by Jessica Ripka
My sister is preparing for the apocalypse. Or so she tells me at the baby shower for her third child. She is attempting to relax in a hardbacked chair and wiping sweat on a pink napkin when her husband calls her over to the couch where he is sinking deep into the cushions with his feet up.
“You’re gonna love this!” he says without looking up from the screen of his cellphone, his thick fingers scrolling through a slate of pictures. My sister trods over slowly, breathing hard. I hear her say something enthusiastic about solar panels and a compost toilet as her two younger kids – both under the age of six – tear through the kitchen with toy guns in their hands, aiming at each other’s heads and hearts.
“You guys getting solar panels?” I ask, impressed.
“RV,” my sister corrects me, glistening and bright.
The kids tear through the kitchen again – this time aiming at me, laughing.
“Vacation?” I ask. My sister and I share a shrinking handful of things in common. Mostly DNA but also a love of camping. I almost bought an RV to live on when I was in my 20s. The thought of changing its oil, transmission and tires made me reconsider.
Curt perches his phone on the bulk of his stomach and wipes his glasses with the edge of his camo shirt. One of the buttons is off but I don’t say anything. I let him speak with his pent up passion – a faith preacher in need of a cheap Sunday suit.
“The end is coming, Jessie,” he looks me square in the eye. I squint back – partly because I hate being called Jessie; partly because I’m not sure what he means.
“Zombie apocalypse?” I clarify, trying to crack a joke. But no one is joking.
“We just wanna be ready,” my sister says with a solemn shrug of her shoulders, returning to her hardback chair.
What question do you ask first to a proposition like this? Which tire do you kick? Where will you get gas? comes to mind, along with, Where will you get food? What’s an RV without fuel, after all? Or a homestead without seeds and soil?
But I commend them. Tell them they’re very brave for thinking so far ahead and with such young children in tow. I don’t fear the same end that they do with its fire, brimstone, the return of the Lord. I fear overpopulation, over pollution, bleaching of the barrier reef. My sister fears a future that inspires her to have even more children – an “army of the lord”, as she puts it to me. I fear a future that snuffs out my hope of children before I can even entertain the idea of having them.
The kids tear through again. Caleb, the oldest waves a broom handle like Rambo, mowing us all down with its bristles before collapsing to the ground with a fake wound in his side. He tugs at the hem of my dress to get me to join him.
“Help us!” he cries, flailing his arms. I join him, one knee at a time, until I am hunkering down next to his tiny body. “Help us! Help us!” we cry in an all out wail.
Help us, help us!
About the Author
Jessica's essay was a finalist for both Creative Nonfiction’s 2019 “Lets Talk About Sex” issue as well as the 2019 Iowa Review Nonfiction Prize. Her essay “Brother’s Keeper” was recently published in Chaleur Magazine. She is a 2015 Summer and Winter Tin House Fellow and a 2016 graduate of the Transom Story Workshop. She is a creative nonfiction writer and audio producer currently working in film in Los Angeles.