The World To Come
Yossel looked out the plexiglass dome at the blasted landscape, sighed, and came back down the ladder.
“How’s it look?” Debbie asked.
Yossel shuffled over to the stainless steel kitchenette, poured himself some plastic, airless water from the purifier, and sipped thoughtfully.
“Well?” Debbie prodded.
“Well, nothing,” Yossel shrugged. “It was nothing yesterday, it’s nothing today.”
“No signs of life?” she squeaked.
“Not so much, no.”
Debbie looked stricken, her prodigious cleavage bobbing against the sheer, tear-stained material of her white tee-shirt.
It was Friday evening when the bombs dropped, and Yossel had been on his way to shul, a chocolate bobka under one arm and a small stack of ceramic plates under the other. Late! So very late. He’d promised to bring the bobka his wife, Yetta, had made for the oneg after Friday night services. He’d forgotten it on the counter, and Yetta had practically caved his skull in for such transgression. Wordlessly, sunken-shouldered, he’d slunk back down Cortelyou Road, to the family’s ancestral enclave on 4th Street. Grabbed the bobka, almost forgot the plates, and then turned back down Cortelyou.
Despite the catcalls and whistling, he’d barely noticed Debbie coming the opposite direction. She’d somehow been born a gestalt of Betty Page, Marilyn Monroe, Hallie Berry, with a touch of Jenna Jameson for good measure, innocently oozing sex. Most men swooned.
Yossel juggled the bobka.
All he saw in the Friday twilight was a zaftig, immodest thing in jeans and tee-shirt, arms and hair uncovered, sashaying down Cortelyou, a plague of palsied, whining men dropping to their knees in her wake.
His focus: The bobka! Yetta! And Shabbos! And most importantly, his physical safety if these three things did not converge in a timely fashion! He didn’t even notice the asphalt quake beneath his feet as the first bombs dropped.
So when Debbie’s Rubenesque figure came rushing down the street towards him, strange mushroom-shaped column of smoke rising over her shoulder on the Brooklyn skyline, he paid only slight attention, until finally she was upon him, grabbing and clutching and screaming hysterically, “RUN, YOU ASSHOLE!”
“IT’S DOOMSDAY, YOU IDIOT! BOMBS ARE DROPPING!”
So she grabbed his arm, swung him around, and despite his protests at her touch, was ultimately dragged to the weird, plexiglass-domed shelter behind Debbie’s row house on Beverly Road.
“We’d been meaning to tear it up,” she said later. “My boyfriend had bought the place hoping to put in a swimming pool. Fat chance of that now, I suppose.”
Weeks later, and Yetta’s bobka was long gone. Debbie and Yossel hadn’t seen a trace of life anywhere on their horizon. They’d gotten lucky and found the shelter’s seemingly bottomless cache of rations (thankfully parve, for Yossel’s sake), and the water purification system seemed to work well enough. But the radio just pumped out endless static.
They were alone.
So every day, Yossel davenned in the morning, kept vigil at their glass dome thru the afternoon, and Debbie alternately wept, paced, and muttered to herself, all the way until evening, the two of them in their tiny, cramped, empty bomb shelter. At night, Debbie slept on the shelter’s hammock, strung between the boiler and a water pipe. Yossel carefully folded his long black coat into a kind of palette, and slept on the floor.
But of late, Debbie had been inviting him to share the hammock.
And last night, he’d jumped at the touch of her spooning him on the floor.
“We’re alone,” she repeated glumly.
“It would seem so.”
“We could be the last man and woman on Earth,” she said. “Or at least Brooklyn.”
“That is a possibility.”
She stroked her chin, staring at Yossel for a long time.
“You realize,” she said, “that pretty much makes it our obligation to repopulate the Earth, don’t you?”
“Well, yes,” he said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “It is part of our covenant with Hashem to be fruitful.”
“Then you agree we should begin this project in earnest?”
“Well,” he said, twirling his beard, “I didn’t say that.”
“Yossel,” she said, “if we’re the last man and woman on Earth, and you agree it’s our duty to bring back the species, then WHY WON’T YOU SLEEP WITH ME.”
“Is it because I’m not pretty?”
“No, you are very beautiful.”
“Is it because of your wife?”
“No, she and your boyfriend are most likely passed, blessed be their memories. It’s not that.”
“Is it because you don’t like girls?”
“Is it because I’m a shiska?”
“The word is ‘shiksa’, and no, I could be forgiven that.”
“Then what is it?”
Yossel twisted his long black beard for a time.
“We’re not married,” he said finally. “And it is a great sin to fornicate with someone who is not your wife.”
“But we’d be doing it for all the right reasons!”
“The Law is the Law.”
Debbie paced, stroking her chin. The moon rose high over the ruins of Brooklyn. Yossel lay on his palette, arms crossed to remind Debbie of his sacred personal space, and slept. When he woke, Debbie was sitting at the kitchenette, a wild smile on her face.
“Listen,” she said.
“Ahp!” he interrupted, facing eastward for morning prayer.
He shook and bowed, davenning patiently, piously ignoring her. When he was done, she swatted him in the arm for making her wait.
“Adam and Eve,” she said.
“Adam. And. Eve,” she beamed. “If we’re the last peoplke on Earth, then it’s just like we’re the first people on Earth, Yossel! Adam and Eve weren’t married when they had kids–why do we have to be?”
Yossel twirled his beard, processing her logic. “Because Adam and Eve were given dispensation by the Lord Our God, Hashem Ha’Makom, Blessed King of the Heavens and All Creation.”
“So why wouldn’t we get the same kind of dispensation, Yossel?”
“We may yet,” he said.
“I pray every morning and listen for His words.”
“Yes,” he said. “But I get better reception up there,” he said.
And climbed back up the ladder to his plexiglass dome.