…a beginning, middle and end     

“To plant a seed. Form a seed grows a tree. A mustard tree. A mustard tree would grow. Flourish. From the tiniest seed.”

Father Jupiter was not himself today. He was someone else entirely. He was smiling. He was sitting in Smith’s passenger seat as the car idled in heavy traffic on the M60.

“What a thing is man?” Father Jupiter mused.

Smith wasn’t sure. Or wasn’t listening. All of Smith’s concentration was absorbed by the back of the white van in front of him. Wash me. Wanker. It hadn’t moved now for almost three minutes. Minutes. What were minutes? Hours?

“We’re going nowhere,” Father Jupiter continued, though he wasn’t continuing anything. “Of course, in a way we were going nowhere as soon as we got on the M60. It’s an orbital motorway. It doesn’t go anywhere. A road that doesn’t go anywhere poses many metaphysical problems. How can it be a road? If it is a road, where is it going? Where is this nowhere? If nowhere is a place, what are its properties?”

It was five minutes now. Smith could at last allow himself to release his grip on the steering wheel and alleviate the pressure at the front of his head. He was no longer driving. He was just sitting in a car. Having a conversation.

“You have to stand back and look at things,” Smith offered, as though in continuation of Father Jupiter’s philosophical musings.

Father Jupiter sat back in his seat as though to afford himself as good a view as possible of the back of the dirty white van in front.

“It’s like planets,” Smith announced. “It’s like people are all revolving around. And other things too. Cars and tables and chairs. Everything. Revolving in concentric circles, each with their own speed, at varying distances. And there’s a collision every so often. And sometimes meteors hit.”

“Meteorites,” Father Jupiter corrected.

But Smith trundled along the same path, regardless of correction or any other impediment.

“So everyone’s like hanging off you. They’re spinning around. They move when you move. When you’re travelling through the galaxy so are they. Sometimes they get too close to each other and bang…”

“Bang!” Father Jupiter shouted out the window.

“…they either get smashed to pieces or they coalesce. And they get bigger. And the bigger they get, the more chance they have of hitting something else. Until they get so big, they reach a critical mass, and then they start falling to earth…

“…into the sun…”

“… and a grand collision is inevitable.” Smith turned off the ignition. “What ever happens is inevitable. So everything’s inevitable. Even the most unlikely thing to ever happen was always inevitable.”

By now some people had left their cars and were walking past. Some were making their way to the grass verge. Most were straining to see what the problem was up ahead.

“It’s a traffic jam,” someone said outside.

“It’s inevitable.” Father Jupiter nodded, as though agreeing with something.

“So it’s everyone, it’s Oscar and Henry and Helen all converging on one place, that bloody school. Because that’s where he is – Tommy Kilpatrick. That evil bastard. That’s where everything will happen. Oscar’s there to find a story. He’s looking around for something to write down, so he’s hiding in a bush or something, watching every thing fall apart. And then Helen’s there too. She’s not hiding in a bush. What’s she got to hide for? She’s marching through the main entrance and demanding to know where Tommy Kilpatrick is. She has no choice. She’s in love with him. And Henry’s hiding in his classroom. The last thing he wants to do is get involved in all of this. But he’s involved. That old dragon of a headmistress will make sure of that. And so it’s all closing in on Tommy Kilpatrick. It’s like there’s lines all radiating out of him. Like saints. But dark lines. Like he’s radiating shadows. And even though he’s hiding away his evil intentions, his machinations… he can’t. It’s all too obvious. Everyone knows. Everyone’s coming. It’s only a matter of time. And he knows. Deep down. Or maybe that’s what he’s talking about right now to his class. How everyone’s coming to get him. How the revolution is under threat. How the whole school has to rise up now. How history and the headmistress and mathematics and words on pages and pictures in books and pounds and pence and conjugating verbs and right and wrong and the periodic table and famous people and the longest river in the world and every book in the bible… they’re all about to collapse down on top of them. Squash them. Smother them. Drown them. Let’s rise up now. Throw down your books. Forget everything you know. Tear down the walls of this school.”

“Inevitability. Can’t beat it.”

“So I’m there. I’m there waiting for him. Waiting for all of them. They’re pouring out onto the hockey fields and tennis courts. Hundreds of uniformed school girls. And the headmistress, looking out of her office. Mullioned windows. There’s Henry looking on next her. They can’t believe it. But it was always going to happen this way. The headmistress is like she’s shaking. There’s sweat pouring off her. But she’s angry more than anything else. More than she’s afraid or confused. She’s angry. So that’s why she storms out of her office. Dragging Henry behind her. Because Henry has lost his soul years ago. He’s dragged along in her wake, like he’s a baby swan or an empty crisp packet. And with Henry in toe she’s making a straight line for Tommy Kilpatrick at the head of this ungainly procession. Collision course. But then there’s Helen too. Collision course number two. And Oscar has just leapt out of the bushes. Collision course number three. And they’re all converging on one spot. It’s the grass bank between the tennis courts and the hockey fields, where all the grass is flattened down from the girls sitting on their coats to watch the matches. And that’s where they’re all headed. And the sun is hiding behind a bank of grey stratocumulus clouds. Just hidden behind. And everything gets a little darker. A little colder. And in the shadow they’re almost running now. Some of the smaller girls are running to keep up. Like they’re being drawn there. Pulled along. Because in the future it’s already happened. They have no choice.”

“Inevitability’s going to get ‘em.”

The car behind let out a timorous beep.

“And that’s where I am. Just standing there like I don’t know what’s going on. But I’ve been waiting there since first thing that morning. That’s all I have to do is wait. Things will get to me eventually. And here they come. Like they’re all rolling down hill. The girls shouting slogans. The headmistress spitting anger. Henry crying. Oscar tripping over himself. Helen with her arms outstretched. And Tommy Kilpatrick, leading the throng of schoolgirls, half limping, half smiling, half everything. All rolling down a hill and picking up speed. And now they can’t stop.”

The beep from the car behind was less timorous this time. A hundred yards of motorway had opened up in front of Smith’s car. He turned the key in the ignition.


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