As I was saying, it’s not the end of the world. It’s a shame, a crying shame, a damn shame, a dirty rotten shame, the pits, and something that rhymes with that, probably the end of civilization as we know it, likely the beginning of a new Dark Age, perhaps Nineteen Eighty-Four 20 years late arriving, and apparently our version of the spooky spectacle from Druidic times in which all the respectable people occasionally crowned the biggest dunce in the province as their emperor and then ran amok. Altogether a sobering turn of events, but not the end of the world. I have to admit that the morning-after presidential bull announcing our conversion to a theocracy, with a familiar cast of characters to supervise the new Inquisition, in charge of rooting out scientific thinking and other heresies, gave me pause, but I’m determined to see this great catastrophe in the best possible light. • Chief Justice Jerry Falwell might not be so terrible. • If you were contemplating a drive-by or armed robbery, you can rest assured now that nobody will be coming around to confiscate your guns. • All these types who’d got so uppity – you won’t be hearing much from them for a while, and won’t the silence be a blessing? With all of them shutting up and keeping their place, united we can stand again. ????? Just two days after the election, the sun came out again like it always does, shining down happily the way it used to do on the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant. The birds were singing again. Even the woodpeckers were singing. Bound to be a good sign. The morning stars didn’t sing together, as in Job, but they put on a mighty beautiful show, and if there was celestial portent in it, it had to be pro. There was a dog somewhere dialing 911 with its nose to summon help for its fallen oldtimer owner, and then unlocking the door with its mouth when rescuers arrived, and no way that was anything but a good omen. Could Lassie have done it? I don’t think so. This wonder dog of 2004 outclasses Lassie by about 1,000 percent. And if Lassie with all the coincident nuclear crap of her era didn’t signify the end of the world, that giant red smirk spreading across the face of last week’s electoral map didn’t either. Think of this: whatever was out there that made life worth living on November 1 will still be out there for weeks and perhaps months to come. It took Hitler a long time to get those camps up and going. You can’t hardly put up fenceposts in froze-solid ground, even with heavy equipment, so Stalin like to never got the whole string of gulags operational. Whatever devilment Bush is up to, in other words, you’ll have time to adjust. To put your affairs in order. To gyst. There’ll still be trips upriver and downriver and over the river and through the woods and across the river and into the trees, and at the conclusion of most of them there’ll be the pleasure and satisfaction of what the oldtimers liked to call “getting back home the same day we left.” Your children and grandchildren will still be bringing you excellent works of art and composition to magnet onto your fridge. There’ll be quiet evenings in the glider or the porch swing, digesting and meditating. Christmas is coming, and how could they mess that up? You can still believe in evolution, as long as you keep it to yourself. When the ball drops on 2005, you can make your resolutions as hopefully as if a sane person had been elected. They can’t take the best stories away from you. But just in case I’m archiving all of mine. The Bill Arthur Ward stories, the Joe Howard Williams stories, the Bennie Jackson stories, the Goldie Grump stories, the Gayle Gunn stories, the Boyce Alford stories, the “Wynne” Rockefeller stories, the Nap Murphy stories, the Joe Wirges stories, the Leon Hatch stories, the Harry Pearson stories, the Mike Trimble stories, the Mamie Ruth Williams stories, the Bookmiller Shannon stories, the B.C. Hall stories, the Richard Portis stories, the Gopher Wells stories and, to a lesser extent, the stories about the Original Gopher Wells. You might want to get up a list of your own personal favorites. Somebody once said the only reason the Third Reich lasted as long as it did was because they didn’t have Will Rogers. So what chance does a George Bush have for serious mischief in a place envigiled by the full spread of Gopher Wellsiana? Yes, it’ll be disconcerting knowing that 51 percent of your voting neighbors are psychos, but there’s the other half. And just think, no matter how uncouth you are, no matter how much of a slob, how much of a dillweed, even if you’ve been on Jerry Springer, and on Bad Boys drunk on Busch Bavarian in your cockeyed singlewide, without a shirt, if you and Wally Hall and Joe Farmer and the entire U.S. executive-branch leadership show up at some fancy-schmancy soiree that admits only sophisticated people, it won’t be you and Wally and Joe that will have to worry about them letting you in.