The Blue-Haired Women

JOURNAL FRAGMENT
(Annotation by Brinkinfield)

Sunday July 4th, 2120 (Possible typo? How could it be ~100 years in the future?)
They’re everywhere now, the blue-coloured hair women, swamping city streets, filling up bars and restaurants, taking over businesses, banks, major conglomerates, media outlets and universities. I’ll be lucky if I’ll find work as an accountant in this county, ever again.

(Monday and Tuesday, entries torn out from journal)

Wednesday, July 7th, 2120
Three days in a row now, I’ve woken up to find a blue hair coloured woman posted outside my cottage (and all down the street, outside the neighbours, too). Earlier, I went out to ask of her business and she forcibly pushed me, with her hand flat against my chest, back through the front door without saying a word. I’ve got to say, I thought her pretty hot, but it’s no excuse for rudeness!

(Thursday page, blank)

Friday, July 9th, 2120
I tried to go out this morning, with my food shopping list, fridge is empty. The blue hair woman pushed me back again, growling and baring her teeth at me! When I turned to bolt back inside, she slapped my bottom cheeks hard, left and right! Both are still stinging, seated on a cushion as I write-up this entry. After I’d regained my composure and pride, I went back to the front door, got on my knees and shouted through the letterbox, telling her I’d already alerted the police. When I peered through to gauge a reaction, she turned around and gave me the finger.

Saturday, July 10th, 2120
Midday, the internet is switched off. Nothing but a 404 error message or a question mark symbol centered within a blue square, depending on which site I try. Blue woman is still there. Earlier, she tapped on the kitchen window and pointed towards the front door. She’s got really long, well manicured finger nails. Still think she’s really hot. I found a food box left outside the front door, lots of veg, granola, almond milk and dried soya mix : (

Sunday, July 11th, 2120
4am, I can’t sleep. I can’t stand this ‘no internet’ situation much longer. I might as well be living in a cave. One week isolated and I’ve got absolutely no idea what’s happening on the outside. I’ve decided I’m left with only one option: seduce the bluie, get her onto my side, then see if any other renegades are willing to join us. See if we can’t get the internet back on and life back to some semblance of order!

(Monday page blank)

Tuesday, July 13th, 2120
I’ve written out Bluie’s daily schedule, based upon notes taken yesterday, while observing her closely from the bathroom window. At least now I understand she is armed with the latest Walther pistol, concealed under her dress, the holster strapped to her left thigh. As I watched, she spun the weapon around on her fingers, practiced replacing the magazine and aiming. I have to say, she looks pretty handy with it. At around mid afternoon, she looks tired and bored, several hours still, before she is relieved by the night shift. This gives me plenty of time to enact my plan, venture outside, confront and reason with her to switch sides, locate like-minded folk and form a resistance. If she refuses, I’ll soon show her who’s boss, for sure!

(End of journal, no further entries)

©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by a picture)

Be Happy

“Okay,” Gina said, “let’s get this straight right from the get-go. I am not your love, do you understand, Euan?” Gina fixed an icy stare onto the awkward young man.
“I’m just saying … ” Euan shuffled his feet and sank his hands deep into his pockets. “Look, why don’t we pop into the museum, grab a coffee in the downstair café?”

Continue reading “Be Happy”

Giant

Unexpectedly rising out of the castle top, 
the giant rose, 
furrowing his brow and rubbing his nose, 
just like he might be about to sneeze.

Initially, startled by his appearance,
beachcombers on the sand below,
felt doubly concerned, 
with rapid assessment given to the potential outcome.

“Great giant, God-like seeming in so many ways, 
disturbed from your rest, 
how long have you dwelt beneath this fortress-topped island?”
Asked a self-elected representative, 
as a device for sneeze distraction purposes only,
with no real interest in the giant's circumstance.

“Who said that?” the giant enquired, 
peering down and all around.
“I!” Yelled a young woman, 
squinting upwards at the huge colossus, 
darkly tanned hand, 
held above brow,
acting as a visor to the sunshine.

“Well, let me see … " the giant considered carefully,
"I reckon, give or take a year or two, 
using the Gregorian calendar accordingly as a measure of time ..."
"Do you still feel a twitch,
an indicator for a sneeze?"
Interjected the young woman, 
wise beyond her years.

"Possibly." Said the giant, 
cross-eyed,
wrinkling and twisting his formidable proboscis,
up and down, 
to the left and right.
"Then kindly," said the brave and assertive young woman,
"turn around one hundred and eighty degrees to be sure,
Direct your sternutation that-a-way."

Her rising out-stretched arm and pointing finger,
cut right through the salty air.
©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (poem inspired by a picture)

Suddenly

Scientist:
"Listen Doctor Wong,
You've got it all wrong.
No benefits are gained from 'Chinese medicine' concoctions."
Doctor:
"Blue-eyes, I object.
Counter in effect.
Our recipes are handed down through generations."
Scientist:
"Maybe as you say,
But Mao Zedong had his way,
in 1950 driving forward their popularisation."
Doctor:
"Young scientist, think you're hip?
Well, just you regain your grip!
To suggest political necessity and conniving motivation!"

©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by picture)
With special thanks to the Covid-19 Lockdown

Will He Ask Again?

Stationary on the driveway, Hattie killed the gentle purr of the electric motor housed under the bonnet of the newly converted and refurbished red Pontiac, 1969 GTO. Seconds before, she’d seen Wyatt watering the flower borders of the front yard outside his house. Despite attempts to avoid eye contact, it had happened. She watched as the old man retreated to an outside tap located underneath the kitchen window, turning off the supply with several twists of the squeaky brass handle.
As Hattie unloaded grocery bags from the trunk of the car, she saw him strutting down the paved driveway in her direction. Although still early springtime, the weekend’s weather had been fine and she felt the warmth of the sunshine on her skin. She noted how Wyatt appeared unaffected by the climate, wearing his stetson, sheep skin jacket, threaded jeans and dusty old boots, same as always. He’s coming over to talk to me, she thought, is he really going to ask again?
It wouldn’t be for the second time, nor third or fourth. Hattie had lost count of how many times Wyatt had asked her the same question, after learning of her breakup with Ed three months ago. Initially, she assumed he’d been joking … a little insensitively so, perhaps.
“Miss Hattie, what a beautiful day.” Wyatt tapped a curved finger under the rim of his hat. “I see you’ve been getting in provisions for your ma and pa, just like last week. They must give thanks for your help around the house, with you living back at home.”
“That’s most kind for you to say, Wyatt.” She said, lifting the bags up and out, placing them together on the ground against her legs. “Of course, it’s me who’s grateful to them, here in my moment of need.” She looked towards the house and thought fondly of the two people inside.
“I’m rightly sure you are Hattie, rightly sure you are.”
With the lid of the trunk slammed shut, she bent down to pick up several of the bags. She sensed an admiring gaze, scanning her body as he might do, she thought, a favoured horse. Judging the weight of the groceries, the chance of an early escape from the conversation beckoned. “Well Wyatt, I’ll let you get on with the watering of those lovely flowers of yours.”
“Hattie,” he interrupted, slipping his hat off, holding it against his chest, “I wanted to ask, have you given further consideration to my recent proposal? After this day, understand, I won’t be asking again.” Extracting a polka dot patterned handkerchief, Wyatt wiped away glistening beads of sweat from his balding head, before returning it to his jean’s pocket.
“Wyatt.”
“Yes Hattie?”
“Just how old are you?”
“I turned sixty-six in April.”
“Okay, do you know how old I am?”
“Well, I recall the celebration of your eighteenth with a lively and well-attended party. Let me see, that was … eight years ago, which makes you … twenty-five, no wait, twenty-six years old by my reckoning.”
Hattie stood looking at Wyatt, waiting to see if an expression registering comprehension might suddenly materialise. It didn’t. His features remained placid and unchanged.
“Wyatt, that’s a forty-year age gap.”
“That’s right Hattie, I can do the math. It changes nothing. I remain a widower, with no children, no known surviving relatives and no debts. With the situation as it stands, when I go, the proceeds of my estate are headed off to some sure as hell lucky pet rescue home.” Wyatt chuckled to himself, reached inside his jacket and withdrew a packet of cigarettes. “Unless, you’ve reconsidered, Hattie? After all, when your folks pass, whatever inheritance becomes available, you know that’s going to be split several ways between you, your brothers and your sisters. Ain’t that right?” Tearing off the foil from the top of the packet, Wyatt flicked at the underside with his thumb, a single cigarette appeared, which he offered to Hattie.
“Okay, let’s get this straight Wyatt.” She said, taking the cigarette. “Essentially, what you’re proposing amounts to a marriage of convenience.”
“That’s right Hattie, I make no bones about it.” He threw a shiny metal lighter upwards into the air, which Hattie caught, used and threw back. “I’ve been alone a long time, I have few additional needs outside of companionship. Those needs I have, I am confident you can fulfil. Meanwhile, it can’t go unnoticed, I’m no longer a man in the peak of physical health. I am not going to be around forever, sure as eggs is eggs.”
For a moment, Hattie stared blankly at the groceries returned to the ground next to the side of the car. She blew a plume of bluish grey smoke out through her lips, dropped the cigarette and crushed it under the toe of her sneaker on the kerbstone. “There’ll be a prenuptial then?” She said, asking her first ever question regarding the proposition.
Wyatt reached into his sheepskin jacket a second time and quick enough located an unsealed envelope, containing a folded document. “Naturally so, legal and binding, providing mutual protection. Divorce, and you will receive a settlement.” He handed her the somewhat creased envelope. “Although generous, it’ll not be enough to support financial independence beyond a handful of years. Let’s just say it will serve as a token of my appreciation for your sacrifice, prepared as you were to give the marriage a try. Alternatively, God damn,” momentarily irritated he brushed a fly off his nose, “see me through and you get everything, the property, investments, my savings and the like. No debt, no mortgage even. You’ll be set for the rest of your life Hattie.”
“During the meanwhile, I’ll be cooking for you, cleaning for you, darning your socks and satisfying your wont between the bed sheets I don’t doubt!” Hattie’s anger unleashed unexpectedly, her eyes narrowed into a piercing stare. Wyatt, nonchalant, shook his head, slowly raised his hands signalling surrender, his stetson held in one hand.
“Miss Hattie, instead of getting all flustered, why not read the contract? Everything’s there, check through the details. Lend me half your attention if you will and I’ll summarise.” As Hattie unfolded the papers, Wyatt continued. “You will have the area formerly serving as two bedrooms, today converted into one, which includes an ensuite. Think of the accommodation as a studio apartment set-up, your own private quarters. Of course, the rest of the house and gardens are available to you also, on top of which we’ll share a holiday cabin located upstate in the woods.” Wyatt’s statement matched the plain wording of the contract, drafted by a local, prominent and respected lawyer’s firm. “I have my own room and a study. We share the cooking, straight down the middle. Mrs Jackson will come to visit each Wednesday, same as she’s always done, taking care of all the cleaning and washing. The groceries, you’ll have noticed, are delivered. Which leaves sex, because there ain’t no mistaking, that is, a thing.”
“I was wondering when we’d get to that.” Hattie located the heading, midway down the second page of the paperwork, ‘The Sexual Relationship’.
“I ain’t no monster, I don’t have unusual needs nor wild fantasies, nothing that will turn you off or gross you out. No,” Wyatt appealed earnestly to Hattie, “I’m a simple man, who – due to the sale of a significantly sized and lucky plot of Texan land – finds himself in an enviable position. I live a life free from worry. However, for the last ten years, I’ve been living life alone. Besides your companionship, what you read under that heading, that’s all I’ll be wanting, with regularity as specified. But, not against your will Hattie. You understand?” Hattie’s gaze rested upon her name printed in italics at the bottom of the page, followed by a dotted line and a space underneath for a witness’ signature.

©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by picture)
With special thanks to the Covid-19 Lockdown

The Princess’ Hair (~1,450 words)

Since waking and despite a deceptively calm appearance, sat alone in the spartanly furnished kitchen, Bryan eagerly tracks the arrival of a delivery. A web page displayed on his kitchen table laptop, shows a pinpointed map and a thick red line reaching towards his address.
Midway through pouring a morning cup of tea, the sound of tyres crunching gravel on the driveway release the tension. Continuing with the ceremony, he adds milk while listening to doors slide open and thud, followed by footsteps approaching the front door.
“Dr Bryan Northwood?” The delivery driver scrutinises a handheld e-POD device. Bryan recognises the manufacturer’s dark green and black livery from the website emblazoned across the MPV.

ROMBOTS • A Family Business • Purveyors of the Finest Robophilia • By Royal Appointment

Tinted windows obscure the interior. Tantalisingly, the rear passenger door of the vehicle is open, a silhouette of an occupant discernible.
“Could you squiggle here please, Dr Northwood.”
Bryan obliges, his fingertip forming an unrecognisable representation of his written signature upon the small screen.
“By the way, my name is Chas.” A lanyard ID ties up with a neatly embroidered name badge sewn onto a shirt pocket of his uniform, confirming the information. “I’m an employee of Rombots and I am here – not only to deliver, but also to help with personalising the set-up for you, today. We have as much time as is required – and I will follow up with visits over the following weeks until you are entirely satisfied with your purchase.”
“I understand, thank you.” Bryan’s attention alternates between man and stationary vehicle.
Chas looks back over his shoulder, “I have the Princess model, waiting to meet you. May I ask sir, do you have a name ready for your new companion?”
“Indeed I do, my new companion’s name is Sandy.”
“Sandy it is, sir.”

While Chas is fetching Sandy, Bryan waits back in the kitchen, pacing around the breakfast bar. He feels torn between the event unfolding and his desire for the cooked breakfast he’d wrongly anticipated having time to prepare and eat. This would now have to wait. Different from his usual flat line mood, Bryan is feeling a mix of nervousness and excitement. Naturally, he knows what Sandy looks like; he not only computer-modelled her, he approved a one-twentieth scale model two weeks ago. Now, his imagination has sprung into life. Lucid visualisations flash through his mind, showing Bryan and Sandy both devotional, eagerly engaged with one another in several different scenarios. His daydreaming is interrupted as Sandy walks into the kitchen, Chas following close behind.
“Good morning Dr. Bryan Northwood.” Sandy says, her voice calm, her tone polite. “I am very pleased to meet you.” Auburn hair frames an oval face of fair complexion tapering towards a chin, green eyes look back into his eyes of grey. She is exactly as he imagined – except for one detail.
“Good morning Sandy.” Eyes widening, fixated, Bryan combs his fingers several times through his beard. “Welcome – please, would you like a seat?”

“According to your answers given on the questionnaire,” Chas is swiping through pages on a tablet screen, “this is your first Rombot, and… you’ve not had anything similar in the past.”
“That’s correct,” Bryan is distracted, “my first.”
“Right,” Chas detects a flicker in his client’s attention – but continues, “then I am going to start with the basics. The Princess model comes with three charging pads.” Chas unrolls a shiny white fabricated pad onto the kitchen table, circular in shape and of an adequate size to sit on. “One is designed for placing upon the seat of a chair, another I have here for placing on the bed, under the sheets and the third, another seat pad with an adapter suitable for use in a car. All you need in each instance is access to a power outlet.”
“How long does a full charge last for?” Bryan’s composure has returned, as he hands Chas a cup of tea.
“Thank you; that really depends Dr Northwood, on the usage.”
“Of course.” The answer was obvious.
“Dr Northwood, if I may interrupt?” While mapping the interior of the kitchen in fine detail, Sandy has followed the conversation between the two men. “If we were to share a day together that included several bouts of intense activity, I would most certainly require an overnight re-charge.”
“Right, I see.”
“Without such intense activity, my power source would not need replenishment for several days.”
“That’s right, and – when appropriate, Sandy will give occasional updates on her battery’s life, including before moving into low battery operating mode, which she’ll do automatically so as to conserve energy. She will give you good notice of this and sync with your phone and wristwatch, so you’ll know – wherever you happen to be.”
“I see.” Bryan fakes a reassured smile to both.
“Right, Dr Northwood, I am going to leave, make another couple of deliveries and be back in a couple of hours. I’d like it for you and Sandy to start to get to know each other, go through a few things.” Chas drank down the remainder of his tea. “When I get back, I’ll work the feedback you both provide me with into today’s initial set-up. Does that sound okay to you both?”

“What’s the matter Dr Northwood?” The sound of an engine disappears into the distance, as Sandy looks at Bryan, her head cocked at eighty degrees.
“It’s nothing,” Bryan replies, “just a detail.”
“A detail? Something small in scale, but nonetheless important to you?”
“Well, yes – yes I suppose so. Look,” Bryan shuffles his weight uncomfortably on the kitchen stool, “please, Sandy, call me Bryan. I think you should – I mean, Dr Northwood sounds awfully formal, would you mind?”
“I would not mind at all, Bryan. There, is that better, the problem is solved?”
“Well, no, um, the detail, it’s about something else actually.”
“I see.”
“Let me show you something.” Bryan launches himself from his seat, marches to the broom cupboard, from where he lifts a metal box large enough to hold a pair of boots, away from a shelf, returning with it to the kitchen table. Without further ado, Bryan inserts a small, precisely machined key, turning it forty-five degrees clockwise, triggering a satisfying sound as the lid releases.
“Are you alright Bryan?” Sandy asks, “Your blood pressure has risen, as has your body temperature.”
“I feel a little hot, yes – but I am fine.” Reaching inside the box, Bryan clasps and lifts out the one-twentieth scale model of Princess, as Sandy – but now obvious to anyone, not quite the same as the Sandy sat in the room.
“Oh,” Sandy says, “I see, that certainly is a detail.” Sandy closes her eyes, “Give me a moment Bryan, I’m reviewing the history file containing the original proof documentation and subsequent amendments.”
“Most people don’t understand,” Bryan is apologetic, “It relates to when I was a much younger man. A young woman I met, although present only briefly in my life, she left a strong impression on me I have never quite forgotten, but also never realised again.”
“Bryan, you’re quite correct.” Sandy’s eyes are open, “My hair should be blue. On behalf of Rombots I apologise for this error.”
Bryan turns the small, blue-haired Sandy, over in his hands. “That’s alright, your hair now – is lovely, it’s just – “
“It’s totally okay Bryan, you do not owe me any explanation.” Sandy stands facing Bryan, “Here,” she says, pointing a straightened index finger at him, “pull it.”
“Pull it?”
“Pull it.”
“What…? Pull it?”
“Pull it it Bryan, you know you want to.”
Taking hold, his hand enveloping half of Sandy’s finger, Bryan gives a gentle tug.
“Harder Bryan.”
“Harder?”
“Harder.”
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Bryan, do it harder.”
Sandy raises an eyebrow. A second later, her hair has turned blue.
“Oh my God – I don’t believe it!” Bryan is shocked.
“How’s the shade?” Sandy asks.
“How’s the shade? Well, since you ask, perhaps a little darker – shall I pull on your finger again?”
“No Bryan, it wasn’t necessary in the first place, I just wanted to make you smile.”
Bryan smiles; his whole face lights up.
“We can have whatever colour we want.” Sandy says, as the shade of her hair proceeds to cycle through from blue to black, to pink, then green, then a strawberry blonde.
“That’s amazing,” Bryan is flabbergasted, “Sandy, please follow me into the garden, I have a piano outside and I want to play for you. I want to play for you every day.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This has been something like my own, stylised version of an ekphrastic short story, based upon a collage created by pedrov_dog (found on Instagram). The word ekphrasis, or ecphrasis, comes from the Greek for the description of a work of art produced as a rhetorical exercise.

At School The Following Day…

The sounding of the morning bell drew the schoolchildren inside, leaving Pembrooke School’s religious education teacher, Greta Astonberry, caught in the middle of the playground, deep in thought. “Hey,” Harry asked as he passed by, “are you okay?”
“Harry – Mr Buckley, good morning.” Greta replied, brought back with apparent suddenness to her surroundings by the enquiry. Harry Buckley came to a stop, his left leg bent at the knee lifted up in slow-motion, then supplied the momentum to spin his body around to be facing his colleague.
“Greta..? You look troubled, please don’t tell me you’re regretting what happened last night?” A lone child in an ill-fitting school uniform walked between the two teachers, dragging a sports bag along the path leading to the main entrance. “Jefferies, pick up your bag off the ground and carry it!” Harry shouted after him.
“Yes sir.” Came back a sombre reply.
No, no – of course not Harry.” Greta tried to order her thoughts entirely towards the man staring at her, seeking her reassurance. Or was he? She couldn’t be sure.
“Look Greta, we had some fun – didn’t we?”
“Oh, fun. I see.”
“I like you a lot and we both enjoyed ourselves last night and we can do it again.” Playfully, he nudged her elbow with his own. “But, with Miss Harris returning soon, I am only here for this week. Okay?”
“Just this week?” The sun moved clear of a cloud and poured out sunshine; Greta reflected upon how it had taken her six weeks to conjure up the courage to ask Harry out. By the end of the week, as a supply teacher he’d be gone, with no particular need on his part to stay in touch. Or so it seemed.
“If it’s not about last night, what is troubling you Greta?” He stopped before her, scanning her face carefully for clues. “I can tell something’s up.”
“Well…” Greta hesitated.
“Look – let’s talk at lunch break,” Harry interrupted, glancing at his wristwatch, “whatever it is you can get it off your chest with me then, okay?”
“Okay,” said Greta, “thanks Harry.” She forced a grateful smile as he turned away, then sighed quietly to herself and watched as he hurried through the double-doors and disappeared into the corridors of the school’s main building. “I’m not sure you’ll have the answer Harry Buckley, but it’ll be good to talk to someone about this.”

A dinner plate loaded with a salad; Greta pushed her tray along the canteen service counter and fetched a clean glass. As she filled it with water from a jug, she cast her gaze across the busy dining hall, beyond the tables filled with schoolchildren engaged in excited conversation. She spotted Harry sat alone at a table located in a corner, engrossed in a newspaper.
“Hiya.” She said, as she approached, wondering if he would remember their chat scheduled for this moment. “Am I disturbing you?” Harry looked up from the sport’s page; his eyes sparkled.
“Greta!” Jumping up enthusiastically from his seat, he pulled out a chair for her to sit on, alongside his own. “Do you know how beautiful you look today?”
“Oh – Harry…” Her difficulty in accepting a compliment temporarily took control of her response. “No, really? You’re very sweet to – um, suggest, well, what you said, thank you Harry, you’re very sweet – and handsome too Harry. Yes, you are very… handsome. You’re a handsome Harry!” Greta told herself to shut up, felt awkward, her cheeks flushed, but she didn’t listen to herself. “It’s very warm in here, isn’t it? I really don’t think there’s any need for the heating to be on. I mean, it’s nearly spring and there’s enough heat generated by the kitchens anyway. They should save money – the school Harry, the school should save… some… blasted money – they keep on complaining about how they haven’t got any.” Harry didn’t reply. Instead, he watched as she laid out a paper serviette onto her lap, flattening out the creases with the palms of both her hands. The exercise brought with it calmness, followed by a forkful of lettuce and cucumber.
“Okay Greta, what is it that’s troubling you?” Harry said, folding his newspaper and sliding it across to the far side of the dining table. It was as if, Greta thought, that by this action he had committed his full attention to her. A ‘Harry’ like this doesn’t come along very often – not as handsome and as wonderful as this one.
“Oh Harry…” she fought against the sensation of tears welling up, “There’s something really important I want to talk to you about.” Greta forked a cherry tomato into her mouth, munched on it, an unbroken stare fixed on Harry as she did so…

“You want to talk to me about religion?” Harry had not expected the revelation.
“Well, yes. You see, something’s happened. I have experienced a change of heart – or more to the point, a change of mind. Oh Harry… I have lost my faith.”
“Oo-wee…” Harry rocked back in his chair, “Wow Greta, why – I mean how? You’ve had an epiphany or something?”
“Well, no, no epiphany, so-to-speak. It’s been a gradual process, research spread out over time – research that made me realise a fault line in my faith.” A chorus of chair legs scraping the floor forced a pause in the conversation, as groups of children rose from their tables, gathering up plates and cutlery to stack on a nearby trolley.
Greta ate more salad; Harry switched into supervisory mode, calling across to the group. “Emily, stop pushing Marta! Leave, the dining hall, in an orderly manner, please!” Satisfied, he turned back to Greta. “What sort of fault line do you mean?”
“I had a religious upbringing, Harry, I grew up unquestioning, committed. My father was the local minister, my mother a doctor. Expectations were for me to follow a vocational career path, to become a nurse, work overseas for an NGO, or something in a similar vein.”
“Like teaching?.” Harry concluded.
“Well, my first love was for history, I excelled in the subject and read History at Cambridge. After university, and with a good degree under my belt, I really didn’t have a clue what to do. My parents encouraged me to begin teacher training and, long-story-short, I drifted into R.E. as a specialised subject.”
“I studied History at university too!” said Harry, smiling broadly. “Cardiff.”
“So you understand how an ‘enquiring mind’ goes with the discipline.”
“Yes I do.” Harry leaned forward in his chair, rested elbows on knees, chin in both hands. “Subjectivity, objectivity, scrutiny, appraisal, it is – as you say, a discipline.”
“Indeed.” Greta ate more greenery, dabbed at her lips with the serviette, inhaled deeply.

“You realise,” Greta continued, “There is little to no hard evidence that Jesus ever lived?”
“Well, I am aware it’s arguable, for sure.” Harry checked the clock in the dining hall, noticing the catering staff closing down the service counter and most tables now cleared of schoolchildren.
“We both understand how unreliable accounts of historical events can be – usually from the hands of historians themselves and very much dependent upon which side you’re on. The differing accounts surrounding Jesus’ life weren’t written during his lifetime – and were probably not written by the men referred to as the authors.”
“Eat some more of your lunch.” Harry told Greta, pointing at her plate. “Look, I understand where you’re coming from; the same can be said for the Buddha. There’s little-to-no evidence he existed, the traditions depicting his life implausible and yet, if you attend a Buddhist meditation session, you’ll hear quotes – where it’s the Buddha said this and the Buddha said that.”
“And,” said Greta, stacking the remaining vegetables onto her fork, “it’s much the same with many other faiths. All we have are stories.”
“Fables and folklore” Harry watched on, as a spring onion spun around on Greta’s plate, evading all efforts to be pronged. “Come on Greta eat, lunch is nearly over.”
“Religion is merely an instrument of power, exerted by a privileged, powerful few over the gullible instincts of the many.” Greta said, picking up the wayward vegetable and popping it into her mouth. “The stories don’t change in substance and are used to form a belief system offering salvation to its followers, in exchange for their blind devotion. Suffer now for a better afterlife later.”
“It’s why people generally are skeptical about science. Because our understanding of scientific ‘facts’ change over time – therefore what is there to grip hold of?” Harry reached across the table and retrieved his newspaper. “You really do need faith to hold steadfast and maintain a belief in something that keeps changing.”
The bell sounding the end of lunch rang out in three separate five second blasts. Greta stood up from her seat. Harry stood up, pushed both chairs under the table.
“Perhaps I should have been a science teacher.” Greta said as she gathered her plate, cutlery and glass tumbler together onto a tray. “Look, thanks for listening, I want you to know that I really appreciate it.”
“My pleasure.” Harry winked.
“By-the-way Harry, are you free tonight?”