By Dave Dentel
This is the second part of a story I wrote to commemorate—and help make sense of—the crisis that has gripped our planet going on fourteen months now. Subsequent parts will follow. And if you like what you see, please consider backing my volume of short stories now on Kickstarter.
—Dave Dentel

Morning broke the same way it had the previous nine days. A golden sun bubbled up from the flat horizon while a hint of breeze distributed the aroma of breakfast from where it cooked over the remains of last night’s watch fire.

Still stretched out on his stack of blankets, Dale stirred but allowed himself a moment of repose. Another vigil had ended. Who knew what the coming hours might bring? For now, he could savor the anticipation of fresh-baked biscuits washed down with coffee brewed on a bed of coals. Finally, his appetite demanding satisfaction, he threw off his top cover, rubbed his eyes, and shuffled toward the fire.

“Morning, pastor.”

The greeting came from the pair of women tending the meal, Rose Estevez and her good friend Sarah McDowell. Rose and her husband Joe had grown up at Good News Baptist. After Joe opened an auto shop the two had married and were now raising three kids. At five years of membership, Sarah and her schoolteacher husband Isaiah were relative newcomers to the church. They had four children of their own. The two families mingled often—especially teens Joy Estevez and Josiah McDowell, whose all-absorbing interest in each other sometimes made them oblivious to the antics of the younger siblings they were supposed to be supervising.

“Anything left?” Dale replied in a self-deprecating reference to his late arrival.

Rose smiled, her round face shining like a harvest moon.

“There is for now,” she said, transferring a mound of eggs and bacon from an iron skillet onto a worn plastic plate. “You might as well polish it off. Once the kids come for seconds it’ll be gone in no time.”

She handed the plate to Sarah, who added a biscuit pulled from a Dutch oven before passing it to the pastor.

“Besides,” Sarah sighed, the corners of her mouth momentarily resembling a disappointed fish as they turned down on her narrow face. “This is the last of the bacon and eggs. Which is probably for the best anyway, since we wouldn’t have any way of keeping a new supply fresh.”

Dale nodded at the observation and carried his food to his favorite morning spot, where a boulder rising perpendicular to the ground made for a convenient backstop. He sat down and ate slowly, savoring the way the eggs and coffee warmed his core after a night on the ground.

The last bite of bacon reminded him of Sarah’s remark about dwindling food stores, and for a second Dale allowed himself a fleck of remorse at how much urgency he had employed in rounding up people to join him on the mountain. He certainly hadn’t been shy in alluding to the Olivet Discourse.

The more faithful families of his church, the ones who’d been attending makeshift worship despite threats of legal action, had tossed into vehicles what they could gather in an hour then followed Dale’s battered pickup up the most prominent peak in the rocky hills west of their town of Bison Flats.

Still, he hadn’t expected that they’d be waiting as long as they had. After all, from the wretchedness he’d witnessed unfolding in the world the signs clearly pointed to the end. And what had Christ himself said?

Flee to the hills! Don’t even stop to pack!

One thought on “Second Coming: A Story of Pandemic in the 21st Century (Part 2)

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