As God Is My Author

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14


Dorsett’s returns to Garbutt

Dorsett walked into the Coach and Horses and saw Garbutt standing alone by the ledge next to the wall. The Irish corner at the bar were beginning their early evening session, reasonably warmed-up by two to three hours drinking to encourage exaggeration in the accounts of their daily dramas.

Garbutt was facing away from them fidgeting with a beermat, oblivious to all. Dorsett ordered two pints and approached him, placing one down next to his other. Garbutt turned to discover the donor but didn’t look grateful. His eyes were glazed, but not so much to indicate drunkenness.

‘What do you want, Dorsett?’

‘You’re welcome.’

‘Thank you for the drink. Now what do you want?’

‘Have you figured out the answer to the question yet?’

‘You only gave it to me yesterday.’

‘Did I? It seems longer.’

Garbutt, cheered by the sudden appearance of a new pint shining gold before him, finished in one go what was left of the drink in his hand. He gave a low burp as he pushed the empty glass along the ledge away from him.

‘I was hoping you might have something quickly.’ continued Dorsett. ‘I don’t believe time’s much of a factor when it comes to the kind of answers we’re looking for. You could just as well get to it in two hours as in two weeks.’

‘In that case, I have an answer.’ said Garbutt.

He took a deep swig from the new pint, christening it to life.

‘We are born to ignorance.’ he said, and then waited for a response. Dorsett was still waiting for elaboration.

‘Born to ignorance? Is that the best you can come up with?’

‘It isn’t a dismissive answer. I’ve worked it out.’

‘Let’s hear it then.’

‘We’re not meant to solve it.’ said Garbutt, ‘We’re too small, too insignificant. We exist in a place far too big and we’re too slow. And even if we get clever in the future and travel as fast as we’re able, it will still never be enough. We’ve reached our speed limit and are not here to solve the Impossible Question.’

‘It’s called the Nonsense Question, Garbutt.’

‘Not anymore. It can never be the nonsense question because the question makes sense and it’s pretty easy to ask. It’s now called the impossible question because we’ll never be able to answer it. It isn’t only that the universe is so big, wide, and vast. The problem is us. We’re not capable enough to challenge anything in it. So I haven’t given up on your question, I’ve answered it. We’re too stupid. All of us. Even the scientists who claim to know all the answers. In fact, they were the ones who helped reveal the boundaries. They were the ones who discovered the speed of light and that the Universe came from a big bang that is expanding into nothing. But in their search for solutions, they’ve finally reached a point where no more exist.’

The music began with a loud explosion of sound, deep and rumbling from the corner of the pub and two middle-aged women gyrated their torsos towards the dance floor as the Irish corner applauded their attendance. Dorsett had to shout to be heard.

‘So that’s it?’

Garbutt shrugged his shoulders as he spoke loud in Dorsett’s ear.

‘I’ve had all night to think it over. And it wrapped itself up all on its own. I wasn’t looking for a way out or a short cut. I read up on it until my head hurt. I was thinking too much about the universe and how impossible it was to imagine it, who or what else might exist in it, how many galaxies and planets and suns there are, about gravity and space-time and all the rest. But I wasn’t thinking about our perspective of it. We can only see it from our place. Our stupid place. You know what gave me a clue?’

Dorsett moved him a few yards to the corner away from the nearby speaker which was almost drowning their words. Dorsett bent his head low to make sure he could hear.

‘Prehistory.’ Said Garbutt. ’Go back to the dinosaur age and imagine yourself there. You see something flying in the air. You don’t ask yourself what it is, you know it as a bird. You see something crawling in the grass. You know it as an insect. You see a tall plant made of wood. It’s a tree. But that’s what we call them so it’s all understood. But there were never birds, insects or trees around then because there were no people around to call them that. They were just there. They had no names, they weren’t understood or categorised by natural science. Well, we’ve reached another age but we have no language for these phenomena.

There’s only one puzzle in the universe that might have some answers and they’re something we know hardly anything about. Black Holes. And guess what? The clever people tell us that the laws of physics break down whenever anyone attempts to explain what happens inside one. How convenient. But better to say that than we haven’t got a clue. Another boundary established. The universe is full of full stops. We thought when we landed on the moon that it was the beginning of the great expansion. It wasn’t. The moon only turned out to be a front porch step on a lighthouse island and the next land is millions of miles away in the vast ocean, way too far out for us to reach. And it always was.’

Garbutt took another long drink as if to close the discussion. He rested back and looked at the provocative twists of the women who were pretending not to notice one of the Irish corner dancing close behind them. Dorsett took a sip himself but didn’t feel like drinking. There was nowhere else to go, nothing else to look for.

The next morning Garbutt could feel the ache in his head as soon as he sat up. Dorsett came into his thoughts immediately and he had trouble distinguishing dream from fact until he remembered their talk and his definitive explanation.

He got up, dressed, had his coffee, and then walked to work. It was raining and cold and he shuffled, head down, across the roads of Derby, Ilkeston, and Alfreton. He took a lozenge from his coat pocket, unwrapped it, and lifted the lid of a nearby street bin to throw the paper in when he noticed something inside that caught his eye, a leather black case worn and eroded at its corners. He lifted it out and felt the weight of it, then took it and walked away from its point of discovery not daring to think what might be inside it.

When he came to a deserted bus stop further down, he sat down, lifted the case onto his knee, and opened it. Inside were elastic bands enclosing thick, rolled wads of used money. If they’d been five-pound notes he’d have been a rich man. But he lifted one out and saw the number twenty on it, which meant that his original notion of being moderately rich was now multiplied four times. His life had changed in one astounding moment.

The rain was tapping in splashes on the used notes so he closed the case. He walked a few steps and then stopped and opened it again to make sure it was still there. He looked about him, expecting to see someone running after him, demanding it back. No one was around. Only the sound of an infrequent car hissing past on the wet roads caught his attention. He felt like laughing.

There was nothing to stop him from leaving the spot where he stood and going anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world. He was walking to work, not only because he needed to keep moving in order to think straight, but out of habit. Then he stopped and realised he didn’t have to go to work at all, ever again. He sat down against a lamppost and clasped the case between his legs and welcomed the damp pavement against his bottom. He opened up his mouth to the sky and drank in the drops, wanting to become as destitute and sodden as he could because he knew he would never have to feel cold and wet ever again if he didn’t want to.

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