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Atlanta: 176 Miles

It takes me two months to find her, but I finally do. She’s living in the middle of Georgia, flanked by signs that read “Welcome to Swainsboro” and “Atlanta: 176 miles.” There is a vegetable garden and an old tire in her front lawn.

When she opens the door I say, “Hi, Caroline! Wow, you look exactly the same.” This isn’t quite true, but my speech has been very well rehearsed. As I wonder if she’s thinking the same thing about me, I realize that she just looks confused.

“Dale Brothers, remember?” I take off my baseball cap and smooth my hair. “From Clairmont Junior High back in Kentucky.”

This makes her look even more confused.

My gaze falls to the naked fingers of her left hand, and I smile. “Remember when we were fifteen and you told me the only way you would ever sleep with me would be if the world were about to end?”

She continues to stare at me blankly. I plough onward anyway. “Well, as it turns out, the world really is about to end.” I look down at my watch. “In about three hours and fourteen minutes. Lucky I found you when I did, right?”

“The world’s about to end?” she asks. A dog barks behind her, from somewhere in the house.

“Yes, in about three hours. It’s the Apocalypse. All very technical–I’m sure you don’t want to waste time thinking about it when there are much better ways to be spending your last, precious hours.” I hold out my arms.

She takes a step backward. “I’ve never been to Kentucky,” she says.

My face grows numb. “But you’re Caroline Archer.”

She shakes her head. “I’m Caroline Acher.”

A fly buzzes by my cheek. “I’m sorry,” I finally say. I look down at my watch again. “In that case, can I have a beer?”

She shrugs and holds the door open for me.

I really didn’t want to spend the Apocalypse in Swainsboro.