As God Is My Author

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26 Leen's Story


It was early evening when I went to visit Mason. I knew where he would be and what he would be doing, as it was late autumn and the night sky would be clear. He lived in the country away from the smog of the cities so that the visibility to the heavens would be better.

I rang the bell and Andrea answered. Even without trying, she looked beautiful. She smiled, gave me a brief embrace in welcome, and stood aside.

‘He’s in the garden, Lenton. Can I get you something to drink?’

‘No thanks. How are you?’

‘I’m fine.’

I walked through the house, into the kitchen, and stood at the table looking out into the back garden. I could see a form moving at the far end, the house lights just able to illuminate the outline of a figure in the darkness.

‘How long has he been out there?’

‘Hours.’ she said. ‘He spends more time these days staring into the sky than he does writing. At least when he was typing he was in the house. He might as well be on one of his distant planets as far as I’m concerned.’

She moved to the cupboard to put something away before sitting at the table. I joined her, feeling the need to talk before going into the garden.

‘He doesn’t deserve you. I’ve told him that.’

‘Tell him again,’ she said, ‘before I leave him for good.’

‘Why don’t you go out?’ I asked. ‘Ring up some friends, go for a meal?’

‘He doesn’t like me to.’ she said. ‘If he came in and found me gone, he’d panic. I did it before and I only went next door to see Marion.’

‘Don’t you get bored?’

‘Sometimes.’

‘I’ll bring a scrabble board next time I visit.’ I told her.

She laughed sincerely.

‘No thanks. I’d like something a little more exciting.’

I raised my eyebrows.

‘I don’t just play scrabble.’

‘Oh? What else do you do?’

She showed the familiar grin that endorsed the beginning of our occasional flirty games, only this time I didn’t smile with her.

‘I can do a lot more. I can help you.’

She looked at me curiously, then suspiciously. I moved closer to her.

‘Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?’

She paused but was too tempted not to play.

‘Go ahead.’

‘When was the last time you made love?’

The awkward pause urged me to elaborate, but I forced myself silent.

‘Three years.’ she said finally, ‘Three years and five months, to be exact.’

‘That’s a long time.’

‘You get used to it.’ she said.

‘You don’t have to.’ I replied.

She placed the cup down, crossed her hands on the table, and seemed slightly eager.

‘Get to the point, Lenton.’

‘Okay, I will. I’m looking at this purely from an objective perspective and I ask you to do the same. I’d be willing to return in half an hour on the pretence I was leaving, and then give you what you haven’t had, through no fault of your own, for over three years. There would be nothing sordid or complicated involved. It would simply be an expedient act that would make your life a little more bearable, that’s all. You don’t have to do it of course, and we may never need to bring the subject up again. It’s your choice entirely. And if my proposal has offended you, I apologise.’

The distrustful expression followed and for a moment I expected a predictable outburst. Then she calmed herself, walked over to the window, and looked out to the garden.

‘That’s not a considerate way to treat a friend.’ she said.

‘You’re my friend too, aren’t you?’

‘Are you’re doing this for my benefit or yours?’ she asked.

‘Well, I certainly wouldn’t do it if I didn’t at least like you.’ I told her. ‘I envied Mason from the moment I saw you. Yet I’ve never given you the slightest indication that I ever wanted to have an affair with you. I’ve given you lifts to work, helped you with your gardening, and done other favours. Why shouldn’t this be just another one? We’ve always been close, but I’ve been well aware that you were never mine to be intimate with.’

She turned to me. ’You really are serious, aren’t you?’

‘Yes, I am. I imagine there are different ways other people go about this kind of arrangement. This is just another one. And Mason need never know, which means he can’t be hurt. It’s up to you. Just because it isn’t romantic doesn’t mean it can’t be affectionate.’

She stood and continued to stare out of the window, but with the thoughts my proposal set off in her head, I knew she wasn’t looking at anything.

‘You know I still love him, don’t you?’

‘You don’t have to tell me that.’

‘Yes, I do. Just to hear myself say it.’

‘I’ll go outside and have a chat with him in a minute.’ I told her, ‘How long does he stay out there after I leave?’

‘At least until midnight. Sometimes later.’

She turned, walked to the drawer, and took out a book.

‘Where are you going?’ I asked.

‘In the spare room. I’ll wait for you there.’ She paused at the door and turned. ‘You’ll forgive me for not thanking you. It doesn’t really feel like something I should be grateful for, does it?’

‘No, I suppose not.’

She left the kitchen and I walked out to meet Mason. He was wearing a padded coat and scarf and standing behind a large telescope next to a table and chair, writing in his notebook. He placed it down and looked into the eyepiece of the telescope. I approached and he turned before I reached him.

‘Lenton. Come to chastise me?’

‘Why would I want to do that?’

‘Because of what I did to Dorsett.’

I stood a little distance from him as he adjusted the tripod. Then he stood back and nodded towards it.

‘Fancy a peak?’

‘No thanks. I’ve seen them before.’

‘Have you now? And what have you seen exactly?’

‘The planets. I don’t need a Newtonian Reflector telescope to see them. Binoculars will do fine.’

Mason looked in pain as his eyes squinted to look at an image through the lens.

‘There’s a reason why this telescope cost more than the price of a car, Lenton, because it can see deeper into the depths of space rather than just the shallows.’

‘But if what you’re looking at is infinite, the difference will be negligible, surely.’

‘That’s a lazy attitude. You’re no explorer.’

‘So you can see further than the lighthouse, is that it?’

‘Yes, much further. I can see those islands far out in the ocean. The ones we’ll never reach.’

‘Yet you took Dorsett’s sight from him, claiming he didn’t need it in exchange for the great understanding.’

‘He found it though, didn’t he?’

‘Yes, even though he can’t translate it. Didn’t do anyone else much good though, did it?’

He picked opened his notebook and wrote in it again.

‘It’s something that can’t be shared, remember? Trust me. He will know the sacrifice was worth it.’

‘So you believe because he does, is that it?’

Mason seriously considered.

‘Yes. I think it is.’ He finished his notes, closed the book, and stood with his hands on his hips, looking up and around into the wide expanse of the night. He pointed to a bright, misty smudge in the sky and crooked his neck inadvertently as if it was nearby.

‘Do you see that? That’s the Andromeda galaxy. It’s two-point five million light-years away, the furthest object that can be seen with the naked eye. And the more I look at it, the more I feel like a prisoner staring out of his cell window.’

He sat back down on his chair.

‘So, what have you come to see me about?’

‘Just to tell you I’ve decided on your story’s end.’

‘At last, something worth celebrating. Wait here, I’ll get us a drink.’

‘How do you know it will be happy?’

‘I don’t. But I know you wouldn’t hurt Andrea. And that means you won’t want to hurt me, either.’

He walked away into his house and came back with a bottle, two glasses, and a folded chair under his arm. He opened the chair and placed it beside the table and then uncorked the bottle. We sat down opposite one another.

‘I didn’t like that public house,’ he said, as he poured the drinks. ‘What was it- the Coach and Horses? Dreadful place.’

‘Dorsett didn’t seem to mind it.’

‘Each to their own. Besides, he had to meet his character there.’

‘And now I’m meeting mine.’ I told him.

His look hardened.

‘I don’t like the sound of that. Are you going to do away with me?’

‘No. But I’d like a little justification for your actions.’

‘He’s got the greatest understanding any man has ever known.’ He said. ‘Who wouldn’t give all he had to know that?’

‘He didn’t have much of a choice. You wrote his sentence for him.’

‘Of course I did, just like you’re writing mine. I asked him to find out why the universe started. He asked Garbutt to find out what it was travelling into. Garbutt gave an explanation; arguably the correct one due to the impossibility of anyone being able to disprove it, and Dorsett, influenced by what Garbutt proposed, elaborated and followed on with the theory that we were all deceived by what we saw rather than what we could imagine. Not to mention his own little opinions on preordainment.’

‘But no cash prize for Dorsett.’

‘I don’t understand you. He found the answer to the secret of life, why we’re here and all those other mysteries asked through dumb language. You think that’s not important?’

‘Garbutt told you we were all deceived by what we can see, yet you just pointed to something that’s two and a half million light-years into the universe. Not bad for someone blinded by sight.’

’It is when you consider how big the universe is, or might be. We just don’t know. But here’s my point: Dorsett does know.’

‘Even though he’s unable to tell anyone about it.’

‘He’s can’t, even though he still has the instinct to want to. But as we are restricted by the limits of sight, so we’re restricted by the limits of language. He’d be like someone trying to explain algebra to a child straight out of the womb.’

‘You’re waiting for the whole world to catch up. But there’s too many of us.’

‘But it’s a start, Leen, just as it was billions of years ago in that one spasm of movement that began life’s process. That primordial soup was the home of countless false alarms before it came out positive. Maybe this formula is the right one.’

I watched him look up into the stars again, bending his head back over his chair to look almost behind him. I couldn’t help but consider it the most natural thing to do with the darkness domed over us like a spectacular canvass. For the first time, I could see it from his point of view.

‘Now I know what Garbutt meant when he said we live too briefly.’ I told him. ‘I’ll be envious of anyone after me who’ll witness things I won’t be around to see. I’ll be a long time dead before we get anywhere near it.’

‘No,’ he said, ‘you’re thinking of life born, progressing to a point and then dying. You’re thinking in a line, a sequence. It’s none of that. It’s an entirety. Patterns happen within that entirety, but the entirety has always been there.’

‘So what are you saying? That I might come back? Reincarnation?’

’How do you know you aren’t already back? Garbutt referred to it, remember? I could be living in my second chance now and I wouldn’t be aware of it.

‘So then what’s the point if he doesn’t know of it?’ I asked.

‘Because if you are Dorsett, free from that blindness by sight, then you will know.’

‘I like being curious.’ I told him. ’So what if Dorsett gets to know more than the rest of us? What’s the point of him living on? When everyone knows everything then there’s nothing to strive for. Have you heard the quote, ‘I would live to learn, not learn to live’?’

Mason sat up straight.

‘Do you want to stay in school forever, to be continually taught, and not put your knowledge to good use? That’s what apprentices do. And I wouldn’t trust one to do a heart transplant.’

‘And neither would I trust anyone who claimed to know everything.’

‘That’s because no one has actually has. Think about it. No more searches for answers, no digging or examining or conjecture, or experiments. That’s all we’ve ever done since we became sentient, search and look, find, and analyse. Always curious, never certain. We’ve always been incomplete because of that.’

I looked away from the sky to rub my neck and refocus my eyes. Mason allowed a sufficient silence to follow to make his point.

’A long time ago, I made a choice. I could choose a career studying physics, or concentrate on writing. So I compromised and did both by writing books about science. Not for adults, but children. I thought that by giving them a taste of astronomy it might create a few more nosey people to try and find the answers quicker. But too many children are distracted by gadgets. They play games or communicate through illiterate language so have nothing to stimulate the mind to curiosity. We’re slowing down, Leen. The next generation may have clever astronomers and physicists but there won’t be many of them. Then they’ll be transformed into amateur philosophers and no one will touch them once that happens. Then facts will become fused with opinions and people will disagree with them. Finally, they’ll be ignored, to drift into obscurity as the world indulges itself on that despicable phrase, ‘Presume not God to scan, the proper study of mankind is Man.’’

‘Maybe it is.’ I suggested.

Mason appeared to accept defeat, allowing the discussion to die a natural death.

‘A whole universe surrounds you,’ he said, ‘and you stare into a mirror.’

We kept silent over long minutes, reducing the contents of the bottle.

‘Did you ever get round to making that proposal to Andrea?’ he asked.

‘Yes. When I arrived tonight, as a matter of fact. She agreed. If it’s any comfort, she was doubtful.’

‘It’s alright. She’ll take what she wants from it and nothing else.’

‘I’d better warn you that I said I’d do it before I left.’

‘There has to be a first time.’ he said determinedly. ‘I know I put you in an awkward position, but you’re the only one I can trust.’

‘You’re taking a risk, Mason. What if we fall in love?’

‘You’ve known us for a long time. If that was going to happen, it would have happened by now. This way, I’m hoping she won’t feel the need to have an affair with someone else and do just that.’

The silence after such an awkward exchange seemed to prompt him to elaborate.

‘Andrea was like a universe once but she’s not infinite. It happens in marriage. After that, it’s simply a process of repetition. But it’s not fair on her.’

I looked at him for signs of some courageous stance but saw nothing.

‘Don’t you feel betrayed?’ I asked.

‘No. Deception is the only way I can help her. Maybe in years ahead, I’ll confess it to her. But I’ve a feeling she wouldn’t thank me for it. It’s a secret we can all live with as long as it remains one.’

I didn’t want to leave on such an uncomfortable close.

‘I’m going to visit Dorsett and Garbutt.’ I told him. ‘Do you want to come?’

‘I might just do that. But you’ll have to finish Dorsett’s story now that he’s blind. He can’t write Garbutt’s finale.’

‘I’ll give him the ending he probably always wanted.’ I told him. ‘As for Dorsett, I can’t change what you did to him, though I can try and make his life a little easier.’

‘And Andrea and I.’ he reminded me. ‘How does it end?’

‘You took some persuading when we first met.’ I told him. ‘But you got there in the end. You and Andrea can have your century together.’

‘A hundred years.’ He said, looking up to the heavens. ‘It still seems a pittance compared to that, doesn’t it?’

I looked up with him and couldn’t disagree. ‘That’s impossible to contend with.’ I said. ‘Besides, your lifetimes have to be credible.’

He jabbed a finger to the black sky.

‘If that was a road on this earth that men were told was boundless, they would go half-mad trying to reach its end.’ he said. ‘Yet because it’s out of reach we accept it. Or blank it out entirely.’

‘We’d never sleep at night if we didn’t.’ I told him. I stood up to go and he made a last request.

‘Bring me out another bottle before you go, will you?’

I did as he asked, wondering if he wanted it as a companion to watch the stars with or as a distraction to what I was about to do to his wife.

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