“Not So Fast, Jesus,” by Leah Senona

Feb 24th, 2016 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

There was probably a time in my life when I had not yet heard of the Rapture—the miraculous evacuation of Christians to heaven before God unleashes hell on earth—but I cannot remember such ignorance. “If the Lord tarries,” was tagged onto nearly every conversation my fundamentalist parents had about plans more than a week or so in the future. Every which way they looked they discovered signs the end was nigh. From the Gulf War to the “Kids First” Illinois license plates popular during my elementary school years, proof that the world was too corrupt to last much longer was seen everywhere. The most damning evidence that the Jesus’s return was imminent, though, was the utter lack of interest our small-town neighbors had in attending our church and listening to Papa preach at them about the sin of abandoning church in the weeks, maybe years, preceding the end of times.

While Papa and Mama eagerly looked to the sky for any hint Jesus might be on his way down, I spent many an hour of my childhood begging him to hold his horsemen of the Apocalypse just a bit longer. I had birthday sleepovers to attend, growing up to do, and, some hopeful day, boys to kiss. Heaven would probably be an okay place after I aged beyond caring about having fun, and no doubt it was better than the alternative, but I felt it only fair that I ought to have a chance at a merry life before I had to become saintly and boring for all eternity.

My dread of the Rapture and subsequent sacred captivity among the do-gooders and angels was proof positive that my parents were right: I was a naughty child and an inadequate Christian. This sin would be added to the myriad other transgressions for which I would be expected to give account before being allowed through the pearly gates. A movie screen, high and wide enough to be seen by the crowds waiting to gain admittance to heaven, would play scenes of me picking my nose, pinching my brother, stealing cough drops from Mrs. Gregory, creeping into the kitchen for a midnight sip of orange juice, discovering masturbation, and sneaking peeks of the latest issues of Seventeen magazine on my trips to the library.

When my terror of finally being found out kept me awake at night, I clung to the hope that the creator of the universe appreciated orderliness as greatly as my teachers did and would line up the new arrivals alphabetically, thereby ensuring my parents would be settling into their heavenly mansions long before my shameful secrets gave them cause to ground me the very moment my foot crossed the divine threshold. Sure, I would still have my brother and one sister in line behind me, but I knew they would not tattle on me since I already had heaps of dirt on them I would be only too happy to spill if it came to it. While this thought usually settled my stomach enough to allow me sleep, dread of being abruptly snatched up before I was elderly accompanied me nearly every single day and caused momentary panic whenever the Sunday afternoon sun was swallowed up by clouds.

Papa said Jesus would come back in the twinkling of an eye, when we least expected it, and we would rise from wherever we were, whatever we were doing, to meet him in the sky. Remaining in a perpetual state of expectation seemed the only way to thwart his return until I was ready to go, but lapses in Rapture-prevention-attention were bound to occur whenever I was absorbed in a book, homework, or a daydream. Stopping up any gaps through which Jesus might sneak required a creative plan.

“I expect Jesus to return sometime this week,” I said on Monday mornings.

“I expect the Rapture will happen before I get to go to the carnival with Mandy,” I whispered as soon as the invitation was extended.

“I expect Jesus will come again before I get to open Christmas presents,” I declared upon finishing my wish list in October.

Although regularly beating Jesus at his own game provided a small measure of comfort, I was not quite confident enough in my stalling tactics to take showers lasting more than five minutes. It would be just like Jesus to wait until I was stark naked and shampooing my hair before abducting me and millions of others who had not been caught so embarrassingly unawares. He might be the savior of mankind, but I was certain to be the center of attention as I drippily drifted to heaven, goose bumps covering my body and half-rinsed shampoo leaking into my eyes.

“I expect Jesus will come back while I’m in the shower,” I said nervously before turning on the water and glancing suspiciously in the direction of heaven. I undressed slowly, pausing between each article to give Jesus time to make himself known while I still had some clothes on, until I stood next to the steaming spray wearing only underwear. In a mad dash, I removed my final bit of protection against eternal mortification, stumbled into the spray, frantically soaped my hair and body, rinsed as quickly as possible, and was out of the shower in just a few seconds shy of a flash.

I allowed myself one small victorious sigh only after wrapping up in a towel. For the moment, I had bested God. But I knew we would play again soon.
Defenestration-Leah SenonaLeah says: “My name is Leah Senona, and I am living the life of my 10-year-old self’s dreams, complete with hundreds of books, a red front door, and fourteen animals on my little urban homestead in South Carolina. When I am not writing, I am often procrastinating. I semi-regularly publish my thoughts and musings at Parrot & Ox, and my work most recently appeared in Change Seven. Although I am in my thirties, I am not ashamed to admit I am still afraid of the dark.”

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