The one and only meeting of the End of the World Club was held in my favorite building on campus, the old English department building. It was nestled back among the trees, and you could open the old windows and let the breeze in, feel the hardwood floors croak under your feet. And it just smelled good, and old. Like wisdom.
I chose a desk at the back. That was another thing I liked about the old English building. It had tiny old desks bolted to the floor, with narrow arms and a writing surface just wide enough for a notepad.
The school required an extracurricular activity. I had no interest in a club, or in going to club meetings, or doing club things like organizing supposedly fun activities, or electing officers, or raising money. Which is why the End of the World Club seemed perfect for me. It didn’t do any of those things. And it only needed to meet one time: At the end of the world. Which was why this first meeting was also the last.
“Greetings, all,” said Harold. Harold was the club president, by default. It had been his idea, the club. He’d kept the list of members. He’d reached out to call the meeting.
“So, welcome to our meeting,” said Harold. He looked around and waved to the ten or twelve of us scattered throughout the room. He smiled awkwardly. He pushed his glasses up. There was no response but the hum of the locusts wafting in through the windows I’d opened.
A girl was seated at the teacher’s desk, a beautiful one (the girl) to whom Harold now turned. I knew her from a class I took last year on the history of jazz. She’d sat three rows in front of me and I’d never once spoken to her. But I’d spent hours admiring the sheen of her auburn hair, the fringes on the back of her brown suede jacket. She took her glasses on and off a lot. On to take notes, off to look at the professor. I was kind of in love with her from afar.
“You getting this?” said Harold to the girl, whose name was Lisa.
Lisa put on her glasses to look down at her notes. “So far I’ve got Greetings, all.” She took off her glasses to look up at Harold.
“Good,” said Harold, and coughed. He covered his mouth and accidentally knocked his knuckles against the microphone of the little portable PA he didn’t need in such a small room with so few people, and the feedback kind of ripped open our eardrums a little, which I figured wasn’t a big deal since we wouldn’t be needing them much longer, our ears. He cleared his throat and said, “I might say you might be wondering why I called this meeting, but I think you might know. I think you might have already heard the news.”
“Hi guys!” It was Rochelle. With her girth and her shopping bags, she barely fit through the door. She squeezed through to an empty seat in the center of the room. The seat groaned under her mass as she dropped her bags to the floor. One bag fell over and a can of creamed corn fell out and rolled towards the front of the room. Rochelle didn’t notice, just fanned her face with her hand and said phew, like it had been a good workout. “Sorry I’m late everybody.”
“That’s okay,” said Harold. “We were just wrapping up.”
“Actually, we were just getting started,” said Dr. Gradius. Dr. Gradius was my classical mythology professor. I don’t think he was supposed be there, since he was a professor not a student. But I wasn’t in charge. And neither was Harold, who said, “Well, no one’s really participating, and there’s not really anything to do anyway.”
“We gonna do something, right?” said Rochelle. “I mean, the whole world fixing to end.”
Dr. Gradius flapped a packet of sugar. “Actually, it is Harold who’s right,” he said, emptying his sugar into a styrofoam cup of coffee. “There isn’t anything can be done.”
“There’s something,” said a guy up front. His leg was bouncing with nervous energy. In frustration, he turned his black ball cap backwards. It said “Misfits” across the front (or back, depending on your perspective). “There’s always something that can be done.”
“No,” said Harold. “No, no, there’s nothing. Number one, there’s no time. Number two, that’s not in the Charter.”
“What charter?” said the Misfits guy.
“The Club Charter,” said Harold. “The End of the World Club Charter. You all have a copy.”
“I don’t have a copy,” said Misfits guy, holding his arm out as if to welcome the copy he would like to have but didn’t, his leg still bouncing.
“I emailed you one. I emailed everybody one.”
“None of us have a copy.”
“Okay, well check your spam, because —“
“Not doing that, Harold. Not checking my spam for the charter of a silly club that meets one time before the Apocalypse. Maybe we should talk about survival.”
“That’s what I’m talking about!” said Rochelle.
Harold blinked, pushed up his glasses. “Come again?” he said.
“You suck at this, Harold,” sighed Misfits guy.
“Listen, I didn’t start this club just to have you people yell at me.”
“I’m confused,” said Rochelle, putting up her hands. “I got my canned goods, my flashlights, my binder’s twine, I got everything they say to get and my ass is ready to get shit done but y’all don’t look no kinda ready for nothing. Not to my ass. My ass is ready.”
“I’m afraid none of those items will actually prolong the survival of your ass,” said Dr. Gradius. “Do you fathom the calamity that will befall us over the next 24 hours?”
Rochelle nodded. “Shit’s going down.”
“Up,” said Dr. Gradius. “It will blow up, actually, this shit of which you speak. Those of us not instantly incinerated will die from suffocation, because of the air.”
“What’s wrong with the air?” said Rochelle. She pronounced it airruh.
“It will be dense with ash and detritus.”
“Naw,” said Rochelle, shaking her head. “Fuck that. Fuck detritus.“
Harold turned to Lisa. “Did you get that? She’s a detritus denier.” I think he was making a joke. He stared at her, probably wondering why she wasn’t smiling, or maybe getting it down. Lisa just stared back. After a moment, Harold blinked, pushed up his glasses, and turned away. Lisa turned to the room in general, found me in particular. She winked.
“Why y’all sitting on y’alls asses?” said Rochelle, turning to take in those behind her. Something cracked in the super-structure of her desk and she grabbed the tiny arm rest and put her foot out to catch herself. “I mean, we just gonna sit here and take this? Cause detritus sound like a whole buncha bullshit.”
Someone said yeah.
“Who hear me? Who say yeah?”
“Well, that’s not actually the purpose of this club,” said Dr. Gradius.
“What’s not the purpose?” said Rochelle.
“The purpose is clearly stated in the Charter,” said Harold.
“Ain’t nobody got a charter,” said Rochelle.
“I have the Charter,” said Lisa.
Well, I say silence, but the locusts were still humming. Otherwise it would have been crickets, so to speak.
Lisa put on her glasses and flipped backwards in her yellow legal pad. Several seconds passed, broken only by the sound of her pages flipping. And locusts.
Rochelle huffed and shifted in her chair and mumbled something about how this better be some pretty good motherfuckin charter. Dr. Gradius nibbled at his nails. Misfits guy checked his phone and bounced both legs like a heavy metal drummer. I wanted to ask why the charter only seemed to exist on a legal pad but no one else seemed to be wondering, so I didn’t.
“Okay,” said Lisa, reading. “We, the members of the End of the World Club, intend to be together as they blow it (the world) away. We will share in every moment as it breaks. We will be friends at the end of the world, such that none of us will die alone.”
Silence, as everyone waited for more.
“There’s more,” said Lisa. “But that’s the gist.”
Rochelle said, “Well, that’s real cute, but we cain’t just sit here while the earth explode.”
“What do you propose?” said Dr. Gradius.
“It’s hero time!” said Rochelle, banging her desk with her palm. “This some shit worth saving.”
“If that’s how you feel you should’ve joined the Save the World Club,” said Harold, “Not —”
“Actually, they’ve disbanded.” Dr. Gradius paused, his coffee cup hovering in front of his lips as all eyes focused on him. “It’s true. When they heard the news, well it was pretty clear they’d failed, so…” He shrugged, sipped his coffee.
“How do you know this?” said Misfits guy.
“It was I who moved that they disband, actually.”
“You know you say actually in almost every sentence?” said Harold.
A distant boom. A subsequent rumble. Harold’s PA died with an electric pop as the lights went out. The floor quaked, and the rest of Rochelle’s canned goods spilled out and rolled across the floor.
“Ho Leeeeee Shhhhhhhit,” said Rochelle, grabbing her seat for stability.
Another moment, and the rumbling ceased, the floor became still.
“Looks like it will actually be suffocation for us, then,” said Dr. Gradius.
“Great,” sighed Misfits guy.
Rochelle pulled several pink flashlights from her bag and began to pass them around. Dr. Gradius shined his up onto his face from under his chin, turning his flesh red with creepy shadows. “It’s the end of the world,” he said in a spooky voice.
I got up and walked to the front of the room. No one seemed to notice. I reached Lisa’s desk and waited, but she didn’t notice either, she was gazing out the window, one hand propping up her chin, the other flapping her pen against her notepad. Her eyes were misty. Like she might cry.
She whirled and said oh!
“I didn’t mean to scare you.”
She said I had, but it was okay. She flipped the pages of her legal pad back around to the front, set it on the desk, placed her pen on top. She folded her hands, looked up at me, smiled. Knuckled a tear from the corner of her eye.
Rochelle shouted something to the Misfits guy about how he better lay off her cream corn.
I held out my hand.
Lisa laughed nervously, stood up and stepped around the front of the desk, placed her hand in mine. We stood by the desk for a minute, hand in hand, looking in each other’s eyes.
I nodded towards the door. She glanced that way, considering. Then said okay. Or seemed to.
“We seem to have to rest of the building to ourselves,” I said as we looked up and down the dark hallway.
“I’d rather be outside,” said Lisa.
We made our way to the front doors, hands kind of swinging, like kids.
I swiveled my head towards her, and she turned to me. “We were in history of jazz together, I think.”
“I know,” she said.
I nodded. “I sat three rows behind you.”
“I know. You never said hi.”
“I wanted to.”
We walked halfway down the steps towards the fountain out front and sat down. All the streetlights were out, as were the lights around the fountain. And the ones down the hill, into the town beyond, the whole of which seemed to have gone dark. On the horizon was a black cloud tumbling towards us, stretching from one end of the planet to the other.
“How long did they say we have?”
“Twenty-four hours, I think.”
I laughed a little. “Good?”
She met my eyes and smiled. “That gives us some time.”
A lone car whooshed by. The sunroof was open and some shirtless guy was standing up through it with his fist in the air shouting armageddon motherfuckerrrrs, woooo!
I brushed Lisa’s auburn hair back over her ear. “I like your glasses.”
She smiled. “They’re fake.”
She laughed. “Yes.”
“But you always put them on to write.”
“And take them off, I know. My dad used to do it.”
“I like them even more now, I think.” I took them off her face and tried them on, just for grins. They were too small. “How do I look?”
I laughed. “You know you have the most beautiful smile in the whole world?”
She blushed, patted my hand. “Well, aren’t you the lucky one.”