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U3A Writing: The World Ends At Lunchtime

A friend who is a meteorologist phones and tells you that the world is about to end. Armageddon is nigh. So what do you do? How about enjoying a spot of lunch?

Ruth Kriszanowsky tells a tasty tale.

The shrill ring of the telephone at 5 am shook me out of my sweet dreams and pleasant comfort zone. “Who on earth could that be?” I wondered as I lifted the receiver. Then I heard my friend’s brisk voice telling me something I could not quit grasp.

“What was that you said?” I asked, pricking my ears in disbelief.

“Listen to me,” he yelled, “the world will end at lunchtime today. Armageddon… you know?”

My friend, a meteorologist, works at our weather station.

It was incredible! I swallowed hard and stuttered: “You… you can’t be serious. Are you drunk, or have you lost your marbles?”

“No, no, not at all,” he replied defensively. “I’m cold sober, believe me, and don’t be so surprised. It had to happen sometime. Mankind has been messing around with nature far too long. Abusing the environment, polluting air, soil and water, interfering with every ecosystem and all wild life, and lastly now with earth’s atmosphere. Haven’t you ever heard about global warming, greenhouse gases, exhaust fumes, and so on? Not to mention nuclear radiation. Poison-filled clouds are gathering above our heads. The time has come for us to pay for the evil doings.”

I was speechless. Only a few more hours left to live? It was inconceivable! But why now? This planet has revolved happily through space for millions of years.

And when precisely is lunchtime? At 11 am, 12 am or 1 pm? My head swam.

“Well, there’s nothing more we can do now to avert doom,” my friend said, sounding resigned. “So let’s make the most of our remaining time. I suggest we meet around eleven o’clock at our favourite restaurant, The Pink Starfish, and have a couple of aperitifs. Disaster is much easier to face when a little sozzled. Then we will enjoy a wonderful meal, the best the house has to offer. Does that sound good to you?”

I had to agree, it was a tempting offer. So we met at the appointed time and place.

The weather was sunny and warm for the time of year; a mild breeze wafted from the direction of the deep-blue ocean, white sails glinted in the sun. It was absolutely picture perfect. Was this to be the imminent ‘End of the World’??

My friend, who had watched me over the rim of his glass, must have read my thoughts when I glanced at my left wrist. Damn it! In my haste and preoccupation with impending doom, I had left my watch at home.

“Relax,” he said. “Time is no longer of importance.’’ He pointed to a bank of purple-black, menacing clouds massing on the horizon.

I looked at people sitting nearby, calmly talking and laughing. Nobody appeared in the least bit apprehensive. I took another big gulp of my single malt. Then I noticed the man behind me, unfolding his newspaper. My eyes darted to the caption and the dateline above.

The date was April the First!

“I fooled you lekker,” said my friend, grinning from ear to ear. “But have a nice day anyway.”

I could have throttled him.

The first growls of an approaching thunderstorm rolled across the sky and I felt like a complete fool for having fallen easy prey to his joke. How gullible can one be? But he paid for a delicious lunch and we were grateful for a still spinning world.

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