30 Mason and Leen visit Dorsett
It was a bright but cool day, enough to have Dorsett wearing a coat as he faced the same way he always did, to the high column of trees that, on this morning, sparkled the sun’s rays through their leaves onto the grass, glistening the dew. I knew he couldn’t see it but suspected he could imagine it even more clearly than it actually was.
‘There’s an extra chair by the shed.’ he said as we approached. I invited Mason to sit on the one available while I fetched the other. When I came back we sat equally apart in a triangle.
‘Sam will bring some coffee out in a minute.’ he said.
‘That’s kind of her.’ said Mason, just to be sure Dorsett knew he was there.
‘It’s cold, Dorsett,’ I told him, ‘don’t you feel it?’
‘I’d call it brisk.’ he said.
‘I’d call it nippy.’ added Mason.
‘Briskly cold, then,’ said Dorsett, ‘with a touch of nippiness.’
‘Well. That’s covered the weather forecast.’ said Mason, ‘Now what shall we talk about?’
Dorsett hardly moved from his position, sideways on from the two of us.
‘You’ve come to dig me like a gold mine, haven’t you?’ he said. ‘But you’re wasting your time.’
‘I want to know who preordains.’ I asked him.
‘Who?’ he teased.
‘What, then.’ said Mason.
’What is closer,’ he said, ‘like the moon is closer to the earth than your Andromeda galaxy.’
‘That’s the analogy, is it?’ I asked him, ‘The truth is two and a half million light-years away, is that what you’re saying?’
I turned to see Sam walking down the steps into the garden. She was carrying a tray with a coffee pot and cups and placed it down on the table. I said hello to her but she ignored me and walked back to the house.
‘She’s still an infidel.’ remarked Dorsett, as Mason filled the cups, ‘If only she’d shared the experience with me.’
‘I couldn’t do that.’ said Mason. ‘She isn’t that woman.’
‘I know.’ acknowledged Dorsett, ‘Even though she’s come back to me, I don’t think I’ve felt more alone. It feels like she’s outside looking in.’
‘We all do.’ I tempted him.
‘Is it really as simple as that?’ asked Mason, ‘You wrote Garbutt, I write you, Leen writes me and then someone writes Leen? Is that the preordainment you’re talking about? It doesn’t make sense. I can do anything I want, yet everything I do is preordained. Surely it’s only time passing that makes it seem preordained.’
Dorsett looked surprised at the comment.
’Only time passing? You mention it as if it’s a commonplace process. Do you know how miraculous that is, to feel time pass? You’re in a river that doesn’t even have to flow; it can be static, dead to any idea of motion. Yet it moves forward and you are lucky enough to survive upon it and live to see things around you, to interact with others around you on the same stream. And all you can give as an explanation is, it’s only time passing.’
I pressed him, sensing I was on to something.
‘So you’re saying it doesn’t have to move? It can be still?’
‘But if it’s still then nothing can happen, surely.’ Mason half asked.
‘Once you realise that something doesn’t have to work in a certain way, no matter how natural or unalterable it might appear, then you’re halfway to understanding.’ he said.
‘So it’s to do with time?’ asked Mason, waiting for a reaction. But Dorsett didn’t bite.
‘More words.’ he said dismissively.
‘That’s all we have, Dorsett.’ I said, slightly irritated, ‘We’re not telepathic.’
‘Neither am I. A pity.’
Mason seemed exasperated.
‘You know what your biggest danger is, Dorsett?’
‘Becoming a hippy.’
I looked at him accusingly.
‘No,’ he said, ‘hear me out. You’ll come across as some delusional hippy on too many drugs. The next episode in this story is that you’ll establish a cult and live in a commune somewhere and end up killing yourselves for a new paradise only you’re aware of. That will be your legacy. You’ll write no books for others to learn from, establish no concrete philosophy. Nothing. Just some weirdo demi-god getting a tabloid sub-headline as a tribute. Then we’ll all continue as before, with our limited language and inadequate eyes. And all this will be a dead-end episode of no importance that will fade to nothing.’
‘But it doesn’t mean it never happened.’ replied Dorsett quietly. ‘You can surround it in your own opinion however you like. But it’s happened. That verse on preordainment we wrote, Mason. Do you remember it?’
‘You wrote it, Dorsett, not me.’
‘But you gave me the first two lines. Or your alter-ego Steve did. Can you recall them?’
’You believe your life true, and everything in it,
But the truth is a lie, false and counterfeit.’
‘I thought about that second line after I completed the poem.’ said Dorsett. ‘If something is a lie, what truth is it hiding?’
‘I have no idea.’ admitted Mason.
‘The same truth I am unable to explain.’ said Dorsett.
‘But if you can’t reveal it,’ argued Mason, ‘then it can’t be the truth, can it?’
‘Look back and consider that countless options were laid out before us.’ said Dorsett. ‘Yet only one outcome was chosen which led to a subsequent point, another moment in time. Because with hindsight we see all the options of the past, we falsely believe that present life holds similar options for us. But it doesn’t. There’s only one way, one choice to take. And it’s the one we took.’
‘But it’s still a choice.’ I said.
‘Only before it's taken.’ he said. ‘Once it’s taken, it becomes preordained.’
‘I thought preordainment meant all events are planned beforehand.’ said Mason.
‘They are.’ replied Dorsett.
‘But different histories could have occurred.’ I said.
‘But they didn’t.’ said Dorsett. ’And because we’ve overcome miraculous odds to even exist, it means choices were made a long time ago. Once we became sentient, we thought we were making choices and dictating our destiny, but we weren’t. They were options we were always meant to choose.
How else do you think we’ve survived for this long? Do you think by our own making? We talk about paradises and Utopias. We link it to some religious haven, some mythical refuge where peace and love exist. You’re wrong. Paradise was always here. It was the earth first given to us. We had food in it, water, a means to find shelter, to keep warm, to develop to do great things. But we messed it up. We’re so used life on our own planet we slaughter it daily, so sick of our own species we kill each other without a second thought. Yet we’re desperate to find microscopic life forms on distant planets we can’t even reach.
As miraculous as our beginning was, so was our perseverance to last this long. We’re too dangerous and stupid to go where we want so we were given rails like a train would use to keep us safe and on track. Yes, we live through a process of preordainment. And it’s not something designed by a being in our own image. That makes as much sense as those ridiculous paintings depicting Adam and Eve with bellybuttons. How arrogant to claim that a creature which developed through evolution was created by a similar humanoid form. We manufactured a maker in man’s image because we were pompous enough to presume he had what we had, only a lot more of it: intelligence. The qualities and faults in people are equally shared: The holocaust, the glory of Athens, the genocides, the renaissances. So many billions born to the earth and each one of them followed the predictable path, the one they thought they wilfully chose. But we’re as stuck to our paths as planets are to their orbits.’
Mason bent down, rubbing his face with both hands. He sat back upright and exhaled with effort.
‘I think this story has run its course.’
He dug in his pocket to find something and brought out a gun, a small black rectilinear firearm. He looked at me and put his finger to his pursed lips requesting silence. I shook my head at him frantically, afraid but half expecting what he was going to do. I looked at Dorsett seemingly unaware as the gun was pointed over the table at the side of his head. I saw Mason aim and squint an eye directly behind the pistol in almost the same way he did when he was looking into the lens of his Newtonian Reflector Telescope. The sound of a loud crack fractured the silence as the recoil of the gun jolted Mason’s arm back, at the same time throwing Dorsett’s body forcefully from the chair and onto the lawn.
I looked down at Dorsett’s head and saw a hole just above his ear curling small smoke clouds upwards. A slow discharge of blood rose to fill it and trickled out in rapid droplets down his cheek onto the grass to turn it from green to dark crimson in the sun’s light. The smell of cordite momentarily filled the air, an attractive sweetness that didn’t match the incredible event I’d just witnessed. I looked back at Mason who took a hanky from his pocket and began wiping the gun.
‘I’ll put it in his hand. It will look like a suicide.’
I instinctively looked behind me to the kitchen window.
‘Sam’s gone out.’ he said. ‘When she comes back, she’ll think Dorsett took his own life.’
It was only when I spoke that I knew my mouth was still gaping. ‘What the hell have you done? This will devastate her.’
‘To begin with, yes.’ said Mason, rising from his chair to approach the body on the lawn. ‘But after what she’s been through lately, this will hardly be unexpected. Dorsett showed all the predictable signs of insanity. Sticking scissors in his hands and blinding himself by staring at the sun. Not to mention his nonsensical explanations that had no handles to grab at. I can’t go anywhere else with him. He’s a spent force, I’m afraid.’
He bent down and placed the gun in Dorsett’s limp hand. He was right enough: just looking at the body twisted on the lawn with a gun attached to it told a convincing story. He sat back on his chair and took another sip of coffee, looking briefly to the sky for a quiet moment, as if out of respect for the death of his character.
‘At least some good came from his blindness.’ he said, ‘He wouldn’t have seen that coming.’
‘I bet he did.’ I answered, ‘You heard him: he said he can see much more without his eyes. He knew what you were going to do. He just didn’t want to stop you. How many bullets are in the gun?’
‘Two.’ he said, ‘Just in case the first didn’t work.’
I bent down and took the gun from Dorsett’s dead hand.
‘That isn’t the reason why there are two bullets in it.’ I told him. I pointed it at Mason’s chest and he smiled as if sharing the joke. When my expression remained unchanged, his face sagged in defeat. The sound of the gun echoing for the second time in the morning fluttered the birds skyward once again. The bullet switched Mason off in his chair like an electric appliance deactivated. His coffee cup fell from his hand and rolled and spilled its contents across his lap. I repeated Mason’s hanky wipe with the gun and attached it to his fingers. Now the bodies told a different story: murder and suicide. Whether that was less or more helpful to Sam I wasn’t sure. What it would do to Andrea was another problem. Which woman would be more likely to have me, I asked myself, now that their spouses have gone? Sam appears too young for a compatible relationship and Andrea seems ideal, but the death of someone loved would be a difficult obstacle to overcome. It would take a lot of understanding to clear the depression that followed. Would I have that patience?
It was time to tidy up. Only Garbutt remained, but he needed to be fixed. He was ill but not yet beyond hope. I would try to save him. He will go out with a bang too, but not from a gun.