Between Christmas and New Year, I drove up the coast from Fort Lauderdale to St Augustine.
I arrived in St Augustine on New Year’s eve. The sun was low, the shadows long like the night ahead. I saw a head to toe black and white preacher at the corner of St George and Cathedral, built like a redeemed heavy-weight, giving pamphlets away to anyone passing by. I took a photograph, quickly, instinctively as always. He looked at me over his shoulder and handed me one.
- “Thank you”, I said, swallowing my “h” with what I thought to be a slight French accent
- “You are not from here?”, he stated more than asked
- I said “French” … then remembering the post 9-11 French fries boycott, and fearing reminiscences of his past career, I added at once “French from Belgium – but I live in Canada now”
- “What is it about”, I added, pointing to the white letters on his T-shirt and the papers in his hands
- “The end of the world” he said, matter of fact
- “The end of the world?”
- “Yes”, he said vaguely startled, as if I should have known. “Six months from now, … on May 21st.”
- “May 21st?” I repeated, waving the small brochure in a goodbye move. “I can’t believe it. The end of the world … and … no one told me.”
- “What are you going to do about it?”, he asked in a slightly more pressing and sermonizing tone
- “Well”, I said … “There is this root canal I have been postponing for months, … I’ll make an appointment for the 22nd I guess” … “Just hedging my bets – in case.”