Rumpus Original Fiction: The Howard County Rapture


It was a Friday morning at 9:34 a.m. when the Rapture occurred.

Dan Sapp of Dan Sapp Automotive and Dan Sapp Roadside Assistance was pouring himself another cup of Folgers from the twenty-year-old Mr. Coffee machine in his front office and admiring the backside of Leigh Smith, his receptionist and the only female on the premises. Then the Lord came, and Dan Sapp floated up to heaven with the Mr. Coffee carafe still in his hand.

“Leigh!” he shouted as he made his slow ascent.

“Yes, Mr. Sapp,” Leigh said, looking up at the ceiling.

“Be sure you make the bank deposit this afternoon.” Sapp now had his hand on the ceiling. This appeared to cause him to hover in the air indefinitely.

“Yes, Mr. Sapp,” Leigh said, looking up in amazement. But since she had seen many other unusual things in Howard County in her nineteen years of life, she decided not to ask why Mr. Sapp was floating just above the ceiling with the Mr. Coffee carafe in his hand. Her mother and father told her to mind her own business when she inquired about anything out of the ordinary that occurred at home.

“Leigh!” shouted Sapp again.

“Yes, Mr. Sapp.”

“What in tarnation is happening?”

“Beats me, Mr. Sapp,” Leigh said and then thought about it a minute. “Maybe it’s the Rapture?”


“No man knows the day or the hour of the Lord’s return, Mr. Sapp.”

“But I was going hunting this weekend.”

“Not anymore.”

“If it’s the Rapture, why aren’t you floating up here with me? I see you every Wednesday night at Bible study and every Sunday for church.”

“Well…” Leigh had not even thought to ask herself this. “Maybe on account of all the blowjobs I’ve been giving Mark Winfield down at the Howard County Courier.”

When Sapp heard about blowjobs that Mark Winfield was getting and he wasn’t, his mind left all thoughts of either hunting or heaven and he was about to inquire further. The Lord, however, was growing weary of their chit-chat and Dan Sapp of Dan Sapp’s Automotive and Dan Sapp’s Roadside Assistance floated through the roof of his front office, right through it like a ghost, and up into the sky where he saw his old friend Vernal Humpt. Humpt was in his bathrobe and holding an empty porcelain coffee cup that had a picture of an old man in a cowboy hat on it with a caption reading, “Age Is a State of Mind.”

“Vernal, how’s it going?” said Sapp.

“I’m all right. I guess. The Lord comes as a thief in the night, don’t He?”

“I sure hope that’s so.”

“Hey, you got coffee there, don’t you?”

Sapp grasped the fact that he still had the Mr. Coffee carafe in his hands. “Damn, Leigh’s gonna have to order a new carafe. And they ain’t cheap.”

Humpt extended his empty coffee cup. “Mind if I have some? I was just making a pot when I started to float up.”

“Sure, sure.” Sapp poured his old friend a cup of coffee. Try as he did, he couldn’t help but spill most of it. Their ascension into heaven had accelerated.

“You think we gonna see our friends from the Tuesday Noon Rotary Club that meets on Wednesdays when we get to heaven?” Humpt asked.

“Well… I imagine we’ll see all of them. I imagine there will be quite a contingent of Rotarians up there,” said Sapp.

“I don’t know.” Humpt looked worried. “I never did like the folks who go to the Monday Sunrise Rotary Club that meets on Thursdays.”

This was the last that could be heard of their conversation from Earth. This was known because the Rev. F.A. Fielding Jr. and Jack O’Connor were staring up at the heavens and listening in on Sapp and Humpt from the middle of Highway 230, where all traffic had stopped. The Rev. Fielding and O’Connor had been in a fender-bender. There were three cars on the side of the road. The first car, a 1987 white Ford pickup truck, was upside down and lying in a ditch. Everybody knew this truck belonged to George Whitely who was said to be related to one of the minor Confederate Army generals and had been president of the Howard County Sons of the Confederacy for going on seventeen years. Next, there was a 2001 White Toyota Camry that everybody knew belonged to the Rev. F.A. Fielding Jr. of the Second Baptist Church of Howard. The last car was a 1998 Volkswagen Jetta with New Jersey license plates that everybody knew belonged to Jack O’Connor. Everybody also knew that Jack O’Connor was a Yankee from Hoboken, NJ, and a heathen.

It was the shock of seeing George Whitley float up out of his Ford pickup and into the sky that caused the preacher to put his foot on the brakes hard and O’Connor, following close behind, had not been able to stop his Volkswagen on time. The damage was minor.

“Do you have any…” O’Connor asked.

“Praise God!’ said the preacher. “Praise His holy name! It’s the Rapture. The Lord has come to take the righteous from the Earth before the last days, before the Horsemen of the Apocalypse fill the sky with terror, before the end of time and the Last Judgment. Praise His holy name!”

“Oh,” said O’Connor. “Then what are you still doing here?”

“Well…” began the Rev. F.A. Fielding Jr., who was not entirely sure of the answer. “Somebody has to be here for those who want to repent.”

It occurred to O’Connor that he was going to have a hard time finding a plumber. All the plumbers he had met in Georgia were definitely saved. O’Connor’s house had plumbing problems, electrical problems, and needed a new roof. It was bad enough that O’Connor had to live in Howard County but infuriating that he had to use his hard-earned money to preserve its Antebellum past.

O’Connor was in Georgia because of Virginia. Not the state but the woman, his wife. He met Virginia while living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Then he was a cutting-edge photographer with a small grant from the New Jersey Council for the Arts, which New Jersey wanted back when they discovered O’Connor was living across the river in Brooklyn. O’Connor had used his parent’s address in Hoboken when he applied and still considered the slight distinction between Hoboken and Brooklyn to be cosmetic, excepting the peculiar aspect of New Jersey law that made it illegal to pump your own gas.

Virginia was a Southern girl from a good family hailing from Savannah, Georgia and, at the time she met O’Connor, was a medical student at Columbia University. Virginia had an excellent, if somewhat distant, appreciation of bohemia, and this led her to an opening at a makeshift gallery on South First Street in Brooklyn by the water, which was called Gamble Usher’s Temporary Gallery. There she saw O’Connor’s photos of overweight Russians at Brighton Beach, grown men in business suits in childish poses drunk in Bryant Park, and several carefully framed shots of a crack in a sidewalk.

She was underwhelmed at first, but the more she looked at the unabashed Russians on the beach, whose fat around their middle sagged down on brightly colored swim trunks, the more she noticed the man behind those photos, a man who was astonished and jealous of the Russians’ lack of self-consciousness. She thought O’Connor was the most self-conscious person she had ever met. Whenever O’Connor got a glimpse of Virginia’s blue eyes, or cascading sandy hair, or perhaps even a bit of leg showing through the slit of her black dress, he blushed and looked away. He could not take her in all at once. It was too much. He divided her into exquisite parts, at which he permitted himself only a peek.

When a mutual friend introduced them, it was Virginia’s turn to blush and steal looks at O’Connor’s dark eyes and thick, black hair. What she liked most, however, was his lingering Irish sadness, as if his heritage had forced on him the continence of an old man who had been forced to attend too many wakes. Though people said O’Connor had something Irish about him, most of his physical features were inherited from his Sicilian mother.

“If you were born in Georgia why are you named Virginia?” O’Connor asked her on their first date. It was not that O’Connor had not met many Southerners; he had met his fair share in New York. But he never met a Southerner who possessed genuine Southern gentility until Virginia. Virginia was light and O’Connor was dark. They became a couple quickly, complementing and infuriating each other.

They were married and now Virginia is the prettiest medical intern at Howard County Hospital. She gives speeches to the Rotary Club (both the Tuesday Noon Rotary Club that meets on Wednesdays and the Monday Sunrise Rotary Club that meets on Thursdays) about healthful living and O’Connor teaches photography at a community college the next county over.

The Rev. F.A. Fielding Jr. was on his cell phone with the insurance company trying to explain the accident. “No. No. Like I said, this accident—it’s nobody’s fault. It’s on account of the Rapture.” There was a pause as the preacher listened intently. O’Connor walked in circles.

“Surely,” said the Rev. Fielding, “by now you have heard and noticed something. No?” Fielding frowned and became angry. “I am a preacher and this, sir, is a dry county. I most certainly am not drunk!” Then he placed his hand over the mouthpiece of his Nokia phone. “They’re saying the Rapture isn’t covered under my policy.”

“Well,” O’Connor said, “I suppose this is an act of God.”

“Can I speak to your supervisor?” said the preacher into the phone.

It was late March, which in the Lowcountry of Georgia and South Carolina means spring. Yellowish pollen drifted through the air like a fine dust, covering buildings, parked cars and anything that stood still for more than a moment.

Mark Winfield, who was the young editor of the Howard County Courier, dusted pollen off the lens of his Nikon digital camera with a cloth he’d soaked in alcohol. He looked out the window of the offices of the Courier and could hardly believe his eyes.

Carson Philips’s boiled peanut cart, which was allowed to park outside of Love God Hardware across the street from Winfield’s office, had drifted into the road and caused a pile-up of at least ten or twelve vehicles on Highway 230. Carson Philips was nowhere to be found.

The Howard County Courier, which was known as the second-worst paper in Georgia, was housed in an old, asbestos-filled house.

“How come you always saying that this is the second-worst paper in Georgia?” asked Toothless, who drove the truck to pick up the papers over in the next county, where they were printed every Tuesday.

“Because we are the second-worst paper in Georgia,” Winfield said.

“Well, what’s the worst newspaper in Georgia, then?” asked Toothless.

“I don’t know,” Winfield said, “but whoever they are, they sure is bad!”

Toothless had been known by his moniker for so long, many could not remember if he had a real name. He received this nickname when he chipped his front tooth in junior high and his family was too poor to pay the dentist over in the next county to fix it. He was a short man with short hair and of indeterminate age.

Winfield was a strapping former high school football star originally from Arizona. Upon graduation, and after a tremendous disappointment in the first round of the state championships, he studied journalism at the community college over in the next county. There he took O’Connor’s photography class and became one of O’Connor’s drinking buddies.

Deeper inside the asbestos-filled offices of the Courier the publisher, Sharon Tankton, was on the phone with her boss and occasional adulterous lover, Clarence Zeller, who worked at the Courier’s parent newspaper, a daily in the next county.

“Well, of course nobody’s heard about this in Savannah or Atlanta, Zelly,” said Tankton. “I don’t imagine there are but five or six people in Savannah that are saved and nobody in Atlanta.”

Tankton was a thin woman of fifty-four with protruding front teeth that made her look like a beaver. To make matters worse, she had a habit of arranging her face in a blank stare while letting her lower jaw go slack, which formed an unflattering image. She was a member of the Howard County Church of Christ and attended worship every Sunday and Women’s Bible Study every Wednesday. It was usually after the Women’s Bible Study on Wednesday that she would meet Clarence Zeller at the Red Rabbit Motel for a bout of “career enhancement.”

“Career enhancement” was the euphemism that Zeller employed with Tankton when she was his secretary. This euphemism turned precise and telling, though still opaque to many, when Tankton was promoted to publisher of the second-worst paper in Georgia.

“What? Nobody’s seen anything over there, either?” the publisher of the second-worst paper in Georgia said into the phone with disbelief. “Well, I’ll keep you informed, Zelly.”

Tankton hung up the phone and headed out to the front office. She felt the weight of the nagging discomfort about not being taken up with the rest of her friends in the Tuesday Noon Rotary Club that met on Wednesdays. She tried hard to hide this.

“Well,” Tankton announced to Winfield and Toothless in the front office, “the Rapture may have come to Howard County but no news of the Lord in Savannah or Atlanta.”

This was to be expected.

“And no word in Bulloch, Screven, or Effingham, neither.” This was grim news, for there were surely to be many good Christians in Bulloch, Screven, and Effingham counties. “No news of it in Alabama, Mississippi, or Tennessee, and we’re out of luck with the Carolinas, too.”

“I knew it, I knew it,” said Toothless. “I just knew it. This ain’t the Rapture, it’s a massive alien abduction.”

“Toothless,” said Winfield, “you’re crazy.”

“How else do you explain Gregg Niedling then? Everybody knows that Gregg Niedling don’t go to church, drinks, gambles and cheats on his wife when and if he can. You can’t tell me Gregg Niedling was raptured and not me!” said Toothless. “Why, he don’t hardly showers.”

“Calm down, Toothless,” said Winfield. “I’m not much for religion but I have to say that the Rapture makes a whole lot more sense than aliens.”

Tankton had a thought. “And why wouldn’t the Lord choose Howard County to be the first wave? We’ll have a big headline,” said Tankton, “A huge headline — just one word ‘Rapture!’ and then underneath we’ll say, ‘Howard County First in USA to see the Lord.’”

“This is a backwards-ass county!” O’Connor’s voice boomed across the offices as he entered. “You are going to be laughed silly off the planet if you go with that headline. That’s why I headed over here. To save you—and me—the embarrassment.”

“Miss Sharon,” said Winfield, “I have to agree. People are going to think we’re drunk.”

“Nonsense,” said Tankton. “This is a dry county.”

News of the rapture in Howard County spread quickly and some were inspired, some distressed. Nobody greeted the stories of folks being taken up with more equanimity than Elijah Eliot Greyson, which was to be expected. Elijah was what folks called “grounded.” He was a handsome, clean-shaven seventy-four-year-old man of mixed race. Elijah was better known as Old Eli, not because he looked old, for there were plenty of older people in Howard County, but because the affixation of “Old” to a person’s noted a certain stability of character. Eli was educated, a former accountant in Richmond, and had the manners of a Virginia aristocrat. He was also an avowed atheist and son of a Caribbean woman and a white Episcopalian civil engineer from Richmond.

Old Eli was outside of the usual classification given to people in Howard County, as he wasn’t considered to be black, but also not white, and though he did not believe in a higher power, Eli enjoyed singing in the Episcopal choir in nearby Savannah. He wasn’t a Yankee like Jack O’Connor, but neither was he a true Southerner. People in Howard County could be racist, but most were lackadaisical racists when it came to people they knew in the flesh. That is, until there was some type of controversy, and then folks tended to go to their corners.

It had been almost two years since the old beauty shop on Route 120 next to the defunct Christian gift shop was reborn as the county’s only taco shop. There was a slight hubbub about this due to the implications of demographic change brought about by what everybody agreed were delicious tacos. “If one more Mexican moves to Howard County, we should apply to the UN for foreign aid,” the chairman of the county commission said right in an open meeting.

The single Mexican family who had migrated to the county, however, was from El Paso, Texas, where the taco shop business was a bit more competitive. They had been living in the US for at least a generation. Folks griped about the Mexicans, and then lined up for tacos.

Most people liked Eli, though he wasn’t a part of any respectable and recognized social group. The best they could do was to grant him the title of Old, as if they were ordaining him. It was a position Eli had not asked for, but it was better than a good many things he could be called. Why this amiability could not extend itself to a wider audience remains a mystery. Almost everybody involved in Howard County’s civic institution of church, state, and Rotary Club, were white, though there was a great deal of diversity in regards to moral character and body proportions.

Evelyn Williams’s husband had died around the same time that Old Eli showed up in Howard County, which was shortly after his wife had passed. Every Tuesday you could find Evelyn and Old Eli having lunch, which made them whispered about among the folks who loved to whisper.

“Smothered, covered, chunked, peppered and capped,” Eli commanded, in his smooth baritone, almost every Tuesday at the corner booth in the Waffle House at the corner of Horse Pen Road and Route 109, and, like on the day of creation when light was produced by speech, hash browns smothered in grilled onions, covered in melted cheese, chunked with hickory smoked ham, peppered with jalapeños, and capped with mushrooms appeared before him, along with a mug of hot black coffee. This was Eli’s indulgence. Evelyn, who at the age of sixty-eight, had a neck people continued to compare with a swan’s, would have the grilled chicken sandwich, mayo on the side, and a Diet Coke.

“They say George Whitley shot right up through the top of his truck and into the clouds,” Evelyn told Eli.

Eli’s fork dived into his hash browns. “Uh huh,” he said.

“Even Jack O’Connor said it and he’s a Yankee.”

“Yeah, well… remember when Elvis Tate claimed that he had captured and shot Bigfoot and it turned out to be an empty gorilla suit?”

“Oh Eli, you don’t believe in anything.”

“I don’t believe in stupid things,” Eli said, “but plenty of people in this county do. You can’t even get a drink here!”

Howard County was indeed a dry county. You could get beer and wine from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Walmart on Highway 230, but not on Sundays and never on Election Day because the county commission didn’t want people going to the polls drunk. The most profitable business in Howard (that wasn’t technically in Howard) had a near monopoly on the sale of liquor. Zach’s Liquor was just over the county line on Highway 230.

Zach J. Harvey owned Zach’s Liquor. He also owned Zach’s Video and Zach’s Gun Shop. He was the richest man in Howard County, with vast real estate holdings. It seemed that if you wanted to build in Howard County you first had to buy land from Zach J. Harvey. When you said “Zach’s,” however, people didn’t think of video rentals, real estate, or the gun shop. They thought of booze. Zach’s Liquor was literally inches from the county line. If a strong wind were to push his store a few inches north, it would make Harvey an outlaw. Despite being outside the county, if you drove by Zach’s Liquor on a Friday or Saturday you would think it was the social center of Howard—and you’d be right. For the convenience of their customers, Zach’s had a drive-through window.

The Rapture caused a scene over at Zach’s. Francis Moore, who had worked at Zach’s for twenty years, was enjoying her fourth morning cigarette while leaning on the double glass doors. She was waiting to open at 10 a.m. She had placed her cardboard coffee cup from Huddle House, her keys, her James Dean cigarette lighter and an almost-full pack of Camels on top of the trash bin. When she began to float up, she reached out and hollered, “My cigs! My cigs!” It just didn’t seem right she should be taken by the Lord without a chance to pocket her Camels.

It was 10:15 a.m. when Jeff Mott drove his black Dodge Durango into Zach’s parking lot. It was his day off and he wanted to pick up a bottle of Jack and a few cigars. All Mott found were the keys, a cup of cold Huddle House coffee, a James Dean cigarette lighter and a pack of Camels on the trash bin. “Francis! Francis! Where are you, Francis?” Mott looked around. “Come on now, where you hiding, Francis?”

There was no answer. Mott took a cigarette from the pack of Camels sitting on the trash bin and lit it with the James Dean cigarette lighter. He thought about this situation for a minute. Then Mott grabbed the keys. He didn’t have all day to waste waiting for Francis Moore.

He stepped into the empty liquor store and watched as the fluorescent lights flickered and then illuminated the handsome bottles. It was too much for his heart to endure. He backed his black Dodge Durango up to the front door and filled the back with as many bottles as he could fit. Mott earned a slight sweat hauling it all. He was unaware the Rapture had come, but he was thankful to the Lord nonetheless.

As more information flowed into the offices of the Courier, and as gossip spread throughout the county, the peculiarity of the day’s events became apparent, though no conclusions could be drawn. The lieutenant governor of Georgia, who had got wind of what had “allegedly” occurred, ordered the state’s environmental protection agency to go down to Howard.

This was an excuse to send Jackson Fischer to Howard County. Jackson was all of twenty-six years old and had grown up in Buckhead, Atlanta, where the median household income was just a little over the combined income of every man, woman and child in Howard, excepting Zack J. Harvey. Jackson is the son of Adamson Fischer, who has been in the Georgia State Senate since before the Civil War, or at least it seemed that way.

Jackson was an undistinguished student of political science at the University of Georgia where he become a great Bulldogs fan, which were acceptable qualifications for a public relations position at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, as long as your daddy was a fixture of the Georgia State Senate.

The current governor was retiring and the lieutenant governor was angling for the number-one spot. “Them folks crazy,” the lieutenant governor told Jackson, and it was made clear that his mission had a political rather than an environmental aim. As yet, there was no Georgia Rapture Management Agency, and so a green-behind-the-ears public relations apprentice was dispatched to Howard County.

Jackson was eager to show his worth, though his enthusiasm dampened a bit on the four-and-a-half-hour drive to the coast, as he slowly began to realize that he had no idea what he was supposed to do upon arrival. His instructions, which consisted of “handle it,” left too much to his discretion.

It was late that night when Jackson pulled into the Howard County Econo Lodge Sleepytime Inn, which was distinguished by having a redundant name too large to fit on their sign outside. Fortunately, it used to be a Motel 6 before it became independently owned, and folks referred to it as “what used to be the Motel 6.”

News of the arrival of some highfalutin young man from the lieutenant governor’s office, under cover of night, spread throughout the county by Wednesday morning. Jackson had to win the people’s trust. He thought a good way to do this was to arrange to speak with “pillars of the community,” and he let that be known.

It was agreed by the remaining members of the Tuesday Noon Rotary Club that met on Wednesdays that there would be no regular meeting this week and everybody who wanted to could come to the courthouse that afternoon to talk with the “government,” which in this case meant Jackson Fischer.

Jackson decided that he had better wear a blue tie to speak with the good people of Howard County because he believed a blue tie made people like you, while a red tie made people fear you. He could not cite the source of this bit of wisdom, but he did not question its validity. “Jackson Fischer, Georgia Department of Natural Resources,” he practiced saying into the mirror in the bathroom of the motel room. He then smiled, extended his hand and said, “Pleased to meet you.” Jackson was quite pleased, too, and a little surprised, to meet his professional persona. He liked the blue tie. It was a nice touch.

Hours later, Babs and Jim Butler were making their way up the courthouse steps for the big meeting, as was almost everybody in the county. “Jackson Fischer, Georgia Department of Natural Resources,” Jackson extended his hand to Babs. He was greeting as many as he could by the door of the courthouse. Babs gave him a weak handshake. Jackson then extended his hand to Jim, who grabbed it and looked closely at Jackson.

“How old are you?” Jim said.

Jackson was cognizant his authority was being questioned on account of his youthful appearance—despite his carefully chosen blue tie—and he considered his response. “Goooooo, Dawgs!” Jackson shouted as he clapped Jim on the back. “Sic ‘em! Woof!” A display of enthusiasm for the Bulldogs had previously gotten Jackson out of many awkward situations.

“I’m partial to Clemson,” Jim said. “My people are from South Carolina.”

Soon all the usual people were sitting in the pews of the courthouse, most filled with somber civic responsibility, but some had arrived for the entertainment value. There was Mark Winfield with his camera, making eyes at Leigh Smith, who was making them back at him. In the back pew there were Old Eli and Evelyn sitting next to each other and, of course, right up front were Tankton and the Rev. F.A. Fielding Jr. Jack O’Connor, with his arms folded, was in the front row, too, and was joined by his wife, Virginia O’Connor, who was still wearing her hospital scrubs.

Zeller and Tankton had been speaking on the phone and in the light of Wednesday morning they had both agreed, as they both always agreed whenever Zeller said anything, that perhaps it was best to keep this Rapture thing quiet, for the sake of the county’s reputation. The meeting began the Pledge of Allegiance, and when this was finished, Tankton asked the Rev. Fielding to give the invocation. And when Fielding shouted out his last “Amen!”, he sat down and all eyes were on Tankton, whose face turned white as she croaked out, “Well… well… ah… well…”

Jackson stepped in. “Jackson Fischer, Georgia Department of Natural Resources. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of you, but thought I’d introduce myself. I want to let you know that your lieutenant governor is monitoring this situation personally and with great interest, and if there is any way the Georgia Department of Natural Resources can be of help to you, just let me know.”

“Are you going to declare a disaster?” Toothless asked.

“Well, now,” Tankton was eager to suppress this idea, “I don’t think that’s necessary. What disaster? Here we all are.”

“Now that’s the problem!” Babs Butler stood up and shouted. “What the hell am I doing here? Why ain’t I in heaven!”

“Declare a disaster?” O’Connor interrupted. “This entire county has been a disaster for years!”

“Quiet! Quiet now!” Tankton said. “Please! Quiet!” At that, everyone began to speak at once.

Eli slowly rose to his feet with an undeniable majesty. “Excuse me,” he said, Since Eli seldom spoke, unless it was important, a hush fell over the courthouse. “Thank you,” Eli smiled. “Now, y’all know me, I don’t have too much interest in the supernatural, but since we’re here, this would be a good time to talk about that Target that was thinking of opening a store in Howard.”

Eli’s eyes met with Jackson’s, until a silent message was conveyed between them, and then he took his seat. This was the first time that anybody in the room had heard about a Target coming to Howard County, but the news was met with an anticipation and excitement that was replacing the need to explain yesterday’s occurrence.

“Well, ah, yes,” Jackson said, “we were trying to keep this under wraps until things were finalized, but yes, Target is seriously considering opening an outlet in Howard County.”

Babbs Butler jumped up again. “They think they’re so much better than us over in the next county because they got an Applebee’s, but if we got a Target that would show them.”

“Oh, a Target,” Evelyn whispered to Eli, “that would be so nice not to have to drive all that way for Target.” Eli looked at her for a moment, and then gently put his hand on her hand.

“Maybe then,” Tankton said. “if we’re being seriously considered for a Target, which we just have to put in the newspaper…”

“Hold on now,” Jackson said. “We don’t want there to be a big hubbub and then Target decides to go somewhere else. We all need to keep things calm, quiet and stable. That’s what businesses like.”

“Yes,” said the Rev. Fielding. “Amen to that. And praise His Holy Name, because any old county can get a Walmart, but a Target… that’s special.”

“Well,” Tankton said, “I was going to say… that maybe we should just keep this Rapture thing between us; you know, some people wouldn’t understand…”

Head nodded throughout the courthouse, there were murmurs of approval. Hope had come out of the Pandora’s Box that was the Howard County Rapture in the form of a major retail outlet. The coming of the Lord was yesterday’s news; the coming of Target was the future.


Rumpus original art by Dmitry Samarov.

Stephen Sacco grew up in California and New York and now lives in Scotland. Stephen worked in journalism in the American South and in New York state for nearly ten years, before heading to the UK, where he earned a doctorate in creative writing and literature from the University of St Andrews in 2019. He started writing with plays and his play, Dance of the Fat Kid, was awarded the B. Rodney Marriot Award for Playwriting and produced at New York University's Festival of New Works. He is currently finishing a novel titled Little Aldo, and an academic monograph about dwarf characters in fiction. He is a Visiting Scholar at the University of St. Andrews. More from this author →