Signs of the Apocalypse

This week, a rare success visits the Gurdon household as daughter Uvula wins a library short-story contest making America’s Worst Mother&#153 so giddy that she accidentally feeds the other children, (Spartacus, Umlaut, and Mote) cake and ice cream in the afternoon, which angers God (who has commanded only carrot sticks for after school snacks. See: Deuteronomy 3:12). God then proceeds to inflict a plague of locusts on the greater Washington DC area. Yeah, it’s kind of a good news/bad news story. Meghan’s. Not Uvula’s. So let’s get started before the rain of frogs starts, okay?

We are freshly back from school and the children are piling into the front hall as I pick up the phone message “Beep…. This is the Georgetown Public Library calling…we will be announcing the winners of our short-story competition shortly…and ah…well, we urge you to bring Molly to the ceremony.”

You see, that “ah” tells us that Uvula has won the contest. That’s called ‘foreshadowing’ which is easier to do in an online column than eerie music because a lot of readers don’t have the speakers turned up. Anyway:

I hang up the phone and stand there silently, adrenaline surging. There are times when we are required heroically to defy our own natures, and for me this is one of them. I am a blurter, this is potentially big news in our small world, and it will be three excruciating days until the awards, and I can’t wait —

With a sudden access of maternal maturity, I realize that it is crucial that I keep the message to myself.

“Food…must…have…food…” says the literary genius, dropping her book bag and wilting against the wall.

As we can see, Uvula is a good writer because at the age of nine or ten or whatever, she is already experiencing Starving Artist Syndrome&#153. She is also a good writer because her short story doesn’t contain these gems:

The children look at each other and their mouths drop open. Paris starts rubbing his stomach and licking his lips, like a cartoon wolf who’s just discovered a straw hut filled with pigs, and flings himself at me with violent enthusiasm, “Aw, wow, yes!” he yells.


“No more than usual,” says old poker face, grinning hugely.


We take our sundaes outside to enjoy the delicious bug-free air. Someone liberates Twitchy from his hutch, and he capers about around our ankles, lolloping now and then through a collapsible wire-and-fabric tube we got at Ikea when Paris was a baby.


Azaleas have taken over where the dogwoods left off, pierced anti-IMF protesters stomp in and stump off, and children frisk about on lawns and fields which in a week — or two– or three– will erupt, we are told, in horrible whirring clouds of shiny flying insects an inch and a half long.

Ah, yes. The locusts (who are always proceeded by pierced anti-IMF protesters) and who bear a remarkable similarity to feminist leaders:

Washington is bracing for a plague of cicadas. Every 17 years, a type known as “periodicals” hatch like nightmarish time capsules from their underground pods and burst out of the ground, filling the skies and grossing out the populace. Apparently it is Hitchcockian: Commuters have to bat the things away with tennis racquets while they run for their cars; everyone who can stays inside, gazing longingly at scenic decks now crawling with creepitude. According to my friend Paul, small children dare each other to eat live cicadas. According to the Washington Post, expatriate Frenchmen saute dead ones with butter, parsley, and a dash of white wine. For a month the trees are revoltingly full and vibrating, and for the rest of the summer dead bug husks crunch underfoot like the wire hangers on the Mall left by last weekend’s infestation of feminists. One could hope that Kate Michelman and Gloria Steinem would erupt only once every 17 years, but alas, no.

Which is probably a good thing since it’s hard to tour the Mall while kicking aside the dried-up and empty carapaces of successful and well-known women. Anyway, to make a long story shorter than Uvula’s: go to library, fierce tribal gods, cookies Seven-Up, breathless anticipation, and finally:

And there is the librarian.

She coughs shyly, looks around the assembly, and abruptly says, without introduction,

“Ladies and gentlemen, the first prize winner is….”


We are spared Meghan’s victory dance where she spikes a copy of The DaVinci Code and calls all the other children “losers” and taunts their parents.

Then the locusts come.

As foretold by prophecy.

You can look it up.

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