Commies or Jesus
I awoke to the sound of a car horn. It wasn’t beeping repetitively; it was droning continuously.
The door to my room in the back of our ranch house was closed. I climbed out of bed and peered out into the hallway. While it must have been very late, or very early, there was light enough to see. I crept toward the front of the house. As I passed the second door on my right, it opened and Cindy, wearing a t shirt and shorts, poked out her head. Cindy was Mom’s youngest sister, just two years older than me. She was spending the summer with us. Cindy was 15, in high school, and I was in Junior high.
“What’s going on?” Cindy whispered.
“I don’t know,” I whispered back. The horn blared continually as I answered her. We walked cautiously toward the front of the house, pausing when rounding the hallway corner, putting our ears to my parents’ bedroom door as we passed. Nothing. “I don’t think they’re awake.” Cindy and I were alert. How could they sleep to the noise?
Barefoot we stepped off the carpet onto the cooler tile of the foyer. I always said foyer with the “r,” while Cindy said it with the “r” silent and a cheer at the end. She’s a little Miss Priss. Straight ahead, across the foyer was the family room and then the kitchen beyond.
There was a glow coming from the front of the house, the living room, which was off the foyer next to the front door. Cindy looked at me frightened.
“What’s that glow?” she asked.
For the second time, I responded, “I don’t know.”
Dozens of possibilities went through my head. I never missed a single episode of Night Gallery. It had just finished its three-year run falling a couple years short of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. I did not share all the possibilities with Cindy. It could be an alien invasion. It could be the communists invading America. While President Nixon was tough on the commie bastards according to Grandpa Annis, I wasn’t so sure. I was kind of with Gramps, who was Cindy’s father, and a union electrician, Gramps didn’t think much of President Nixon.
It could have been a crash. A military plane had crashed only blocks from where we lived in Jacksonville when Dad was stationed at Mayport a few years before. The crash had brought out cops, MP’s and helicopters. Was it a plane crash?
Perhaps it was the rapture. I had just heard Jack Van Impe at the Scope in Norfolk preaching about Jesus’ coming back and the chaos it would cause when Christians vanished. But dang, weren’t we saved? Shouldn’t Cindy and I have been raptured? That’s when I realized we hadn’t seen Mom and Dad, just me and Cindy. “Oh my God,” I blurted out, “we’ve been left behind?” Cindy looked at me wide eyed.
For a moment, we stood in the living room looking at each other. Two queen Anne chairs framed the heavy cream drapes that covered the large bay living room window. The room was lit up by an eerie orange glow filling the room through the drapes. I reached to pull them back.
“Don’t!” Cindy shouted.
I looked at her, “Why not?”
“Just don’t,” she choked back.
Since she supplied no reason and not knowing whether it was Commies or Jesus, I pulled back the curtain and . . .
At the moment I pulled the drape, the doorbell rang and there were bangs on the door and the bay window. We both jumped and I dropped the curtain, not seeing what was behind it.
Cindy cried out, her words lost in confusion. “Get the door,” I told her.
She looked at me, “No,” she whined.
“Get the door,” I commanded and she moved hesitantly toward the door as I reached for the drapes. She opened the door as I pulled back the drapery.
The man in the doorway announced exactly what I saw, “Get out your car is on fire!”
Our new Chevrolet Caprice, sitting in front of the garage on the driveway, was engulfed in flames. From nowhere, Mom and Dad came running into the living room and hurried us out of the house.