Don’t use newspapers to start the fire. In the last days there will be chaos. Earthquakes. Great winds that sweep all before them. Do you think there will be newspapers?  No. Shave the wood with a hatchet. Keep your hatchet sharp.  There. Like that. Now the matches.  Our family will have matches, because I always keep a fresh supply. I’ll show you where they’re kept. I have them in lots of places in the house. Some buried in the backyard. You’re old enough now to know where, just in case something happens to me.

You may be able to burn books. Raid the library if you can. The newspapers will be gone, but there will still be books to burn.

Now.  Here’s the squirrel from the trap.  Don’t turn your head away, Missy.  You’ll be glad of squirrel in the last days.  Always keep your knife sharp.  Lay the squirrel face down.  The concrete walkway here is good.  Cut down through the tail, see?  Right through the bone.  Lay the skin back.  Step on the skin and pull the back feet, see? Skin comes right off. OK, the meat’s a little hairy, but we’ll practice. 

Not much meat on one, but there are plenty of squirrels here.  Catch a lot and smoke the meat before the neighbors start trying to catch them too.  No, we will not share.  This is survival. Don’t let me catch you giving our squirrel meat to those heathens next door.  I don’t care what your teacher said.

We’ll have the canned food, but we won’t eat it too quickly.  Since your mother’s gone, you’ll be in charge of the cooking.  Eat from the garden, from nature.  I can show you the wild plants.  Dandelions.  You can eat the leaves, the seeds too.  Here, grab some seeds.  Taste just like sesames, right?  Ha!  Boyce next door and hisWeed-B-Gon.  We’ll be eating salad and he’ll be trying to eat his perfect grass.

Of course, others will see and try to steal from us.  Those who don’t believe, don’t watch and wait.  We’ll have to defend ourselves.  Here’s the rifle.  Don’t whine!  What would your mother say if she could see you whining?  I know it’s heavy, but they’ll come for us.  Hold it up to your shoulder.  Steady, steady.  They’re coming for you.  They’re coming from everywhere.  Hold the tip up.  Close one eye.  Shoot.  Now, damn it!  Shoot.

Ann's work has been published in literary journals including Open City, North Dakota Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, NANO Fiction, SmokeLong Quarterly, Prick of the Spindle, Bellowing Ark, Going Down Swinging, The MacGuffin, Toasted Cheese, and Red Wheelbarrow, and in the anthology A la Carte: Short Stories that Stir the Foodie in All of Us. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Queen’s University of Charlotte.

Several years ago, I heard about a wilderness survival camp for religious kids, which prepared them for the end times.  When a church recently declared a date for the end of the world (complete with a billboard on a local highway), that story came back to me.  I wondered how someone in the suburbs would prepare his child to survive if he thought the apocalypse was coming. 



Copyright 2009