The World’s End is a scifi thriller and, as such, it’s got lots of action scenes. But that’s not all. I’m a romantic at heart and several stories slipped in that will make the biggest romance fan happy.
The scene below is told from the point of view of Samantha, a young woman of American Indian heritage. Civilization has ended and she visits a college for Native Americans hoping to find a boy she’d been communicating with on Facebook; until Facebook and the internet itself went away for good. When she arrives, she doesn’t find the boy, but she does find an old Volkswagen Van pulled inside the large door of the main student lounge. An old hippie named Charlie tells her that all the students are gone.
Judy is asleep in the van, having taken a powerful pain pill. She told Charlie that she just had a pulled muscle, but it hasn’t healed and he’s worried about her. In fact, he suspects it’s something more, but can’t admit it, even to himself.
I think the love and devotion shown by Charlie towards Judy is quite touching. Earlier, he calls her “Sweet Judy Blue Eyes.” See if you agree.
There was nothing here for her. It was time to go home.
But first, she asked, “Where are you heading, Charlie? To Calgary?”
He smiled. “Nah. Judy and I are going to the North Pole. At least we’re going to get as close as we can. It was her idea, but I think it’s a great one. We’ll just head north and keep going until we can’t.”
Sam was shocked. “But . . . but you should stop in Calgary. You can start again there.”
He reached into the ash tray and removed the remnants of a joint and lit it, inhaling deeply. “Don’t want to start again. Judy and I are both just over sixty, but she’s getting tired. I am too, I guess. I can see it in her.”
He exhaled loudly and coughed. “I think it’s time . . . time for us to move on, up to the North Pole.” He grinned. “Up with Santa.”
“I think we did just about all we could do – all we want to do. We hung with some cool dudes, saw a lot of the country, got written up once in a newspaper. I think when Judy wakes up she’d tell you herself – we did a lot and have very few regrets.”
His eyes suddenly became sad and shiny. Sam felt her own sadness threaten to overtake her. “Charlie, everyone regrets things. It’s called being human.”
He took another toke and held it a long time. His exhale was almost clear. “I think I only have two. One was that I never married Judy. Soon after we met and started living together, I could tell she wanted to. Back then, women liked the ring on the finger – maybe they still do.
“But I was into freedom. I got a check from a worker’s comp settlement every month – twelve hundred bucks. It wasn’t much, but it bought a whole lot. It bought freedom for me and for her. And if we were a little short and needed money, she’d just set up her easel and start drawing. Judy is an amazing artist. She’d sell a drawing or two and we’d be flush again. It was a good life and I didn’t want to jinx it by going to the man and asking for his marriage papers and his blessing.
“She was cool about it and never said a word. But a few weeks ago – after her muscle started hurting – I thought of it and knew I’d disappointed her. I sure do regret it now, but on the way up to the North Pole, if I find a priest or a ship’s captain or anything, I’m going to ask her to marry me and get him to say the words.”
A tear ran down Samantha’s cheek. “You’re a good man, Charlie.”
“And you’re a good listener, Samantha. I wish you’d stay a little longer. Judy would be stoked to meet you.”
Sam rose. “I wish I could, but it’s going to snow again. It’ll be the last of the season, but it’s coming. I’d best get back to my home.”
She turned and took a step, but her curiosity was too much. “Charlie, what’s the second thing. The second thing you regret.”
For a moment, his eyes lost focus as if he was seeing something that wasn’t there. He moved to the door of the van, sat, and took Judy’s hand in his. He looked at her as she spoke.
“I never talked to a soul about this except Judy. She doesn’t carry this as a regret, but I do. For her, it was the right thing to do, the most unselfish. I can see now, all these years later, that I was the selfish one, but not her. She knew what was right and did it, even if it hurt.”
He paused for several seconds. “We got together at eighteen. Judy and I are almost the same age, almost to the day. We hitchhiked and found crash pads and bummed around together all over. At first, we took . . . you know . . . precautions. But as we got older, that didn’t seem all that necessary, so imagine our surprise when Judy got pregnant at thirty eight.
“By then we had this van and after the baby was born, we lived in it. The kid was tiny and she was so much fun. I remember her first smile, when she started to crawl, how she peed on a whole ounce when she was three. I thought our lives would be totally changed, but we just kept going on even though now there were three of us. Judy and I were happy most of the time – but after the baby, I think we were the happiest ever.
“That all ended when the kid turned six. We thought she ought to go to school because she was smart, real smart. But as soon as we took her there, the man started hassling us. Our home wasn’t proper. We smoked dope and lived like gypsies.
“One day I had just about had enough. I saw a social worker pull up outside the trailer we had rented and I picked up a baseball bat. Now Samantha, you’ve got to understand. I never did a violent thing in my life. But here I was ready to do . . . I don’t know what.
“Judy took the bat away and made me calm down. She invited the social worker in and we listened to what she had to say. She described how smart our daughter was. How she could go to high school and then college. How she could be a happy girl living a happy life.
“She didn’t say anything specifically, but she looked around our trailer. She looked at the piles of dirty clothes, the unwashed dishes, the can of beans I’d been eating just as she arrived. She asked if we loved our daughter.
“I thought it was the craziest question I’d ever heard. Of course we did. We just weren’t like them – like the straight people who got a good education and made a good living for themselves and passed that on to their own children and grandchildren. We were different and not likely to change. So the woman from social services said, ‘Let us take the girl, get her into a good home and let her blossom.’ I’ll never forget what she said next. It was ‘If you truly love her, you’ll give her up. It’s the only way.’
“That night Judy woke me up and told me the woman was right. That our daughter was smart, even special. We’d done what we could, but it was time for us to move on.”
Samantha was frozen in rapt attention to the story. “So did you . . .”
“Yeah, we gave her up. To this day, Judy has no doubts or regrets. But I do. I’m not as strong and as selfless as she is.”
Samantha wiped her eyes with her sleeve. “Thank you, Charlie. It was good meeting you.”
She turned to leave and, at the door, looked back one final time. “What is her name? Your daughter’s name?”
“Judy thought it up. She’s so good with names. We called her Dymond.”