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Digging about in the Garden

by BryanW 

Posted: 29 April 2017
Word Count: 1000
Summary: For Challenge 640 - The Garden of Cosmic Speculation.

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So - Is it you in this picture then? In the Garden?  
 Yes. There's me. In the second row. Behind the bloke with the round glasses and I'm-having-an-electric-shock hair. I’m the one with the old man’s grey barnet and the rather lost smile, next to  the woman with the constantly furrowed brow and constipated look.

OK. So what was your reason for going to the Garden?
Reason for going? Well, I'm not a hundred per cent on why. I’ve just had my birthday. My seventieth.  My three score and ten. And I haven’t been well. It's made me think about … things. You know.

Yes, I know.
So I've been looking back, you see, on what I’ve done with myself all these years.  That’s why I’ve got this photo album here.  Been going through my life. Not that photos show much. Not the inner bit, if you know what I mean.

Yes, I do.
The photo you’re looking at is my latest - you see I'm getting on. I was hoping to find out what it's all been for. Why was I here? The big question.

I see. So how did you get on?
Well, I didn’t stick around with the others. I mean this was a journey you've got to do alone. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Ahem. So off I went - the anti-clockwise way.

Tell me what do you think of the garden?
Not much in the way of a garden. Not as you’d think of one. A lot of space. A few old statues.

Yeh. Took me by surprise, too. Specially when they spoke.

Helpful were they?
The first one. Well, yes, it was the figure of my old maths teacher. He reminded me of that lesson he gave us in the lower 6th - the one about probability. I’d forgotten it. Or, rather, I’d made myself forget it. But my goodness, what a lesson! Made us think.

A maths teacher. Making you think. Blimey!
One of us, Dave, the loud-mouthed kid, asked him what was the probability of his being here. Of existing. And the teacher said - practically zero. He said 'The probability of your dad getting off with your mum - of all the women that he'd ever met (say, 20,000)  and then her getting knocked up with you inside her? Or her being attracted to him, for that matter (another 20,000). The odds are pretty enormous against it.'
'It's worse than that, sir. They met at a dance. Only time either had been there. Lived miles apart. And anyway, my dad’s got halitowhatsit and he’s the most boring man you’ll ever meet. Dunno how anyone'd fancy him.'
'You see we've all grown from unique zygotes, a mixture of unique gametes.  Your dad will have produced, conservatively, 12 trillion sperm over his, let’s say, active lifetime. Your mum, 100,000 eggs. So chances of you are 1 in 12 trillion times 100,000. 
'Same odds for each of your grandparents, great grandparents etc all the generations back in your lineage until the beginning of mankind ... perhaps 5,000 generations. Oh, then there's the odds against each of them reaching reproductive age.
'So, class, get your calculators out.' And he wrote on the board. What are the odds of etc …I tell you, it stopped us all giggling at the thought of Dave's mum and dad having it off. No doubt he was trying to make us grateful to be here - but I just felt dizzy and horrified at the uncertainty of it all. I felt sick, and I felt irrelevant amongst all those numbers.

Yes. Then the next statue. Charles Darwin. I asked him why I was here. He explained I was here to survive long enough to breed and ensure the success of any progeny. 
'Is that all Charles?'  I asked.
'Do you have children?' he said.
'Well, I haven’t seen my kids since I retired.'
'You don’t have to tell me about family tensions,' he said. 'But have they gone forth and multiplied?'
'Well, yes.'
'There you are then.'
'But is that a good enough reason?'
'Well, one of your kids kids, or their kids, or their kids might improve the species - and that’d be partly down to you, wouldn’t it?'

Who did you meet next?
Oh, it was a bunch of statues. All draped in long robes. All arguing.

Religious leaders then.
How did you guess?

Well what did they say to you about why you were here?
One said it was to praise God and thank Him. I found that a bit odd - a bit egotistical of Him. Others suggested I should cleanse the sin I was born with. A bit harsh that. Did I do anything bad in those first moments of life? Others, well, suggested I was here to find myself. But that’s why I came to the Garden in the first place. I asked if they’d help me - the best they came up with was "seek and you shall find". Now I know that’s not true. It never worked with my last set of keys, or those glasses I lost last year. As for my search for meaning … well.
Then I bumped into the philosopher lot - there were more of them. Tell me why am I here? I asked.

Any help?
You’ve got to be joking. I never got past the "what do you mean by why?" And "where is here?"
And that’s when I met you. Are you the gardener? 

You could call me that.
So, tell me, do you know why I’m here? 

And why I’m no longer in the Garden.

Ah, you noticed..
Well, tell me. Where am I? And why … why am I here?

I think you know.
What do you mean you think I know? Oh … oh. I see. You mean I’ve … Bloody hell, I never thought it would be like this. 

No one ever does.

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Comments by other Members

TassieDevil at 19:42 on 03 May 2017  Report this post
Well that was one enigmatic, mind-blowing story, Bryan.
Just the thing to stir up my little thoughts when I'm trying to relax. You do realise I'm now going to be awake as I try to ponder the answers to the end of story questions. So thanks for that mate.
Beautifully written and clever style of dialogue. Loved the famous people in your garden.

BryanW at 16:13 on 04 May 2017  Report this post
Thanks, Alan, for your very positive comments. Mmm - The last, enigmatic, lines were supposed to suggest that he'd moved on from the garden to his final afterlife place and this reveal at the story end is that the garden had been just a place to sort of prepare yourself for that ... sort of thing. That's my writing for you - an enigma wrapped in a riddle.
Oh well ... 

TassieDevil at 18:02 on 04 May 2017  Report this post
Absolutely nothing wrong with that. The best writing leaves you with unanswered questions in my opinion. No one wants everything spoon fed to them.

Bazz at 18:58 on 07 May 2017  Report this post
Interesting piece, Bryan, the flow of it, diaIogue driven, really helps the ideas to breathe. I like all the different statues, variously helpful and unhelpful, their teasing and unravelling of his journey. There's a lot to unpick here as well, especially the final exchange ("i'm no longer in the garden"), and the quite original vision of the afterlife...

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