Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Fans of the great James Thurber may remember the Get-Ready Man from his comic story “The Car We Had To Push”:

The Get-Ready Man was a lank unkempt elderly gentleman with wild eyes and a deep voice who used to go about shouting at people through a megaphone to prepare for the end of the world.  ‘GET READY! GET READ-Y!” he would bellow.  “THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END!”  His startling exhortations would come up like summer thunder, at the most unexpected times and in the most surprising places.  I remember once during Mantell’s production of “King Lear” at the Colonial Theatre, that the Get-Ready Man added his bawlings to the squealing of Edgar and the ranting of the King and the mouthing of the Fool, rising from somewhere in the balcony to join in.  The theatre was in absolute darkness and there were rumblings of thunder and flashes of lightning offstage.  Neither father nor I, who were there, ever completely got over the scene.

(As an aside, Ol’ Robbo has been rereading this and Thurber’s other stories for about forty years now and they still make me laugh every time.)

I bring this up because the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor seems to have produced its own version of the Get-Ready Man, although one quite at odds with Thurber’s in many details.  She’s a youngish middle-aged woman who lives round the block from us and is, I believe, married to a doctor.   Her eyes are slightly otherworldly rather than wild, and her voice melodious rather than bellow-y.  She also dresses quite smartly.  On the surface, she looks like a typical NoVA suburban tennis-playing, Benz-driving, wine mom.

Twice now, however, she has appeared, as suddenly as summer thunder, to tell us that “with all the awful things happening these days” (she doesn’t specify and I didn’t ask), she feels that Something Terrible is about to happen.  She then urges that we pray to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation.

The first time she actually got into the house before we realized what she was about.  (We initially thought she might be looking for a lost pet, or else was just new to the neighborhood and saying “hi”.)  The second time, a week or two ago, she glided up behind me while I was coiling up a garden hose in the front yard and started talking before I even realized she was there.  (Curiously, when I assured her of my Faith and my daily prayer, she seemed less than pleased.  I wondered if “Whore of Babylon” might have been lurking at the back of her mind.)

Ol’ Robbo has long thought that trying to predict the End Times is a mug’s game, so I don’t really give it much thought, and instead just do my best to shlemp along day in and day out.  It’s still a bit creepy, however, to get accosted by somebody who seems so absolutely convinced that they’re right round the corner.