The next morning, my twenty-seven year old assistant accounting manager sat next to my desk when I arrived at 7:45. He looked up from his iPhone and nodded as I laid my laptop on the desk. I held my Starbucks coffee in one hand and sat down, taking a quick sip from the cup.
“Have you heard?” he said, in between glances at his iPhone.
“Heard what, Sammy?” I asked, placing the coffee on the desk and turning toward him.
“About Rawlings, Edgars, and Sanchez,” he said, leaning toward me, his brown eyes locked on mine. “They quit yesterday.”
“Wait till you hear this,” he whispered. “They quit because supposedly a prophet told them San Francisco is going to be nuked soon. Have you ever heard of such a dumb thing?”
I shrugged and said nothing about my visit with Dr. Bob.
“What are they going to do?”
“Rawlings is moving to Nevada. Edgars is heading to Wyoming. Sanchez is going to Fargo, North Dakota. Jackson, why in the world would anyone move to Fargo, North Dakota? They probably don’t even have Thai food there.”
I removed my laptop from its case and booted it up.
“Well, the three will have to live with their decisions.”
Sammy took the hint and left.
I logged onto the company network and checked emails. My eyes scanned the messages, but nothing registered in my brain. Four intelligent people believe San Francisco is going to be bombed to smithereens, I thought. How many other people believe the story?
My curiosity kicked in and I clicked on Google, typing on the search line: San Francisco, nuclear bomb, prophecy. 72,234 results showed up in 0.25 seconds. I checked through a few items and knew a narrower search was needed.
I clicked out of Google and turned toward the door. Elrod Farrow, the division manager, stood there and as usual, he was dressed to the max with a pinstriped suit, white shirt, and blue tie. His character matched his outfit: starched and stuffy.
“Jackson, do you have a minute?”
“Sure. Come on in.”
He walked in and sat down in the chair next to me. He reached his hand out, offering it to me. I shook it.
“Congratulations, Mr. Multimillionaire.”
“The SEC filing has just gone through. TyRex Inc. will have its IPO sometime in May. Morgan Stanley expects the price to be somewhere between $30 and $40 per share. If I worked the figures accurately, you will be worth at least $4.5 million for your stock options alone. Not bad for an old Stanford halfback who was a step slow for the NFL, but bright enough to get a CPA, right?”
Both of my hands clenched into fists and shot up into the air.
“Oh, yeah!” I shouted.
Farrow stood up, patted me on the back, and left.
Four million five hundred thousand dollars. $4.5 million. $4,500,000. No matter how you write it, that’s a lot of money. And yes, there are people who will say money can’t buy you happiness, but it sure erases a lot of worries, even nuclear bomb ones.
The next thing I did was check out the cost of airfare and hotels in Thailand on the Internet. I deserved a vacation.
Seven weeks later, on the first Sunday in February, the sun shone brightly. But we natives know the weather can change quickly so I carried an umbrella with me as I walked to a local Starbucks. I ordered a large coffee and sat down in an easy chair, which was part of a four-chair setting, surrounding a large round coffee table. The other chairs were empty.
A copy of the Sunday Chronicle lay in the middle of the table. I picked it up and scanned the front page. A bold headline, “Are Christians Acting Crazy Again,” captured my eyes. I thumbed through the newspaper’s pages until I found the full article.
The journalist replayed the words of Bob and the three computer programmers in the telling of a possible nuclear catastrophe occurring in San Francisco. He contrasted the actions with what Christians were doing and saying with what Harold Camping and his zealots did a few years earlier.
Camping’s followers believed his doomsday prophecies, too. They quit their jobs, wasted their money, and then nothing happened. Although the zealots felt the pain of losing everything, their total financial affect on America amounted to less than a drop of water in the Pacific Ocean.
This time was different.
The article estimated 40,000 Christian families packed up and left San Francisco. A few, like Bob, sold their homes and their businesses at deep discounts, but most were less fortunate. The sheer glut of homes dropping onto the real estate and rental markets depressed housing prices in the city almost overnight.
Even more than that, 40,000 Christian families amounted to an estimated total of 156,000 people or 20% of the city’s population. The numbers further broke down into 60,000 job losses, $1.8 billion of gross income losses, and $400 million of tax losses for the city. The losses had already begun to fuel layoffs at schools and retail stores. The Christians shredded San Francisco’s economy into pieces by their mass departures.
“What do you think of the article about the Christians?”
I lowered the paper and looked at a middle-aged woman with green eyes sitting in a chair across from me. Her deep voice did not match her petite shape and thin lips. Although not beautiful, her face had an alluring radiance about it.
“I don’t know what to think,” I replied.
“Do you think God will destroy San Francisco because the city cares about gays and lesbians?”
“Or do you think God is just mean?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, I do.”
“Yes, I do,” she said, moving forward in her seat. “God is a God of love. He loves gays and lesbians. He loves people. He would never allow San Francisco to be bombed. Those fundamentalists are so deceived…they just make me want to scream.”
“My name is Jackson Edwards. What’s yours?”
“Do you always get so worked up over fundamentalist Christians?”
“Yes, I do. My dad pastored a fundamentalist church forty years ago. I’ve listened to a thousand sermons about how God is always angry with sinners. It wasn’t until I attended Berkeley I learned there are progressive Christians who understand that God is a God of love.”
She looked at her watch and jumped up.
“I have to go. I have a meeting at nine, but maybe we’ll see each other again,” she said, waving her hand and heading toward the door.
I watched her leave, wishing I had asked for her phone number.
Talk radio, TV, and other media ranted about the newspaper article over the next week and how San Francisco’s citizens were left holding the bag because of the Christians’ departure. Politicians jumped into the fray, adding their two bit’s worth. Some even advocated bills not allowing new churches to be opened in the Bay Area.
Everyone had an opinion about the Christians and why they left San Francisco.
Spring officially arrived on the first Saturday in April with the Giants’ opening day game scheduled for that afternoon. I had two tickets and a date with Holly, but before any of that happened, I had some accounting work to do.
I began the day, drinking coffee and eating toast while sitting on the leather sofa in the living room. My laptop sat on the coffee table, waiting to be booted up so I could log onto the company network. The clock read 6:30 a.m. I figured the work would be finished by 10:00, still plenty of time to get ready for the game.
I looked out the window toward the morning lights in Chinatown and the San Francisco Bay. Then it happened.
A burst of powerful light lit up the dreary morning skies. It seemed a thousand times brighter than any flash of lightning I had ever seen. The intense light temporarily blinded me so I did not witness the mushroom death cloud rising into the air, but I knew it had to be there. The explosion’s heat caused instant third degree burns on my face and arms. It happened too fast for me to scream aloud, but the pain was excruciating.
A nuclear shock wave then spread out from the explosion, slamming against our five-story building. The building imploded. Ceilings, I-beams, roof, and debris fell on me. Then, two hundred and thirty mile per hour winds slammed against the building’s carcass and reversed itself. When the winds finally quieted down, little remained of my million-dollar condo.
A steel I-beam and its debris covered my hips and legs down to my feet. All feeling was gone below my waist. I could move my arms, but the weight was too much to move without leg power. I lay there helpless and scared.
I drifted in and out of consciousness over the next twenty-four hours. In one of my alert times, my hand touched the laptop resting behind my head. I powered it up. No Internet, but I could at least type on the keyboard.
Who knows? Maybe somebody will eventually read my story and learn how stupid I felt lying here, suffering in pain, and waiting to die, because I trusted the opinions of politicians and news commentators over my friend, Dr. Bob. That’s water over the dam and too late to help me now. Que sera, sera.
If only I had