speeds unheard of so far this trip, glancing over our shoulders every few paces, eyes wide, heart racing. Lexington wasn’t far now, but the darkest grey hung threateningly in every direction but forward, so on we went. Only at this point did the words of the Jehovah’s Witness ring in our ears, and we laughed that hollow, secular, doubtful laugh, then pushed harder on the pedals and tried not to look up at the sky.
Lexington arrived at speed, and we skidded in to the grassy spot by a friendly church, pitched our tent in a flurry and dived inside just as the first drops began to fall. Within seconds of the zip closing, the storm exploded around us and we sat, terrified yet dry, wondering how on earth we’d managed it.
An hour or so later the rain gave up, disappointed to have missed its opportunity. From outside, a small voice asked how we were faring in there. It was Norm, a diminutive fellow with a grey beard and wide eyes, on a bike ride around the town. He wanted us to come for dinner, and who were we to resist such an invitation? We agreed that both half an hour and hamburgers sounded good, wrote down an address, and found ourselves packing up our tent again, slightly bewildered but very much hungry. As we did so, the woman who lived opposite our temporary pitch came over, offering us dinner at her house. We declined, stating that we already had a date, but were into the idea of two-timing Norm if the opportunity occurred.
So half an hour passed and we rocked up at Norm’s place – a house filled with the oddest, most delightful collections you’ll ever see. He had half a dozen antique cars in perfect condition, an enviable record collection, a display case full of green-glowing uranium glass, a plastic chimpanzee, a spiral staircase and a Playel piano. His partner, Laura, had a ceiling full of lampshades, barber shop mannequins dressed in a range of sexy underwear and three cupboards full of doorknobs. I kid you not. Maybe also a fossilized cat. We ate cheeseburgers with home-pickled pickles, chatted about butt-cream and Trump, amongst other things, drunk some whiskey and headed out to our tent.
Tell you what, if the world’s ending, it’s sure going out in style.