It was a dark and stormy decade.
The millennium, looming ahead, was frequently pre-empted on TV by Highway to Heaven, Touched by an Angel, and The Jerry Springer Show.
Ray Sneed, a millenarian, mowed his lawn. He inhabits a quiet, suburban pod, has deep aspirations.
Clipping his bushes, he sees the signs--envisions the Great Battle before him. And bides his time. Clip clip.
"millenarian, mil le na' ri an, a. [L. millenarius, containing a thousand, from mille, a thousand. MILE.] Consisting of a thousand; especially consisting of a thousand years; pertaining to the millennium.--n. One who believes in the millennium." The latter was what Ray was, when he wasn't working at his day job, delivering mail.
At work, Ray was a model employee, sorting and delivering his mail in record time, without dog bites, always smiling and never complaining. Because he knew it was all going nowhere soon. And he had great benefits for his wife and two kids.
So on he worked, and waited for the Light. Then one fine day he heard that the President was coming to visit his place of employment, his office. He felt repulsion, was energized: You see Ray, though a devout Christian, hated the President and his wife with about as much passion (considerable, some would say) as he mustered for Satan, in his better moments.
Ray contemplated this, its approach toward that against which he measured all: the End.
The signs. He saw the signs, their coming together, as the Book said. Ray smiled.
This is what Ray listened to at work and on his routes, day after day after day: "Finally, you healthy and dependent liberals who sit at home and do nothing all day--you know who you are. Some of you are just now getting out of bed to face the rigors of the day--which sleaze daytime TV show do I watch? Or should I watch a soap? Yes, you healthy, dependent liberals who are sitting at home, maybe just arising, and do nothing all day, join that 100 yard liberal dash. See who can sprint to the mailbox in record time when the government check arrives and be sure to run with your hand out, for your handouts. You will be judged by your form" (Rush Limbaugh, July 23, 1996).
Ray was what people called, premillennially, an "angry white male," to be distinguished from a "dead white male," which was an important dead man whose ideas and writings someone had decreed to be no longer relevant. Ray felt that uppity women, lesbians, teachers who belonged to unions, "feminazis" (as Rush called them), and minorities of just about all stripes, were out to get him. He liked to talk politics.
Hey, great news (from a novelistic point of view): Ray, being an exemplary employee and a good Dad and Christian, was chosen to embody for his office the efficiency and ideal to public service that the Postal System, in the President's view, embodied. And it was an amazingly efficient system, when you consider that it could deliver, for under fifty cents, a letter over the length of a continent in days. Ray was proud, though in general he hated the government, and so was Allan O'Neil, the other employee chosen, whom Ray hated.
Why did Ray hate Allan O'Neil, you're probably asking? Simple: Allan was a homosexual who, though he didn't really flaunt this, had been correctly pegged as such. Ray hated him for religious reasons:
"If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads"(Leviticus 20:13).
"In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion" (Romans 1:27).
"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor the idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6: 9-10).
"In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They also serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire" (Jude 7).
Ray had worked out in his head, through a series of connections among books in the Bible, that I, your narrator, can't even begin to fathom, being only a dallier in the Book against which Ray measures all (the quotes that form the bulk of the last chapter, in fact, were taken from Ray's Website, but more on that later), anyway, Ray had worked out in his mind a kind of scenario involving the President and Endtime. Here's how it goes, in brief: OK now, you've heard about the Anti-Christ and the Rapture and all that on Dateline and 20/20. It's kind of like that: In Ray's case, it involves the President, who, though not the Anti-Christ, somehow dies or is killed and sets off the age that will release the Anti-Christ against whom, of course, the Pro-Christ will appear and fight (in that New Testament way) before the Rapture when the Elect and the Unlucky will go their separate ways.
Ray somehow got it into his mind that he was the one picked to knock off the President. If you want more details on this, visit it on Ray's Website, which he set up shortly before the climax to this novel. I think it's still there.
Pssssst: If you're expecting something dramatic to happen, because this is the seventh chapter, and it was written on the seventh day, don't hold your breadth. This chapter is already too long.)
Ray couldn't sleep, a common problem for him. His wife, Teresa, was sound asleep, being zonked out on Valium, which she took because the only time her husband ever talked to her was to ask about the kids, about supper, and about sex. So thus soliloquized Ray to himself, in his mind:
It must be by his blood, and, God above,
I don't hold any grudge against him,
But his name: William Jefferson Clinton,
Billary, draft dodger, the feel-your-pain
Pansy from that third-world country, Arkansas!
I could go on and on without Limbaugh
But droning does make cowards of us all.
And so the clarion call to action
Is sicklied o'er with the hot air of Rush,
And the ravings of Liddy, too.
I'll cut him off! And so the age begins
Of Rapture, when the anti-Christ and all
The rest will wage a war on Jesus Christ
Returned, resplendent, and armed to the teeth!
But I must I must get it right to make it stick.
(Here, Ray launches into a discussion, in iambic pentameter, about how, with all that security and only feet from the President, he can possibly shoot him. I'll spare you the rest of that soliloquy and the wretched meter it's written in. However, he does come up with a solution, but more about that in the next chapter, or the one following. I haven't decided yet).
A short chapter and a note on why Ray was able to think in iambic pentameter: It turns out that Ray was the reincarnation of that famous Elizabethan actor, Richard Burbage, friend of Shakespeare, Jonson, and Beaumont. This would have astounded Ray for two reasons: One, he hadn't read Shakespeare since high school, and hated it then. Two, Ray and those around him thought the very idea of reincarnation was an invention by Satan to draw into the evil fold of New Age cults people easily duped. I, however, wonder about the karmic justice of lodging the soul of Richard Burbage in the mind of Ray Sneed, but there you go!
Ray's in his yard again, clipping his bushes, where he does his best thinking.
Ray got the idea of how to bump off the President, by the way, partly from his own mind, and partly from a magazine he subscribes to called The Garrulous Grunt, a magazine Ray's father, an infantryman in the Korean War, had always loved. In the magazine, besides articles about armed struggles for democracy the world over and conspiracy theories with black helicopters and Jewish media moguls, there was a section with advertisements on how to impress your friends with guns, and how to kill people, should the need arise. Since Ray had correctly surmised that there was no way he could kill the President with anything metal, with the heavy security and all, he decided to kill him with a needle instead, specifically, the one his diabetic mother used to give herself her daily insulin injection. He would take the metal part out of the syringe and replace it with a self-made plastic one. In The Garrulous Grunt, through a book he ordered called The Poisoner's Handbook, he learned that only a gram or two of nicotine, which could be easily enough procured, could kill a person in minutes. Having aided his mother many times in the administration of her insulin, he knew how to hit home with the needle. Ray smiled.
Just last night, a rather stormy August evening, my neighbor, Jack, cut his foot badly while taking out the garbage. Someone had broken a pint of Heaven Hill on the sidewalk. Ray's neighbor Sara swore she saw the Virgin Mary in a pattern formed with grated cheese and sauce in an enchilada her mother-in-law from New Mexico made. Other signs made Ray wonder, and he descended into a small cubicle in his refurbished basement to supplement his previsions of what was to come. People reading his website the next day would be in for a few surprises.
"go postal v. to perpetuate acts of premeditated violence. 2. to go insane. Notes: the term originated from cases of United States Postal Service employees who, due to job stress or other traumatic influence, have murdered coworkers on the job, usually with a firearm. Only later did the definition open up to general insanity, but still has connotations of violence. Notes by Michael Venables, USA," from The Online Slang Dictionary: A Collaborative Approach,
Oh, the climax: A woman behind one of the many cameras there had no idea that the climax of this novel was about to occur. In fact, to her Ray beamed proudly, if uncomfortably in that way most people not accustomed to being filmed are, with a rather shy wife and two requisitely normal kids, a boy and a girl, off to his side. She momentarily kept her camera pointed at him and his family, unsuspecting.
You, however, know perfectly well what Ray is thinking, or, if you haven't guessed yet, you'll know soon: you see, Ray was ready to jump out of his skin with ecstasy and adrenaline. He was so excited because he had gotten past security by hiding the syringe in a part of a work station with a hollowed out area that only those who worked there knew about. He had easily, with the security as busy as it was, wandered over to that station to procure the syringe and now held it in his pocket. He was also excited, of course, because soon the Millennium would be set off by the offing of the President. And he would be the vehicle to that new era of unending bliss and righteousness, God willing.
The vehicle, sorry to say, crashed. While the President was droning on in that way that Presidents often do for state purposes, a vigilant secret service man saw Ray fingering something in his suit coat. As Ray was about to pull it out, this guy and three other well trained and large men tackled Ray. As he went down the needle full of nicotine, enough to kill a man, entered his leg, right at the femoral artery. Ouch.
Ray's wife Teresa screamed, as Ray, in paroxysms from adrenaline and a fatal dose of nicotine, writhed and, in pretty good Latin for someone who normally would have had a hard time telling you what caveat emptor meant, uttered, "Et tu, Deus?" Everyone was astonished. Ray died.
Yeah, like I can wrap all this up. No way, Hosea. I will tell you that Ray so astonished everyone at the Post Office that word got around and several members of Ray's congregation began meeting on a regular basis to interpret this event, even Ray's wife, that unhappy woman. But why should I waste any more of your time telling you all about them and their beliefs? If you want to know more, visit Ray's Website (now renamed Heaven's Late), @ http://www.whatstocome.org,