Rapture on Aisle 13
by Clark Boyd
All I needed was a roll of duct tape. That’s it. Just something to temporarily patch up a hole in the ceiling of our garage, because my wife was afraid mice would get in. But that day, I made the mistake of wearing a yellow t-shirt and jeans, the uniform of everyone in the home improvement store.
“But I don’t work here.”
I must’ve said it at least 10 times before I even made it to lighting. Customer after customer, for some reason, kept asking me where they could find bottled water. By the hammers and nails, I ran into Merv and Estelle Sackmuller, my neighbors, wheeling one of those big, flat carts. To be honest, I didn’t know them that well. They lived across the street, and I would see Merv out mowing occasionally. I knew he was retired, and that both seemed to split their time between golf and church. That morning, I’d noticed a backhoe digging in their side yard, right where the dog house, and the dog, used to sit.
Merv saw me coming and moved to intercept. I thought maybe we’d discuss our respective lawns.
“Excuse me, son.”
“Do you sell bottled water?”
“I’m sure we’ve seen it before somewhere in here.”
“Well, I think it’s on Aisle 13.”
Estelle smiled and said, “Thanks. Would you mind coming along and making sure? Maybe helping us put it on the cart?”
The duct tape was in that direction anyway, and I kind of wanted to see if they’d recognize me at some point. But they never did.
We moved past the lumber on 6, making our way toward Aisle 13. Other customers continued to glance in my direction, hoping to ask the all-too-familiar question. For fun, I started to preempt them with this: “Sorry, I’m assisting other customers right now.”
I was about to ask the Sackmullers why they were buying bottled water, maybe even make a joke about the tap water in our neighborhood. But before I could open my mouth, Merv piped up.
“Preacher said we need water, right mother?”
Estelle nodded, her mouth twisted somewhere between grin and grimace.
“Are you donating it to a good cause?” I asked.
“Hell, no,” said Merv. “Only good cause now is our own. The water’s for our Rapture Bunker.”
“We already got the canned food and guns,” Estelle chimed in.
“Rapture Bunker?” I asked.
“Yep,” said Merv. “The End Times. Preacher says they’re coming real soon, and we need to be ready.”
“It feels good to be chosen,” said Estelle.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “If you’re chosen, don’t you get taken up or something? You won’t need a stocked, underground bunker will you?”
Merv scoffed, called me an ignoramus, and then carefully explained: “At the appointed hour, which is soon like I said, the earth will be scorched clean of sinners. Then and only then, Preacher says, we can emerge from our bunkers for the glorious ascension into heaven. They’re digging at our house right now.”
“We’re very lucky,” Estelle added. “Preacher’s brother has a backhoe, and his son-in-law lays concrete. A cousin of his works here. He’s making sure the entire congregation gets all sorts of Rapture discounts.”
“That is lucky,” I said.
“It’s a shame you can’t join us,” said Estelle, patting me on the shoulder.
We approached Aisle 13, where a sign assured us this was the right place to find bottled water. We made the turn only to find that all hell had broken loose. An entire array of decent Christians were fighting over the last few crates of bottled water. Curses and blows rained down from all directions. Mothers held other people’s children in headlocks. One man systematically sliced water bottles with a knife, screaming, “If I can’t have it, neither can you, Darryl!”
Instead of joining the melee, Merv and Estelle dropped to their knees and began to pray. They asked the Lord to smite the wicked and begged for their own deliverance from such sin. When they were done, both slowly stood up. Merv whispered to me: “Those stupid fuckers. I wish I’d brought one of my guns.”
I decided I’d had enough.
As I retreated, I heard an announcement come over the loudspeaker: “Attention! Someone says there’s apparently a Rapture or something happening down on Aisle 13. Could we get a security guard or two there to help stop it, please? Sebastian? Anthony? Anybody?”
I had never been so happy to exit a store. As the automatic doors shut behind me, I could see ominous storm clouds in the distance. I needed to get home.
As I got to my car, a camera crew from a local TV station rushed by. The reporter stopped and asked if she could interview me.
“Well, you obviously work here. You must know about the ongoing Rapture Water Incident.”
“For the last time, I don’t work here!” I shot back.
She looked at me as if she didn’t believe me. But then she decided to spare me, sprinting to catch up with the rest of her crew.
It was only after I got home that I realized I had forgotten the duct tape. As my wife predicted, a whole family of mice soon moved into the ceiling of our garage. “A plague,” she called it. But on the plus side, those ominous clouds had amounted to nothing but a few raindrops. No locusts. No frogs.
As the weeks passed without a real rapture, I thought about the Sackmullers across the street. I hadn’t seen them since the incident in the store, and I wondered if they were holed up in their bunker, judiciously sipping water and eating beans from a can, with guns locked and loaded in case a sinner like me dared to knock on their bunker door.
I considered raiding their garage. After all, chances were good Merv had some spare duct tape that he and Estelle wouldn’t need up there in heaven.
Clark Boyd lives in Haarlem, the one with the extra "a," in the Netherlands. He is still quietly recovering from two decades spent reporting, writing, editing and producing international news stories for US public radio. Instead of a Maserati, his midlife crisis is trying to reinvent himself as an author of fiction, poetry, and whatever else pops into his head.