What would you do if you'd been raised in a strict missionary family--and suddenly caught your sister dancing? In this excerpt from the novel "Zermatt," a 14-year-old boy, vacationing in a Swiss hotel with his parents and two sisters, ponders what earth-shaking event might have led his sister Janet astray. Reprinted with permission of Carroll and Graf.
Janet was worse than Mom and Dad combined when it came to telling on me, suggesting punishments, and making snide comments about The World and its evil ways. Yet here she was, Janet Becker, who wanted to make sure I had my eyes closed when I prayed and told if I didn't; Janet, who gave me Indian wrist-burns to help "prepare" me for the martyrdom that she said awaited each of us when the Russians invaded in order to torture all American missionaries in Europe for Christ's sake; here was Janet, the future missionary nurse, sneaking down to dance to the very worst kind of worldly music!
Janet the Bible teacher had been in the arms of the Italian cook! That Janet the terrible and holy one should dance, which was even worse than smoking because smoking could not lead to the "fleeting pleasures of the flesh" but only to ill health; that Janet should have danced to hard-core rock and roll of the "very worst, most debased sort" with some young oily Roman Catholic, one who wore a cross around his neck and worshiped Mary and the Saints--a Real Christian did not need these "external symbols" because we had Christ in our hearts and no need for "the traditions of men"-that Janet could dance with such an unsaved man, who was not only exactly the kind of person Jesus had died for but that we, the Becker family, were called to Switzerland to bear witness unto; that Janet should dance, when the most that she should have done was to share Christ with that cook and share Christ at a safe distance no less; that Janet let herself be rubbed and touched, be pressed in her Temple with her "womanly gifts" shaking and bobbing to demonic rhythms while rubbing her body on someone not of God's choosing for her; that Janet did this all before marriage and did not wait until after marriage to be with that one other person only; THAT JANET SHOULD HAVE DONE ALL THIS, kept me sitting on my bed pondering for a long, long time.Janet's dancing seemed so momentous, so strangely apocalyptic, that all I could think of was that it was time to check the sink, maybe even the toilet, to make sure Jesus was not on his way back or, worse, had already come back and caught Rachael up to meet him in the clouds while leaving the rest of us. Maybe Rachael was gone! Maybe this was why Janet dared to dance!
Janet would have been so angry when she figured out that it was she of whom Christ had spoken when he said there would be those on Judgment Day to whom he would say, "I never knew you. Depart from me into everlasting punishment," even when they thought they were saved. So I went down the hall and flushed the toilet. (There was no bathroom, only a sink, in each bedroom. The baths and toilets were at the end of the hall and we guests took turns.)
It says in the Bible that several amazing things will happen when Jesus zooms back to earth to snatch his elect up into the clouds at the Rapture. The moon will turn to blood. The water will turn to blood too. So I flushed the toilet to see if Janet was dancing because it was the End Times and we had all been left, rather Janet and I had been left and Mom and Dad too, maybe because they had been fighting.
There is nothing that will cause more despair than getting left behind. So I thought, maybe Janet had been in her room getting undressed and Rachael was already in bed asleep or quietly reading her bedtime scripture portion, and just like it says in the Bible, two will be on the rooftop and one will be taken and the other left, and two will be in a field and one will be taken and the other left; well, there was Janet just about to take off her stockings and all of a sudden this ray of light hit Rachael's bed and Rachael started to float up to the ceiling and went right through it and disappeared. Then Janet rushed over to the light beam and jumped into it and reached up, because of course she would have known exactly what was happening, and got set to go too, while maybe wondering why Rachael was taken up to be with the Lord first, since Janet was the oldest, but still happy that Jesus had arrived at last and that we were about to be proved right about everything. And then the light just went out and then nothing.
So Janet waited while staring up at the pine boards of the ceiling and expecting her own beam. What would Janet think? First of all, it was not as if Jesus might come back later for her, because the Bible is very specific: it says it is all going to happen in the "twinkling of an eye." No matter how you interpret "twinkling," it has to be faster than spread out over five minutes. The seconds were ticking by, way past any kind of twinkling. We were Calvinist, Reformed, Presbyterian fundamentalists, so there would be no comfort for Janet in any sort of liberal interpretation of what twinkling meant! Twinkling meant twinkling.Six or seven minutes had passed and Janet knew by this time that the elect were long gone. There would be no second thoughts in the Second Coming, no second chances. You were in or out!
So there Janet was with the full realization sinking in that she was the one left while Rachael was the one taken, like the ones on the rooftop and in the field Jesus talked about. So what was the point of just standing there worrying? If you were left, that was it--you were left. And the reason we did not dance was that we did not want to displease Jesus, because dancing grieves the Lord. But if you were not going to be taken up with the Lord, then what was the point? You were way past worrying about grieving the Lord. Grieving the Lord? Ha! He had just left you standing there with your mouth open watching Rachael slide through the knotty pine ceiling of room 27 without even mussing her flannel nightgown! Who cared about what Mom and Dad thought now? Let them see you dance!
So Janet might have slipped on her shoes and dress and marched right back down in a mood of defiance and despair of the same sort New York atheists and the Antichrist will feel when they find out that they have lost the fight against God. Then Janet, having decided to taste the carnal pleasures before the end, and in a very wayward and rebellious mood sure to lead to all sorts of things, in this case the cuddling of Italian chefs, headed down to the dining room, drawn forward by the pounding demonic beat. Then Janet tapped the Italian cook on the shoulder and said, "Si, I will dance with you, Sergio!"