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The Jacksons – for Jan. 21, 2010

Rose Jackson stood staring out of the kitchen window at the grimy, melting snow in the front yard and the water dripping from the icicles hanging from the eaves. “I can’t believe it’s 2010,” she said.

Jennifer, who was sitting at the table working on a homework project, looked up. “Two more years,” she said.

Rose turned toward the table. “Two more years till what?” she said.

“Two years till the end of the world,” said Jennifer. “You know. 2012. The Big Bang Part II.”

Rose sat down across from her daughter. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said.

“Seriously Mom? Have you been living under a rock?” Jennifer was incredulous. “There’s that whole thing about the Mayan calendar. It goes till 2012 and then it just stops. And people think that means the world is going to end.”

“Jeepers,” said Rose. “Our Canadian Tire calendar ends in February 2011.”

“Who says ‘jeepers’ anymore?” said Jennifer. “Get with the times Mom. And the Mayan calendar isn’t just a one-year calendar like Canadian Tire’s. It covers thousands of years. And it ends in 2012.”

“I see.” Rose sounded unimpressed. “So how exactly is this end of the world supposed to occur?”

Jennifer shrugged. “I think the Earth is going to suddenly shift a couple of degrees on its axis. Or so I heard.”

“Mmm.” Rose pondered that for a second. “Why would that mean the end of the world?

“I can see how if it happened suddenly everybody might fall down, so there’d be some bruises and probably some broken bones, but why the end of the world? Wouldn’t people just get up and look around and go ‘hmm, the sun seems to be a bit higher in the sky’ and then just go about their business?”

“What am I, a quantum physicist?” said Jennifer. “How would I know? I’m guessing that a couple of degrees of tilt on the Earth’s axis would have all kinds of unexpected consequences. I mean, a couple of degrees of tilt would have to mean displacing everything at least a couple of miles, right? So if the Earth moved a couple of miles really suddenly right out from under our feet, I expect our house would just fall down. And so would everybody else’s. And all the cars on the road would end up who knows where. And the oceans…well I can’t even imagine about the oceans. I can see how it might be the end of the world.”

“Well it all makes for a pretty pointless conversation anyway,” said Rose.

“Yeah, no kidding,” Jennifer agreed. “If the world is going to end anyway I wish it would end now so I wouldn’t have to do this stupid project.”

“Knock on wood,” said Rose reaching across the table and rapping Jennifer’s skull lightly with her knuckle. “I still can’t believe it’s 2010. It seems like yesterday we were all worried about Y2K.”

Jennifer looked puzzled. “Y2K? What’s that?” she wanted to know.

“The year 2000,” said Rose. “The last time the world was supposed to end.”

“The world was supposed to end in the year 2000?” said Jennifer. “How come I never heard about that?”

“Because you were only five,” said Rose. “There was no point scaring you.”

“Oh, right,” said Jennifer. “But why was the world going to end in 2000? Whose calendar was running out of pages back then?”

“Nobody’s calendar,” said Rose. “It was a computer thing. Computer companies had built all the computers with internal clocks that weren’t programmed to recognize the year 2000. So the fear was that all the world’s computers were going to crash at midnight on January 31, 1999 and everything would go crazy. Airplanes would crash, cars would stall, nuclear missiles would take off or blow up. Alarm clocks wouldn’t go off so everybody would be late for work. Stuff like that.”

Jennifer laughed. “Kudos to Bill Gates,” she said, and then paused. “This conversation is getting more pointless as the year drags on,” she added.

“The sad thing is,’ said Rose, “it’s the best conversation I’ve had this year.”

Jennifer nodded. “The really sad thing is it’s probably the best conversation we will have this year.”

“Why’s that?” said Rose. “Cuz’ I’m turning 16,” said

Jennifer. “I have to become sullen and withdrawn.”

“Oh good lord,” said Rose. She sighed and looked at her watch. “Thank goodness the world is ending soon,” she said.

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