Ian McLeary had lived in this house for forty-seven years. He had lived there long before it had been on the edge of town, but over the years, both age and the town had crept up on him until one day he found himself with a sidewalk and pace maker. All things tend toward chaos.
It took the better part of two hours to wrestle his chair out of the house. Since there was no one left to help him, he had to do it on his own. He wasn’t as strong as he used to be and his leg liked to give him trouble, but no matter how large and unwieldy the chair was, he was quite determined. This would be a sight not to be missed and he wanted to be comfortable for it.
Sometime later, his old leather recliner sat on top of the hill beyond his house, looking back over the town toward the East. The lights of the town were dark and he could see the stars as clear as when he had been a boy. Even the line of tail lights snaking down the road had finally run itself out. The moon glowed over the landscape and an owl hooted from somewhere off in the distance. All was otherwise silent.
He leaned back, putting his feet up and resting from the exertion. A rum and coke was in one hand, a lit cigar glowed in the other. His daughter would have chided him thoroughly for not thinking of his health, but that was hardly a concern any longer. ‘Let me be to enjoy myself,’ he silently replied.
As he waited, his mind drifted back over his life. He had certainly lived it to the full. At least he couldn’t point to much he could say he regretted or had missed out on in his many years, however cliche it sounded.
He had married his high school sweetheart at twenty-three. They had raised two beautiful children. Or rather, she had raised them while he had been off fighting the wars of their generation.
His first job when he came back was driving the ice cream truck in town. How he loved to watch the children’s eyes light up with delight as he came down the street, that song drawing them out more surely than the Piper. More than once he’d given a bar to a youngster without enough change, and even though he was short of cash himself, his wife never once objected to his charity.
He had been a volunteer fire fighter for a while, too, until he finally reached the day he just couldn’t keep up any longer. He still received thank-you cards from some of those he had helped save, and he cherished each one. He had even worked as a teacher, imbuing young minds with a thirst for knowledge and a wonder at the world around them.
They were all gone, now. In his ninety-two years, he had seen the best and worst of his fellow man, but now they were all gone. He had stayed, though. He had done his time escaping death in the Army.
He puffed his cigar and finished his drink, and for a little while he must have dozed. When he felt a rumble in his bones he opened his eyes. The sky grew bright with the light of a thousand dawns breaking all at once, and a wave of destruction swept across the landscape toward him. It really did look like a mushroom rising into the sky, he thought.
He took a final breath, and at the age of ninety-two, Mr. McLeary watched the world end.