I came home early from work, although Raph didn’t seem to notice. As usual, he was inebriated. Calmly and quietly, I took his drink and his bottle and poured them down the drain. Then I whipped up a half-assed dinner and turned on Channel Four, WBNX, the only station allowed to air.
“Raph, you need to sober up. Tonight’s the night. Steele himself told all of us to go home for this broadcast. Maybe a world truce?”
“Wish I had a drink to hear all of this bullshit. Wonder which heads of state are even alive,” he said. “Notice how the vice president is speaking and not the president? He must be dead as well.”
“Stay tuned, right? Hey, next time you go stealing booze, can you get us some steak and potatoes, maybe some shrimp and lobster? Hell, any kind of food would be good. Aren’t you getting hungry for real food? Man shall not live by booze alone.”
“Ah, the Bible, right? Funny. Speaking of miracles, you haven’t thrown me out on my ass yet.” Raphael wore a guilty look on his face as he sipped the last Diet Coke. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Oh Jax, I’ve been the guest from hell.”
“I guess the end of the world has that effect on some people. Last week you scared the shit out of me. You could have died. Just stop drinking so much. We’ve got to pull ourselves together in case.”
“In case what?”
“In case this is not the end. In case this is just the beginning.”
Raphael sighed and rolled his eyes. “My grandfather, George, you would have loved him, anyway, he warned me about this. We should just kill ourselves now. Get it over with before…”
“Before what?” I asked. He was still very drunk.
“It doesn’t matter. You hear from your folks?” I shook my head. Raphael’s brown eyes teared up. I knew he loved them like his own family. “Okay then. I will steal some good food for you. Booze for me and food for you. And it will be something gourmet and expensive, since you’re such a nice host.”
I just shook my head in disgust. Maybe he would snap out of this road to self-destruction. The colored bars on Channel Four finally went away. A stage with a podium and a United Nations flag hung behind it filled the television screen. A few seconds later, Vice President Al-Basaam walked onto the stage. He looked a decade older than his forty-nine years. His salt and pepper black hair was now full-blown gray. The bags underneath his eyes were a deep purplish-brown. A woman stood on the main floor. As soon as the vice president spoke, her hands signed his words. I turned up the volume.