Catherine Peng

The eclipse was amazing, but the traffic back was terrible. My extended family had all come to Lincoln, Nebraska to see the eclipse. After analyzing cloud patterns on his phone for a week last year, my dad, a climate scientist, had decided that Lincoln would have the best chance of a cloudless day during the eclipse. But on the morning of, he announced that we would have to drive to Mormon Island State Park, an hour west. I had complained about this decision throughout the drive there with my cousin and his girlfriend. But, to be fair, we had an entirely clear view of the moon’s orbit when we got to our amended destination. The first few hours of the return drive to Minneapolis went by quickly as my dad excitedly told my sister and I about the various meteorological phenomena we had seen. This fervor eventually subsided, though, and we were faced with the bare reality of driving my grandma’s green Saturn through 12 more hours of bumper to bumper traffic along soy fields littered with industrial-sized irrigators.

The monotony of the I-80 was too much for us, so we exited around Omaha and took the scenic route. At first this route, US-30, followed a brown and choppy river, filled with agricultural runoff. Corn and soy fields were often planted right up to the river’s edge. Soon, however, we entered an area of Iowa that hadn’t received the geologic memo the previous hundreds of miles of flat earth had, and drove through a section of handsome rolling hills. On top of one of these hills was a Subway, at which we stopped. I asked the dude making my spicy Italian if he had seen the eclipse, and he replied that he had slept straight through it.

The sun had set by the time we left the Subway, and my dad and sister decided that they would sleep in the parking lot for an hour and then continue. I can’t nap, so I paced around the parking lot instead. I walked around the side of the Subway in order to pee in a scenic spot. As I turned the corner, though, I heard a faint chant: “One man’s junk! One man’s junk!” There was a small road down the hill, at the bottom of which was a church and graveyard.  I walked down the hill and read the sign: Junked Earth Mission: Pastor Rev. O’bsolete, “We are all junk, praise God!” All of this made me nervous, but as soon as I turned to leave, someone took me by the arm and said “Brother, hello! We are all junk! Won’t you pray?” They forced me inside and sat me on a pew made of driftwood, handing me a hymnal. I looked up and saw a crucifix, glimmering in the candlelight. Squinting, I saw that it was made entirely of sea glass. Rev. O’bsolete took the pulpit and started preaching.

“Traveler, let me relay my eschatology: the Earth was once part of a dazzling constellation that never failed to capture the creator’s attention. Capitalism has shattered this, turning the world to junk and leading the creator to sweep it off to a corner and ignore it. This has led to our present crisis. But remember, the gospel is good news! The world must be tchotchkified so that our creator takes more interest in it! Through meditation and worship, we must work to sand down our sharp astral edges, scratch up our translucent surfaces, make sea glass out of our shattered glass!”

He had more to say, but I was terrified. I bolted from my seat and ran back to the green Saturn, took the keys out of my dad’s pocket and started driving. Soon I was back on the Interstate and back into the traffic, which continued for three hours until we finally made it back to my grandparents’ house.

Isaac Kirk-Davidoff | isaac.kirk-davidoff@yale.edu .