The Revolution of Time

By Chris Pritchard

IV

Later that evening Thomas took three of his favourite toy-trains outside (Henry, Edward and Thomas) and plonked himself down on a dry patch of the lawn in front of the cucumber. It was early twilight. If anybody had seen him, he would have looked like any other seven-year-old boy because his arms were whizzing the trains through dense grass-jungles and high into the air on invisible tracks, high over invisible mountains. His mouth was even doing the customary choo-choooo and chucka-chucka-chucka sounds but even though he may have looked the part of smallboyplayingwithtrains, if I get a little closer — rush to a close-up shot — where are those young eyes looking? How close can I get? The hands are moving, the mouth is choo-chooing but those little eyes are fixated on one thing and one thing only: the HUGE-CUMBER.

Thomas was trying to work out his emotions towards the giant vegetable. He wanted to hate it for causing so much upset, he wanted to slice it into pieces and punch it into chunks - but he couldn’t help kind of loving the great lummox as if it were a dopey panda bear or a helpless beached whale. And to complicate things even further, it felt like part of him, or it felt like he was in control of it, or like he was its owner, its creator. He felt sympathy, he felt empathy. It hadn’t done anything wrong. Poor cucumber, poor green giant. But, actually it had done lots of things wrong. Stupid fat lump of salad. He wanted to kick it, but he was frightened it would hurt himself. Yes, himself! The confused seven-year old was worried that if he damaged the cucumber, it would in turn damage him — like punching his own arm or kicking his own leg or shoving a pencil in his earhole. It was part of him. It wasn’t part of him. When you clip a nail from your finger, is that still part of you? It’s dead on the bathroom floor but a second ago it was part of you — and the same goes for hair too, when you cut your hair it’s no longer part of you. Some people keep their lifetime’s supply of hair in jars and yet you lot couldn’t care less about hair — once it’s gone it’s gone. It will be replaced by new hair, better hair.

And so, is it possible to give birth to a cucumber? You heard me. Is that what happened here? Birth, newness? What does it mean to be a parent? Is this little sweet boy the parent of this massive sour vegetable? Is that possible? Is that impossible? How many ways are there to create something, and with that creation what follows? Ownership, protection, nurture; are those things inherent in a creator, or only in some creators? In short, are they a choice or an instinct? Was Thomas old enough to be a parent? Maybe he was. Maybe that’s why he reacted so strongly to Mr Huygens claim that the Christian God was the parent of this huge cucumber. And yes, what about God - as creator, is God a suitable role-model for all the parents of the world? Does the Almighty Father lead by example? He fathered a child and then let some other bloke raise it. He never answers anybody’s questions. He is feared. He gets in cumulonimbus strops and rains down shards of light and spirals of destruction and yet his children still forgive him. For all the fathers around the world that are absent from their children’s lives would it be reason enough to say to those children: ‘daddy works in mysterious ways’? That’s not a very good role-model at all. It’s no wonder the whole bloody planet is plagued by daddy-issues.

Young Thomas couldn’t take his eyes off the huge-cumber. He got the odd feeling that he was staring into a mirror whenever he looked at it, as if he were seeing himself but not himself which was weird because Thomas hated mirrors and yet he kind of enjoyed the idea of having a giant vegetable for a reflection. It was part of him. It wasn’t part of him. A cucumber is almost ninety per-cent water, a human is approximately seventy per-cent water, a jelly-fish is ninety-five per-cent water, and for comparison, a panda is ninety-nine per-cent bamboo. And for a second point of comparison, Bugs Bunny is one hundred per-cent carrot. What does this all mean? Nothing. What does the meaningless of this all mean? Everything.

I’m sorry.

I’ve seen so many stories, and this is the most incredible story of them all. I don’t want to get it wrong. I don’t always run like clockwork. You know who I am, right? I’m old. You trust me.

James tapped his little brother on the shoulder.

‘Did you know the world’s going to end in four years’ time?’ he said.

‘No it’s not.’

‘It is. There’s going to be a bug. Everyone’s gonna get ill and die.’

‘That’s not true.’

‘It is.’

‘It’s a computer bug,’ huffed Thomas. ‘They’re completely different.’

‘Everybody’s still gonna die. Almost everybody, apart from me and Madonna, maybe. I’m going to survive, the famous survive things like that you see.’

‘You’re not famous yet.’

‘I will be soon. I’ll buy you something if you want? What would you like?’

‘Nothing. The world’s not really going to end. A man was speaking about it on the tele. He said it was a master plan to make people buy lots of shopping and holidays.’

‘Panic buying?’

‘I think so.’

‘Yep, well Mr and Mrs Panique have stocked enough soup cans to fill a lake, there’s towers of them in their shed.’

‘They’re not going to need it though.’

‘Why’s that little brother?’

‘Because the world’s not going to end!’

‘It will. Just you wait. And it will end all over again in two-thousand and twelve.’

‘Shut up.’

James laughed. ‘So, you really made this big old cucumber, did you?’

‘Go away.’

‘What’s it made of, polystyrene? Let’s see what happens if I kic-’

‘-NO,’ shouted Thomas.

‘Oooh, tetchy. Don’t you worry. I wouldn’t dare harm God’s work.’

Oh, God. It seemed the only way to explain this event that defied the accepted laws of creation time was to avoid explanation altogether and point to the heavens. God did it. What has God taught us about Time? Not. Much. Really. God is one of the main reasons why a lot of people are very confused about time and God is also why a lot of people become very disillusioned with time. According to the Bible, in just one day the Lord Almighty created the universe, the heavens and the earth. What a machine! What a workaholic! Whatever, says God, all in a day’s work. All in twenty-four hours! I’m bloody impressed. Thomas wondered how God had managed to create such a large world in so short amount of time.

Time, time, time.

God was the one who gave us all such ridiculous expectations of time in the first place. He was the one who messed it all up. But what’s this thing that’s very old but very new? What’s this thing that Thomas learnt at school the other day? What’s it called: evolution. You know about it, of course you know about it.

Good old evolution.

My friend.

As of 1996 (?), Thomas’ educational life had been bombarded by tales of genesis and nativity and assemblies of songs and praise and dressing up as a donkey. He went to a public school fifteen miles from Cucumis Corner and the other day Mr Frude introduced for the first time the concept of evolution, but Thomas didn’t really understand. He understood Pro Evolution Soccer, but that was about as far as his knowledge stretched. Pro Evo 96. It was a video game. You don’t believe me? Check.

You can trust me. I’ve seen everything. Did you know that it takes a lot more time to build something than it does to destroy it? Thomas experienced another bout of very strange feelings towards the huge-cumber. It was part of him, it wasn’t part of him. it was his mirror, his reflection, but it had also been created with abnormal swiftness as if it had been built in the name of destruction, with the destiny of destruction, but I must stop right there before too much is revealed — already you know the giant cucumber was resemblant of an atom bomb.

‘What are you doing out here so late? Bedtime soon.’ It was Mrs Huygens. She was right; it was indeed late for a seven-year-old boy to be alone outside. The sky was now the colour of bronze-orange; the aftermath of a hot summer’s day and the huge-cumber had seemingly lost its bright green hue and Thomas’ mother looked even thinner than usual in this light, if that was possible. Globes of midges were swarming and bobbing like floating lanterns in the dense air and a chorus of grasshoppers clicked and clucked to their little hearts’ delight. ‘It’s time for bed, Thomas,’ said Mrs Huygens, speaking very softly with a mouth that was lined with felt or some other cushioned material that was incredibly soft but had the ability to crumple and harden at any given moment. ‘You need to get to bed soon or you’ll oversleep again.’

‘I didn’t oversleep on purpose. You never came in to wake me,’ replied young Thomas.

‘Yes I did.’

‘No you didn’t.’

‘I did Thomas. Believe me, I did.’

‘You can’t have. I always wake up when you come in the door. You can’t have or I would have woken up. I can’t remember one time that I haven’t woken up when you come in my room. You can’t have, you’re lying, why are you -’

‘Thomas! It’s better that you believe me when I say I tried to wake you this morning.’

Thomas stood up and chucked one of his three favourite trains to the ground - poor green Henry went on one final farewell chucka-chucka-chucka journey through the air slicing a globe of midges in two (a broken heart, a ying-yang) and crashed with a thump near an anthill where its wheels effortlessly detached from its body. Poor broken Henry - no longer motive, just loco. Thomas was angry, very angry. His voice rose in volume — no, more than that; his voice expanded and enlarged as his anger levels increased, like a grizzly bear preparing to attack. ‘Why didn’t you wake me? Didn’t you want me in it?’ he said.

‘Of course I wanted you in the report, yes.’

‘No you didn’t.’

‘I wasn’t included in the news report either, you know. I wasn’t in it.’

‘But you didn’t wanna be. You never do anything fun.’

‘I don’t always have the time.’

‘Why didn’t you wake me?’ shouted Thomas.

‘Don’t you dare raise your voice at me. I need to speak to your father about this. Go to your room Thomas.’

‘Dad?’

‘What?’ blinked Mrs Huygens.

‘Dad didn’t want me in it? Why didn’t he want me in it? Why James and not me? Why doesn’t he like me? I bet he told you not to wake me.’

‘Oh here we go again. Any more why’s and you’ll question us out of existence. You’re being immature Thomas, now stop it.’

‘I’m not. It’s the truth. Dad doesn’t like me. He doesn’t want me around.’

‘He loves you ... he was just trying to teach you a lesson, that’s all. That’s all we ever try to do.’

‘What?’

‘Oh, for Christ’s sake Tom. The problem with asking questions so persistently is that sometimes you get answers that you don’t like very much. In the future just try to contemplate, just-for-one-second that sometimes people don’t answer your questions because they’re trying to protect you. Now no — don’t get angry. Now, your father thought it was time enough for you to deal with the consequences of not having any clocks in your bedroom. I agree; you’re not always going to have me there to wake you up. So from now on, you must wake yourself up, or if that fails, use an alarm clock. No, don’t be sad little man - you can’t possibly survive in this world without clocks.’

‘Why today? Why, when I could have been on TV?’

Mrs Huygens didn’t answer. Thomas was now very, very angry. He was an army of grizzled-grazzled-gruzzled grizzly bears, fierce and large in the face of injustice, roaring and tearing and roaring some more. His face was reddening. His anger was huge, his anger was larger than himself, pulsing and roaring and growing. Ten thousand grizzly bears. The cucumber was also huge. The cucumber was also larger than himself. The cucumber was also part of himself. The cucumber was his anger.

And, ignoring the metaphorical bears, here’s what happened next: the huge-cumber began to vibrate like one of those massage chairs for old and stressed people in shopping centres, like a baking potato in the microwave and (unable to resist phallic connotations for much longer) like a dildo. Believe me, I saw it all. It vibrated and the ground vibrated with it. Thomas and the cucumber. The cucumber and Thomas. The little six-year-old was so incredibly angry and the cucumber was angry too. It jolted and hissed and wobbled like that microwave potato and then jolted again like an ostrich egg on the verge of hatching. Thomas’ fists were now fully clenched. The massive cucumber jolted and vibrated and sent shockwaves through the earth as Mrs Huygens skulked away to safety along the vibrating garden path as hanging baskets dislodged from the walls and garden chairs somehow danced a rickety dance across the patio and a skateboard rolled down the garden, and now there was a slight rumble, and now there are screams and yelps and cries and lights flashing on and windows opening and yelps and cries and now it happens, now the little blond-haired boy opens his mouth wide and screams the most delightful dangerous scream that pierces ears and pierces hearts. The boy collapses. The cucumber will not explode today: it is not time yet.

The cucumber stops vibrating, wobbles a few times and then is stationary once again, still attached to the vine. The globes of midges have all fallen to the grass as if the strings of life from which they so buoyantly hung were suddenly snipped — and the crickets too are no longer chirping.

Mrs Huygens emerges from the shadows and her eldest son rushes from the patio door to join her. In the distance there is already the wail of emergency sirens - police, fire engines, ambulances, the lot. In the foreground there is silence, and there is a small boy lying flat on the grass a metre or so from the largest vegetable to ever exist since Time itself began. Separate but connected: the cucumber is part of Thomas. Creation doesn’t always involve a penis - God taught me that.