Alternatives…

I don’t often write stream of consciousness stuff these days, it is, after all, supremely self-indulgent, but today, as Father Time departs and the breath of the New Year,  a bright, fair child rising like a phoenix, I think I’m allowed.

A few concatenations caught my attention in recent times. It began with a conversation in Athens a few days ago. A trampoline is a metaphor for spacetime, the universal balloon that expands and is so very old.  When uninhabited, a basketball moves in a straight line when rolled from one diagonal to another. I then imagined myself, standing on the middle cross, and asked my companion ‘ how would the ball have to be rolled to get to the other side?’ He replied, quite correctly, that the ball would be pulled toward me, and it would follow a curved path to reach the other side. Time crawls, lengths are squeezed…

Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose did the mathematics for black holes – as if I weighed so much that the trampoline bed extended deep into the earth and the basketball never ever made it to the other side, instead just disappearing, contracting into a microdot….Or so we might suppose, the wormhole narrative is exotically believable, if fanciful.

All this grew from a movie – randomly watched – even the title escapes me –  about what might happen if time horizons could be changed, lives rewritten, game-changing events solidify into new realities and we could, conceivably go back, change the trajectory, rewrite history….

How things might have turned out – Hosea’s door of hope, the valley of Achor, Makor Ha-Tikvah…What is strange about such thoughts is the idea that the possibility of better outweighs the probability of worse. Perhaps our own parabola of destiny is, after all, for the best.

Brooks Brothers

You almost had to make an appointment these days to see the old man. He had amassed a fortune from real estate, had a penthouse on the Upper West Side, a chalet in Aspen and a retreat in Martha’s Vineyard. Six cars, one a Bentley…

His older brother, Ben, had progressed quickly through Wharton Business School and was well placed to head up the dynasty. All charm, John Lobb, Brooks Brothers.  James, on the other hand had been something of a disappointment, flunked out of Princeton but holding down a lowly position in the company in spite of a couple of DUIs and arrests for possession.

“Good to see you, son”, said his father. “what can I do for you?” James took a deep breath. “Dad, I want out. I want my inheritance, or whatever it is that’s coming to me and I want it now. I want to make a name for myself, not under your shadow.” Father and son looked at each other for a long, long moment.

His father looked down, pondering. Then he reached into the drawer of his large rosewood desk, pulled out a checkbook, slowly unscrewed the top of his Montblanc Meisterstück and filled out a check. He took a deep breath, tore it off and held it out.

TWO MILLION DOLLARS.

James was on the next plane for Vegas. First stop, a car dealer. Twenty minutes later, he had the keys to a shiny red Corvette Stingray, 6.2 litres and fast as hell. Only sixty thousand…ha!

He set himself up in Caesar’s Palace – big suite, bathtub big enough for four – and headed for the craps tables. He soon gained the reputation as a big winner, an even bigger loser, but, hey, it’s only money. Night after night he was hanging out in lapdancing clubs, snorting coke between the girls’ breasts and enjoying the exceptional services provided by four thousand dollar a night hookers.

The fairground ride ended when the management ‘regretfully’ had to decline, he had overspent his credit limit by a considerable sum. He’d crashed the Corvette, only just escaping prosecution, after a drunken encounter with a fire hydrant. James found himself on the street, with just enough in his pocket for a trip back to New York City. Remorse was a tough pill to get down his throat.

The doorman didn’t recognise him. Bedraggled, unshaven, he looked like he’d slept in the same clothes for a week. He caught the elevator to the twenty third floor, standing sheepishly in the outer office. Secretaries looked at him, aghast, wondering whether to call security. Someone had called ahead. His father was in the boardroom closing an important deal. The door was flung open, his father almost ran toward him, closely followed by his elder brother, scowling. “Dad….” James managed, before the tears began to flow.  Ben just looked. “What the hell, Dad?” “Shut up, Ben” said his father.

James and his father embraced for a long time, both of their shoulders shaking.

Finally, his father spoke.

“Everybody! James is home! And we’re gonna throw the biggest party this town has ever seen! Now, will somebody go out and buy my son some clothes? Brooks Brothers.And a decent pair of shoes!”

 

 

A Parable Retold

Jim sat up at the bar in the King’s Arms, morosely sucking down his third pint of Stella. Why us? he thought. Why our kid? Sarah had been such a bright, vivacious child, good at school, popular, lots of friends. Then, nine months ago came the diagnosis. Terminal leukaemia. Months of radio, chemo and God knows what else. Endless trotting back and forth to bloody clinics all with solemn-faced, well-meaning doctors. Last week, they just said ‘take her home; let her pass away there’. We tucked her in, with her favourite toy – a pink elephant.
Mary was the religious one. She went to this happy-flappy outfit that met in a school hall. Jim wanted nothing to do with it – he thought it was all medieval nonsense. Mary had resigned herself not to talk about what went on, it only antagonised him.
Jim’s mobile rang. ‘She’s gone, love’. Mary’s voice was trembling. Jim heaved himself off the barstool and headed home on foot.
As he fumbled with his keys, Mary opened the door. Behind her was a tall man whom Jim had never seen before.
‘I’m from the church’, he said. ‘Please come with me’. Bewildered, Jim did as he was told, neglectful of the fact that who the hell was this bloke to order him about in his own house. The three of them mounted the stairs, Mary weeping softly, to Sarah’s room. She lay, quite peacefully, still in death.
The strange man walked over to the bedside, took the dead girl’s hand and said ’Time to get up now, lovey’. Jim’s jaw dropped as Sarah sat bolt upright, turned and smiled and said ‘Hello, Daddy’. It’s all fine now’. She cuddled her pink elephant and said: ‘What’s for tea? I’m really hungry’.
The tall man smiled, his piercing blue eyes seemed to illuminate the little room. ‘I’ll be off, then’ he said, a soft, mellow tone. ‘Don’t worry, I can see myself out’.
The following night at the King’s Arms, Jim bought the whole pub a drink, endlessly telling and retelling the whole story.
The church had a first time visitor the following Sunday.

With apologies for bad theology.