Updated: Jan 18
Children don't baulk at the big questions in life ... What is death? Why are we here? What is nature? Who's in charge of the world?
Here's Robert Carrick's fictional take on the perennial existential quest ...
‘Nanna, do you believe in God?’ Charlotte asked, as her grandmother helped carry her birthday presents from the car into her home.
‘That’s a big question, especially on your birthday!’
Nancy laughed as she placed the shopping bag full of presents on Charlotte's mother's coffee table. She recalled listening to the sound of Charlotte’s voice echo around their local church at Christmas mass as they both sang carols in their matching yellow summer dresses, with just under sixty years between them.
It was lovely to have her company in church. I suppose I should be grateful that she's asking me this question, and not the internet. She is nine years old now, after all, Nancy thought.
‘Let’s have a nice cup of tea before I answer that,’ she said.
Charlotte followed Nancy into the kitchen and sat on a high stool at the island bench while her grandmother put the kettle on and rummaged around to find some tea bags and shortbread biscuits.
Nancy placed the steaming hot mugs of milky tea and sweet biscuits in front of Charlotte and sat on the stool opposite.
‘So, what do you want to know?’
‘I want to know if you believe that God made all the animals.’
Nancy looked into the blue eyes of her blonde granddaughter as she repeatedly dunked her shortbread biscuit into the tea and sucked on the soggy end.
‘Perhaps I should start by telling you what I don’t believe in, and that is, I don’t believe that God is an old white man who woke up one morning and decided to make the universe in a week.’
Charlotte stopped sucking on the biscuit and caught her grandmother’s intense gaze.
‘I get it, Nanna. What else don’t you believe in?’
‘I don’t believe we would be sitting here having this conversation if there wasn't an extra dimension to the energy and matter of the stars.’
‘Okay, so what do you believe in then?’
‘My conclusion is that life must be a basic part of the whole universe and that all living things, from the smallest microorganism to the big animals like lions, whales and elephants, share a common experience with us.’
‘And what is that?’
‘We all have our time.’
‘Our time? But Nanna, what do we have in common with butterflies that only live for a few days, and whales that can live for a hundred and fifty years?
‘My dear child, how long you live for only matters if you remember the past or imagine the future. Otherwise, all living creatures are just living in the moment, like you and me right now.’
Charlotte dunked another biscuit in her tea.
‘Nanna, you still haven’t answered my question.’
Nancy picked up her mug of tea, holding it close enough to draw in its steamy aroma.
‘What if I said that I believe that the universe is alive, and has been, and always will be, until the end of time and that I have a name for it?’
‘Okay, what do you call it?' Charlotte asked.
‘I call it, "God".'
text Robert Carrick;
This SSOA blog offers publication
of flash fiction to emerging writers attending SSOA weekly meetups.