The End Times and Julita Valenski
John R. Guthrie
Rev. Ian MacLeash leaned forward in his seat at the banquet table, “Many Christians feel like the End Times are upon us. Sexual perversion! Promiscuity! Abortion! The desecration of the Lord’s Day! God excluded from the public schools! Darwinism!”
was a must-go event that Monday evening for Dr. Christopher Jacques (rhymes
with “rakes”), a family physician in the town of
is a place of great natural beauty. It is tucked into the northwest corner of
banquet occurred in the dining room of Austerity’s
Jacques came in late, having had to see a croupy child in the emergency room.
Still in his white clinic coat, he took the first available chair when he came
in, one near hospital pathologist Dr. Hilary Stein. Rev. MacLeash
She said, “Hi Chris, I’m Julita Valenski--Julie.” She smiled, an utterly charming smile, eyes violet like the twilight, jet black hair was in a pixie cut. A couple of loose strands fell across her forehead. Her cheek bones were pronounced, her lips full and generous.
“You’re not from Austerity, are you?” Chris said.
“No.” She shook her head.
“What brings you here?”
She wore a pleated raw silk dress in deep amethyst. From its elegant cut and drape, Chris recognized it as a designer item. Good taste, but she also would have looked good wearing a grocery bag.
She waved her hand in Dr. Stein’s general direction. “He’s my first cousin.
He’s also a good friend since childhood. I’m traveling from
Chris said, “
sparkled as she spoke, “I’m a rabbinical student at
Chris nodded and said, smiling, “Aha! Doctor Valenski! Wonderful.” Brains and beauty in a woman had always been a compelling combination for him.
cocked her head a little to the side as she spoke of her work, “It’s been quite
an adventure. My university offers the option of spending a year at our Jerusalem
Campus. While there, I did things that I found to be absolutely fascinating.”
She leaned closer, and gesturing with both hands, said, “I went on an
archeological dig at
I’ve heard of
She continued, “We actually recovered some document fragments. They were related to the eschatological beliefs of the Essenes. They believed the End Times had arrived over 2000 years ago.”
“Well, I’m pleased that they were wrong,” Chris replied, smiling.
Rev. MacLeash, seated to their left, leaned forward and said, “End times? Eschatology is a special interest of mine.”
“Oh, really?” Julie said, smiling, one eyebrow raised as she
MacLeash continued, “Many Christians feel like the End Times are upon us….” Here he catalogued his favorite sins.
Julie nodded slightly as she listened.
Rev. MacLeash angled his chair toward Hilary, Julie, and Chris. His gray hair was artfully cut, not a hair out of place. Nodding, he said, “It’s all in the scriptures. Book of Revelations. May I share it with you? It may change your life.”
“Uh, sure, Revered,” Julie nodded slightly, looking doubtful now.
Jacques nearly choked on the sip of water he’d just taken. He was in regular
“Pastor, have you seen the new linear accelerator Dr. Stein helped the hospital obtain? It’s just astounding…really hi tech…”
MacLeash rolled on like main battle tank, and holding one hortatory hand aloft, said, “I don’t mind telling you, Dr. Stein, Miss Valenski, the Jews and the Jewish state are central to God’s plan. That’s why we Bible-believing Christians have a special love for our Hebrew friends and neighbors.”
“Jews are central?” Dr. Stein said, looking a bit mystified.
Chris realized his face was flushing. He tried again, interjecting, “Dr. MacLeash, perhaps sometime we could take a walk through radiology...”
Julie, Chris noted, brow a bit wrinkled, looked worried now.
MacLeash’s face glowed now as he continued. He chopped one hand into the other, “Yes! The End Times prophecies can only be fulfilled if the Jews are in possession of all the lands given to them by God, all of Biblical Israel and the Temple will be rebuilt on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.”
Julita said, “What about the mosque that’s been there since 1035? Al-Aqsa”
Macleash took in a breath and chuckled. He winked
conspiratorially, “Al-Aqsa? Baked
Looking incredulous, Hilary Stein said, “Like, beamed up?”
MacLeash said, “Indeed. As God's chosen, Jews, though
left behind, are to be protected until they have an opportunity to accept Jesus
as the Messiah."
“Oh?” Julie said softly. “And if we choose not to?”
Nodding, MacLeash continued, “The book of Ezekiel tells us there will be a time of unimaginable suffering and horror for Jews, a people who have rebelled against the Lord and Shepherd's rod. He will separate the perfected ones, those who have professed Jesus as Messiah, from those who haven’t. All who persist in unbelief will die a terrible death.”
Hilary drew back, “A terrible death?”
Chris was flinching as he thought, I’ve never fully realized what a fool MacLeash is.
will be cast in to hellfire! Hell, Miss Valenski!
There will be no relief from pain. Ever! No Morphine, Dr. Stein. Consider that
I’m saying as a friendly wake-up call Ms. Valenski.” MacLeash shook his head sorrowfully. He looked from one
face to the other.
Chris continued to listen in abject horror; Rev. Dr. MacLeash had morphed into Dr. Mengele
Julie said, “In other words, Christians are supporting us in order to abolish
“Not at all. When Christ returns and defeats the forces of evil led by the Anti-Christ at Armageddon, any remaining Jews will be given a final opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”
Julie spoke again, “Rev. MacLeash, you’re saying Christian prophecy will not work without us, but in t1he end, we’ll either all be begging to become Christians or die and go to eternal agony.”
smiling smugly as he said, “It’s God’s plan, Miss Valenski, not mine.”
Dr. Stein pushed back from the table as he spat out, “I haven’t felt so honored since I got accepted at Harvard Medical.”
”Wonderful!” said Dr. MacLeash, reaching for his water glass.
“Sure,” said Dr. Stein. “But Reverend, the next time you talk to that God of yours about his plan, please tell him to just leave Dr. Hilary Stein out of it. Good evening, Reverend.” He stood and walked briskly out of the cafeteria, the swinging doors ca-whumping behind him as he left.
fellow,” said MacLeash to his wife, Jeannie, who sat
to his left, a woman with a permanent smile pasted on and the demeanor of one
who has undergone prefrontal lobotomy. Reaching for his salad fork, MacLeash said, “Terribly moody, Dear.”
Jeannie, still smiling, nodded, stared straight ahead.
Julie fiddled with her napkin.
Chris took a deep breath, then said, “Oh, my. Julie, let’s go check on Hilary.” They stood and walked toward the exit.
Outside the cafeteria’s swinging doors, Hilary Stein stood, unmoving, pale and visibly shaken. He held his steel-rimmed glasses in his left hand, his award plaque he’d received for spearheading the effort to obtain the linear accelerator in his right hand pretending to read it.
Chris said, placing his hand on Hilary’s shoulder. “Hilary, old friend, I’m
Hilary sighed, “Chris, it’s not your fault.”
”Look," Chris said, "let's get out of here. I'd love to buy you and Julie a drink. We could go out to the club, visit a little, grab something to eat.”
Stein, his color returning, took a deep breath. “I’d love to take you up on that, but I have two post-mortems tomorrow. They are particularly complex due to legal issues. I’ve still got to check some references this evening. Rain check, please? Julie, you and Chris go ahead. I need to go home and get to work.”
Chris looked at Julie questioningly. She smiled graciously. “I’d love to, Chris.”
Clearing his throat, Hilary added sternly, “Chris, I must insist that you be on your very best behavior with my cousin. And get her home early!”
Chris did a double take. Hilary’s demeanor softened and he chuckled, and then said, “You two have a good time.”
Chris and Julie were soon sitting in the Jasmine Room, the informal dining room at the Chickasaw Country Club. Fleming, the bartender, a youngish man with bleached blond hair and a modest gold hoop in his right ear, greeted them warmly. “Dr. Jacque! So good to see you again, Sir. Would you care for a menu?”
“Good to see you, Fleming. Sure. A menu would help. We skipped dinner.”
“And to drink, Sir?
“Korbel Brut champagne sound OK with you, Julie?”
Fleming, consider this a champagne emergency!”
Fleming smiled, “Right away, Ma’am.”
ordered bouillabaisse and a Greek salad with a cheese and paté
plate to share. Julie drained her full flute of champagne. The food arrived.
“I’m starved,” she said. She sampled the bouillabaisse. “Yumm! Delicious!”
Chris smiled. He found it satisfying to see an exceptionally lovely woman who didn’t pick at her food. He took another sip of champagne. “Julie, when Pastor MacLeash got on his End Times kick, he embarrassed the crap out of me. I felt so bad for Hilary.”
She replied, looking thoughtful, “Stuff like that happens occasionally. Even when we were kids, though, Hilary was the sensitive one. He had a pet white rat named Ruben when we were ten or so. Ruben died. Hilary cried and cried. Though I felt sad, I insisted that we bury Ruben. We did, in the backyard. Then Hilary demanded that the two of us sit Shiva.”
Jacques chuckled, envisioning two solemn little Jewish kids sitting in kitchen chairs beside the small mound of dirt that marked Ruben’s grave.
“But there’s some other history, Chris, behind Hilary’s reaction to MacLeash’s conversion of the Jews story.”
grandmother, for whom I’m named, died in Ravensbrück
just before its liberation by the Russians in 1945. My grandfather and
Hilary’s, Isaac, ended up in Treblinka, near
Chris took a deep breath, shaking his head, said, ”And what became of your grandfather after the war?”
nibbled at the French bread that came with the bouillabaisse, held up a finger
signaling the need for a pause, then swallowed and continued. “He ended up in
Chris smiled, nodding as Julie continued.
“Right up to the end, he had to have his one cigar, a great, smelly thing called a Lord Beaconsfield Round and a glass of Mogen David wine every evening. ‘My medicine’ he called it. He left a trust fund for all his grandchildren, Hilary and me included. Not a huge amount, but enough for me to pay my tuition and expenses, and enough for the occasional shopping spree.”
“Wow, fascinating story,” Chris said. “More champagne?”
Poker-faced, she said, “Sure. My Medicine! Is there a cigar available? Lord Beaconsfield Round?”
Chris looked at her in consternation, then saw the smile playing at the corners of her mouth, the dimple appearing on her cheek as she tried to keep from laughing.
“No cigars,” Chris said, reaching toward his pocket. In Austerity we favor chewing tobacco. Care for a plug of Red Man?”
She laughed in spite of herself, spewing out a bit of champagne as she did so. She was even more beautiful when she laughed. Pausing, she wiped her mouth with a napkin. She paused a minute, then she was somber. “I miss my Grandpa,” she said. “He was the kindest man, so sweet to me and so funny. So much history died with him. He loved to tell me about his first wife. I was always special to him because I was her namesake. But at least, the Nazis finally let her die instead of the eternal torment Rev. MacLeash proposes.”
Chris looked closely at her. Her eyes were shining. “Hey, MacLeash, I hate to say it, is my preacher. That stuff is his stock-in-trade, standard for evangelicals. I realized this evening that he’s also a nut case, and that in a lot of ways I don’t belong in his church at all. But I like seeing my friends and neighbors there, and I like the music.”
She swallowed hard. “Yeah, I think I do understand. As much as I love the tradition, I’m not all that observant a Jew, rabbinical student or not. It’s just that so many people in this country think like MacLeash these days and ‘love’ us Jews in the same way—their intent being that we end up gibbering prayers to Jesus on our metaphorical Hebrew knees or go to torture that puts the Nazis to shame any day. It’s scary, like Praying Mantis love. When the Mantis’s are done mating, the male is decapitated.” Tears were flowing down her cheeks now.
leaned over, put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her to him. She leaned
into him. Behind the bar, Fleming was pointedly looking into the distance as he
wiped glasses with his towel. Chris picked up a linen napkin and dabbed at her
tears. She sniffed, forced a smile. “Chris, this isn’t me. I’m not a crybaby,
promise. I’ve just been on an airplane for 14 hours, gone through more time
zones than I can remember, then drove from
“Some things are worth crying about,” Chris said.
“Yeah, but I’m just jet-lagged beyond to the point of no return. As much as I enjoy your company, I need to get back to Hilary ‘s house and get some rest.”
great to visit with you. You’re an intriguing person.”
She smiled, leaning against him again, nudging him in the ribs with her elbow. “Flattery, Doctor, may just get you everywhere.”
door to Hilary Stein’s house in the
“Hey, it was great. I guess you’re leaving tomorrow?”
“Yep. Gotta catch a plane to LA. I’ve a dissertation to finish.”
“I hope if you’re ever back this way, you’ll let me know.”
And when you’re through
She stepped back, then reached up and kissed him on the lips, holding the kiss a little longer than necessary for a first date good evening kiss. Then she turned, entered the house, and for the moment at least, Julita Valenski was gone.
May 26, 2008