Albert and Jarvis part 27

a tale in weekly parts


This story is open for suggested continuations. I will publish here, with links to your own blog, all I receive. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) the next episode of this collaborative tale.

You can see the full story so far at this link.

Episode 27

“Look at what your dog has done, Alex!” mother screamed from the kitchen.

“Xander, Mum,” came the response, which totally failed to please or impress the boy’s mother.

“Never mind that; just get in here and see what your dog has just done.”

“Why is it that he’s my dog when he’s done something wrong, but the family dog otherwise?”

“Because,” his father interjected, “that’s just the way things work. Now, go in and see what’s upset your mother.”

Alex ambled toward the kitchen to find Chav’s face covered in pinkish-red crumbly stuff, and an upturned Pyrex dish on the floor. That it wasn’t in pieces was thanks to Mr Grahamson having agreed, a few months before, to cover the kitchen floor with hard-wearing carpet tiles that were backed with half a centimetre of sturdy foam. And that was only under extreme pressure from Mrs Grahamson, who had two habitual practices: walking around the kitchen in her bare feet, and complaining about the coldness of the highly attractive and equally expensive quarry tiles that she had insisted her husband install only three years earlier.

“Chav, you bad boy!” Xander said, and immediately started laughing.

“I don’t see what there is to laugh about,” his mother said.

“It’s no wonder he’s such a porker,” Xander chuckled, then tried to be serious. “Has he done this before, Mum?”

“Yes he has, but in fairness, only every chance he gets,” she said. “I should probably blame myself in part; I know what he’s like in the kitchen, and should have made sure it was out of reach.”

“It won’t hurt us to do without our afters just once, Mum,” Xander said.

“No need for that, Son,” she replied, “there’s another one in the fridge. I’ll just give it a couple of minutes in the microwave.”

“Put the bloody dog in the microwave!” Dad shouted from the dining room.

Mum and Xander laughed at that idea. The way in which Chav was cowering in the corner of the kitchen suggested that he knew that he had done something bad, and that he may possibly have understood from Mr Grahamson’s outburst that his immediate future was unlikely to be a happy one.

Seated around the table, devouring the reserve crumble, the subject of discussion went back to the proposed trip to France.

“So when do you reckon on going, lad?” Dad asked.

“As soon as you can get some time off, Dad,” Xander replied.

“Let’s make it this weekend, before I change my mind, then.”

“Will you be able to have Friday and Monday off at only two days’ notice?” his wife asked sweetly and immediately flinched. They’d been married for a while, you see.

“They bloody owe me!” her husband bellowed. “I’ll not ask for it, I’ll damned-well tell them I’m taking it. D’you think I won’t? D’you think I haven’t got the bottle? For God’s sake, woman.”

“Dad! Mum only asked. She didn’t say you couldn’t, but sometimes it’s not convenient for the firm to have people off.”

“Not convenient? Not con-bloody-venient? I’m taking it, and that’s all there is to it.”

“Fair enough, Dad. I’ll have to see if I can get the days away from school.”

“Take a tip from your dear old Dad, son. Don’t ask, bloody tell them. Besides, it’ll give the rest of your class a couple of days to try to catch up with you.”

Having cleared his temper out of the way, Xander’s parents started asking him about Rocamadour, so they’d be prepared for what they might see when they get there.

“I can’t say too much, Dad,” Xander explained, “I can tell you what I’ve found on-line, but I haven’t been there for eight hundred years. It might have changed a bit in that time.”

“What will the weather be like?” Mum asked, “I need to know what to wear.”

“Jarvis has plenty of room, Mum,” Xander said, “you’ll be able to take enough for any weather and change when we get there. This time of year, though, it shouldn’t be cold, but it might rain, and it could be a bit windy.”

Two days later, they stepped into Jarvis, ready for their trip.

“By heck, son,” Mr Grahamson said as they passed through the door, “I’m sure it wasn’t this big when we came here before.”

“No, Dad. But if you remember, last time you were here you thought this was just an old shepherd’s hut where Uncle Albert lived. Now, you’re seeing Jarvis as he is.”

“Is it really this big, or is this some kind of optical illusion?”

Albert stepped up behind him.

“What is reality? What is illusion? You see a flower, and you describe it as the colour that you see, but no two people have identical colour perception. Look at this screen. I’ll pull up a web site.” He called up a well-known public web site. “What colour would you say the background is?”

“Yellow,” Mr Grahamson said, “pale yellow.”

“Now let’s call up the same site over here.”

“Must be something wrong with this one. It’s kind of orangey-pink.”

“See my point? Neither is wrong; neither is right. They are different, that’s all. What you see here, you could call an illusion. If you measure the outside, you’ll have a set of dimensions a lot smaller than you’ll get if you measure inside.”

“So it’s an illusion, then.”

“Is it? You can walk around in here, and stretch a tape measure to find its size. Can you do that in an illusion?”

“So – are we on Earth in here?”

“Yes we are.”

Xander’s father started walking around, alternately scratching his head and rubbing his chin.

“If it’s not a daft question; are we all at the same time?”

Xander and Albert chuckled at that.

“It’s not a daft question, Dad,” Xander said, “and the answer is  yes, we are. Time travel could cause serious harm to you and Mum, and we’re not going to risk that.”

“Wouldn’t it harm the dog, too?” Mum asked.

“Oddly enough,” Albert replied, “it wouldn’t. The reason it could harm you is linked to your intellect. You would, naturally, try to understand what was happening, rationalise it and incorporate it into your world-view. Remarkably few humans can cope with that.”

“And dogs?” Mum pressed.

“Dogs have no concept of past or future. They live very much in the moment.”

“But they remember things, surely?”

“They do remember things, but you mustn’t confuse memory with time-awareness. Show a dog something that has harmed it in the past and it will shrink away. It will know that the thing it’s seen is harmful, but it isn’t likely to know that the event that it remembered had a place in the flow of time. It’s hard for us to understand, because we can’t think like dogs.”

“I understand,” Dad said. “Well, I don’t, but if I say I do, it’ll stop Xander from spending hours explaining it to us and confusing us even more.”

Albert laughed; Xander blushed.

Jarvis’s voice boomed out, “Take a seat everyone, let’s go to France.”

That was the first time either of Xander’s parents had heard Jarvis.

“What the f—”, Xander’s father yelled.

“Don’t worry, Dad; it’s just Jarvis. You can stop barking too, Chav,” Xander said, raising a hand to silence his pet. Of course, Chav being a Jack Russell Terrier, it made no difference whatever.

Four airline-style seats and a small cradle-like couch appeared in one side, at which Xander’s mother pulled a face that indicated she was impressed with the provision.

“No economy class here,” she said, “they look dead comfy.”

“It should only take about twenty minutes,” Albert said, strapping himself in (not that he needed to, but it gave the newcomers the feeling that he was in this with them in almost exactly the way recombining wouldn’t), “but we might as well be comfortable, eh?”

“I could get used to this,” Mr Grahamson said, “beats the budget airlines we’ve used in the past, don’t you think, Mother?”

Mother didn’t answer, although her gentle snoring did serve to answer for her.

Twenty minutes later, there was the merest hint of a jolt in the cabin.

“I wondered when we’d get around to taking off,” Xander’s father said.

“No, Dad, we’ve just arrived. You can take your seat-belt off now.”

They all unstrapped and stood up. The seats immediately reincorporated into the walls. Albert led the way to the door, and opened it. They had arrived onto a flood plain that was obviously doing its job well. Jarvis was axle-deep in wet, squelchy mud and, by the door, only the top step was clear of the mire.

This story remains open for suggested continuations. All I receive will be published here, with links to your own blog. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) episode 28 of this collaborative tale.

This story was started in response to Kreative Kue 18, issued on this site on 30 March 2015.