A story about our common humanity


T.M. Doran

TEDDY MADE HIS COFFEE ON A CAMP HEATER. He didn’t have the right oil so it took him a long time to get it ignited and the instant coffee wasn’t as hot as he liked when he sipped it on the sofa.

Lady wouldn’t bother him till he’d had his coffee, got dressed, and went to the cabinet where they kept their dog walking paraphernalia. This morning, he decided to let her roam without a leash. She wouldn’t stray far and he wasn’t worried about traffic.

Stepping outside, Teddy was struck by what a lovely summer day it was: cool but not chilly, early sun, bright blue sky, no wind to speak of. Perfect! He decided to leave his jacket behind.

Perfect weather for the dog too, who stretched her legs and then joined Teddy as he made his way down the street. He loved walks in Milltown and their neighborhood, especially on days when it wasn’t too cold or stormy to observe the houses and yards: hundred year-old homes next to brand new models, every architectural style imaginable, big and small side by side. Sure, the yards needed some attention but he was more interested in the personal touches he’d never noticed before.

He didn’t hinder Lady, letting her go wherever she pleased. There were fewer squirrels and rabbits than usual; maybe they sensed something.

Lady had no sooner finished her morning meal than Susan came down the stairs. This morning, she was already dressed in her favorite outfit, the one with the flowery blouse. Somehow, she managed to look radiant at this early hour.

They had dry cereal and juice boxes for breakfast, Teddy telling her about Lady’s exploring. He said, “Did you know the Rodriguez’s corbels are a different color than their house?”

“They did that two years ago. It’s called an accent and it’s supposed to draw the eye.”

“Well, I just noticed.”

“Better late than never,” she said, and they both had a laugh.

It was almost noon when Teddy said, “You haven’t been out. Do you feel like walking?”

“I certainly do. We don’t want to waste this beautiful day.”

“Mind if Lady’s off the leash?”

“Why should I? Let me find my shoes.”

“Shall we apply our sunblock?” he asked her.

“I’ll pass today, you silly fool.”

They went in the opposite direction from Teddy’s morning walk, and they hadn’t gone far when they saw Charlie on his tall handled bicycle decked out with ribbons and other colorful adornments, Charlie’s long pony tail extending to the middle of his back.

They waved to each other and Charlie said, “It’s today!”

They hadn’t ever known Charlie to think about any day but today.

“It’s good to see him out,” Susan observed.

They walked further than usual, and on the way home Teddy pointed to a red dot in the sky. “There it is.”

“Mars?” she asked him.

“Let’s assume so. Are you hungry?”

“Not especially,” Susan said, “but I’m thirsty.”

Inside the house, they had big glasses of water and sat next to each other on the sofa.

“The bathtub water isn’t bad,” he said.

“We should have saved two bottles,” Susan replied.

“We enjoyed them…remember?”

Susan said, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, what shall I fear. The Lord is my strength, of what shall I be afraid?”

Teddy said, “I like the story where Saint Paul lists all his troubles: shipwrecks, prison, stonings…then says how happy he is.”

“Yes, and Jesus with the children. I worry about ours.”

Teddy didn’t want her to worry. “I’m sure they’re doing their best. They have their children to consider.”

He went to the window and looked out. “It’s as big as the Moon now.”

She joined him. “And how red it is. We should set our camp chairs on the lawn. We’ll open that bottle of wine and I’ll spread some peanut butter on crackers.”

“Sounds like a feast,” Teddy said.

“It will have to do. I’ll make enough for Charlie in case he rides by.”

Teddy said, “I’ll put the chairs out and uncork the wine.”

They didn’t see Charlie but they knew he was apt to wander for miles on his bike. They sat close to each other with the crackers and wine between them.

“How long?” she said.

“Less than an hour. This one is bigger than the dinosaur asteroid. I guess we shouldn’t complain since it’s been sixty million years since the last big one.”

Susan said, “Couldn’t it have held off a measly hundred thousand years?”

“Hah! You’re always thinkin’.”

“Do you think humans will survive?” she asked him.

They were both thinking about their children and grandchildren. “I hope so. Many have gone to the other side of the world.”

“Not the kids. They only got to Georgia,” Susan said.

“Maybe that’s plenty far. People are resourceful, especially young people. How long since you’ve seen anyone but Charlie?”

She said, “A month or so…about the time the water and power stopped working. Not a soul since, or they’re bunkered down.”

“Bunkered in what…and for what?” he said.

“Exactly,” she agreed. “Does it feel warmer to you?”

“It’s summertime. It gets hotter when the sun is up.”

“It’s bigger than the Sun now,” Susan said.

“I guess so,” Teddy said, taking her hand.

“I love you, Teddy. I’m very grateful for everything…our forty years, our children, all our blessings.”

“It’s been a wonderful trip, hasn’t it?”

Lady usually sought the shade when the summer sun was up, but today she sat sphinxlike at Teddy’s feet.

“It looks like they were right,” Teddy observed.

“About what?”

“About a direct strike on Milltown. Quite a distinction for our home to be the epicenter.”

“Couldn’t we have deflected or destroyed it?” Susan asked him.

“We had more important fish to fry, mainly fighting with each other and building the next distraction device. Anyway, we didn’t do any worse than the dinosaurs did.”

They laughed so hard that Lady joined in with barks.

It was huge now. They couldn’t see a tail because the asteroid was coming right at them, but they could see a spectacular multicolored aurora surrounding it.

A hot breeze wafted over them.

Teddy raised his wine glass. Susan did too. They tapped glasses, then she gave him a sip of her wine and he gave her a sip of his.

“To us,” he said.

“To us and ours. God bless us everyone.”

“Goodbye old girl.” Was he speaking to Susan or Lady?

She never knew.