Saturday, December 22, 2012


It 's Christmas Eve. God's in the air. Thomas Fastnet doesn't believe in Him.  His brother Chris does. They are good friends and argue at length but amicably.

Thomas says: "Why do you think that  this world and its inhabitants are important enough to receive divine attention? Of the millions of possible worlds, circling millions of stars in millions of galaxies, why this one? And if this one, why is it in such a mess?

"The world is God's. The mess is ours."

Again Thomas says: "Let's get it in perspective. The universe is 13.8 millions years old, the Earth three and half billion. We've been around for 200,000 years.  Crocodiles and ants, fish  and dinosaurs for much longer. The  whole lot is supposed to have started with a bang, from a pinpoint. How can apes like us, clearly bent on self-destruction, matter in the scheme of things?"

The big bang theory may be true but that doesn't mean that it didn't have a cause. There can be no effect without cause. Something must have created your bang. Yes or No?

And so it goes on.  Chris opens a bottle of Madeira, sercial, the dry stuff. They savour it together. Chris's small children are asleep upstairs.  Or supposed to be. Empty stockings  hang at the ends of their beds.  And their heads are buzzing with speculation and mystery. They are awake and whispering.  Chris's wife Pat and Thomas' wife Alison are at Midnight Mass at St Nicholas just round the corner from the house. If they listen carefully they can hear voices, "Hark the herald angels sing..."

"Where's peace? Where's goodwill?  Where's the justice? Just endless fighting over frontiers and tribal differences.

"Perhaps," says Chris, "justice and peace are in the balance of chemical elements in the universe which makes life and this conversation possible. Something of a miracle in itself.  Or one almost achieved.

On that they seem to agree. And so they talk on with long companionable pauses in which the fire mutters in sympathy, until the quiet is  suddenly disturbed. With a popping sound, the  Christmas tree lights go out. In the dark the church clock chimes midnight. When Chris restores the fuse they see that the star on top of the tree is no longer alight. The  bulb inside the  plastic casing has blown. "A surge of current," says Chris.

"Or divine disapproval of my views?" says Thomas.  "Or the state of the world?"

"Chris goes into the kitchen and brings another bottle. They drink in silence.

Outside,  gravel crunches under foot, voices and... "I thought I heard a baby cry," Chris says, and gets to his feet.  The sound of a key in the lock. The front door opens and into the room comes Pat and Alison, and in Pat's arms indeed is a baby wrapped up against the cold. "It's the Vicar's," she says. Her husband broke his ankle. Fell off a ladder trying to fix the lights which fused. At midnight would you believe it! Vicar's seeing him to the hospital. We're looking after the baby till she gets back. Jesse is his name." 

The baby looks  solemnly about him. He has that superior look of very young babies which seems to say, "I know more than you do".  She holds him up to show him the Christmas tree lights. He gurgles, wide awake now. He enjoys the attention.

Thomas, who has no children of his own, on an impulse, takes Jesse from her and raises him in the air. He jiggles him up and down. Baby and man catch each other's eye. In a moment of understanding they both laugh.



  1. A wonderful Christmas story from a contemporary perspective. Merry Christmas, Joe

  2. They're getting though the sercial at a rare old rate; someone's going to be bleary-eyed, especially with stockings to fill.

    I like to think electricity is a joint work of God and Satan since it carries the seeds of both benefit and destruction. Except that electricity is also surely a prime candidate for hubris: man aspiring to be God with this menacing invisible force.

    With a story like this, once alerted, one starts looking for symbolism everywhere. The sort of author manipulation one hopes for, even harder to achieve with a very short work. There's a lot pivoting round that short phrase: A surge of current. A lot to consider. Congratulations. I'd have been tempted to make that the title.

  3. There are all sorts of overloads here. All of a good kind I think and it must be the current of love that blows the fuse. Nicely balanced ending tilting of unexplained understanding!