When the Day of Evil Comes
When the Day of Evil Comes
A Novel of Suspense
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc.
© 2005 by Melanie Wells
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Someone said to me that day, “It’s hotter than the eyes of hell out here.” I can’t remember who. Looking back, I wonder if it meant something, that phrase. Something more than a weather report. But as it was, I let the remark pass without giving it a thought. It was hot. Hotter than the eyes of hell. That was true enough.
If I’d known enough to be afraid, I would have been. But I was a thousand years younger then, it seems, and I didn’t know what was out there. To me, it seemed like an ordinary day.
I was making a rare appearance at a faculty event. I hate faculty events. Generally, truth be told, I hate any sort of event. Anything that involves pretending, in a preordained way, to like a bunch of people with whom I have something perfunctory in common. Faculty events fall into this category.
This particular faculty event was a picnic at Barton Springs in Austin. The picnic was the final fling of a faculty retreat—my definition of hell on earth, speaking of hell. They’d all spent the weekend at a retreat center in the hill country of Texas, getting to know each other. Or bonding, as we say in the industry.
Imagine the scene. A dozen puffed-up psychologists (I include myself only in the latter part of this description, for I do admit I’m a psychologist), wallowing in all the clichés. Bonding exercises. Trust falls. Processing groups. Sharing. I could imagine few things more horrific.
I’d begged off the retreat, citing a speaking engagement in San Antonio. A speaking engagement, might I add, that had been carefully calendared a year before, timed precisely to oppose the dreaded faculty retreat.
So I’d spent the weekend in the hill country too. But my gig involved talking to entering master’s-degree students about surviving graduate school. A topic on which I considered myself an expert, since I’d done more time in graduate school than 99 percent of the population of this grand country of ours. Hard time, in fact. I’d won my release a few years before by earning my PhD and promising myself I’d never breach the last frontier—the suck-you-in quagmire known as “post-graduate
Over the weekend, I’d let those entering students in on my secret—higher education is all about perseverance. It has nothing to do with smarts or creativity or anything else.
It’s about cultivating the willingness and stamina for hoop-jumping.
Jump through the hoops, I’d said. Do it well. Do it relentlessly. And in a few years, you can join the elite of the American education system, secure in the knowledge that you too can endure with the best of them.
After sharing this little tidbit, I’d decided to take my own advice and jump through a hoop myself. The aforementioned faculty picnic at Barton Springs.
Barton Springs is a natural spring-fed pool in the heart of Austin, which is in the heart of Texas. And since it was the heart of summer, the water would be sixty-eight degrees of heaven on a hundred-degree day.
I like picnics, generally. And anything that involves water is a good thing in my eyes. I’d started swimming competitively once I figured out that swimming is like graduate school. Perseverance is the thing. And I’m pretty good at that.
So I drove to the picnic that day with a fairly good attitude, for me, considering this was a herd event for professional hoop jumpers.
I parked my truck in the shade, saying a quick prayer of thanks for the shady spot. I don’t know why I do things like that, pray over a parking spot, as though the Lord Himself is concerned about which parking space I get. Surely He has more important things on His mind. But I said the prayer anyway, parked my truck, grabbed my swim bag, and set out to find my colleagues.
They were bunched up in a good spot: near a group of picnic tables, under a live oak tree, and next to one of my favorite things in life. A rope swing. What could be more fun, I ask you? Rope swings are childhood for grown-ups.
I said my hellos and settled in at one of the tables next to my department head, Helene Levine. I liked the name. It had a swingy, rhymie sort of rhythm to it. One of the matriarchs, as she liked to describe herself, referring to her Jewish heritage.
Helene is indeed matriarchal. She’s an imposing woman, with a big battle-axe bosom and a manner that is simultaneously threatening and nurturing. I don’t know how she pulls that off, but I love her. And she loves me. For some reason, as different as we are, we hit it off from the beginning. I signed up as daughter to her nurturing side.
This day, she was in threatening mode, at least with everyone else. Foul-tempered in the heat, I guess. And probably sick of babysitting her faculty charges. In any case, she brightened when she saw me, handed me a plate of fried chicken and potato salad, and poured me a cold soda. I settled in to eat.
The food was good. Few things in the world sing to my heart like picnic food. Especially good fried chicken, and I knew Helene had fried this chicken herself. I ate a breast and a wing, two helpings of potato salad, and a huge fudge brownie, all washed down with the national drink of Texas, Dr. Pepper. A meal of champions.
Then the rope swing beckoned...