A poorly fed cat crosses the road, narrowly missing a double decker bus as she jumps onto the pavement and into a bush.
A man tries to trim the top of a hedge, but he can’t reach, his ladder will topple within the next few minutes.
A woman looks at her receipt from the supermarket and sees they’ve charged her twice for the same item. She knows that she’s gone too far to turn back.
The sky is too blue and bright for it to be October and the warm air clings too tightly to my skin for me to be comfortable in my winter coat.
I wait at the bus stop. I am joined by another man. He is bald, but not old. He seems healthy, and so, I assume he lost his hair at a very young age. I imagine it happened when he was just 16, still in school and suffering from an unspeakable emotional dilemma. In his hand is a box made of wood. I don’t know woods, but I think it might be maple.
“Have you seen this?” he says to me, as lifts his box closer to my face.
“Yes, it’s a nice box. What is it, maple or something?” I ask.
“I’m not sure. I don’t know the names of woods.” he tells me. I think about telling him that I’m the same, but it seems too mundane and unnecessary to say to another human being.
“The box itself isn’t what’s important” he says “It’s what’s inside. Take a look at this.” He opens the box and shows me a metallic orb, about the size of a hockey ball, resting on a bed of purple velvet. The sun shines down on it and casts a blinding glare. I wonder to myself, if I was taller and could look down at this man’s head, would it reflect the light just as well? Why are bald heads shiny when the rest of the body isn’t?
“This, my friend,” he says “is my greatest invention yet. It has taken me most of my adult life to create. This device can answer any question your mind can imagine.”
“Like a magic eight ball?” I ask.
“No, it is nothing like a magic eight ball. This device is the most incredible technological development in the past one hundred years.”
“More incredible than the Wii?”
“Of course it is. In order to make this machine work I had to master the secrets of time travel. It can answer any question about the past, present or future! Go on, ask a question!”
“No, thank you.” I tell him.
“But you must!” he cries, causing a bird resting on the roof of the bus stop to fly away. The opportunity to gain any knowledge your heart desires is a priceless gift.”
“But there’s nothing I want to know. Thank all the same, but I’m happy with the knowledge I already have, and I can always Google the rest.”
“Google!” he yells, startling a man who is reaching too far off his ladder and falls on top of an underfed cat. “Please, you must ask a question. If not for you, then for me. It’s taken so long to build.”
“Ok then. What’s my name?”
“Your name! This ball can tell you how many stars there are in the sky and you ask it to guess your name. Come on!”
“But there’s really nothing I want to know. Ok, what time will the bus arrive?”
“It says that on the timetable! 14.22! Please, this machine can tell you who killed Tutunkhamun, it can tell you the exact date the universe will end, it can tell you if God exists, it can tell you what tonight’s lottery numbers will be. Please, just take the lottery numbers.” A bus appears on the horizon. Clouds have started to appear in the sky.
“I don’t know, that seems a bit like cheating. I’d be robbing the real winner of millions of pounds. Just tell me who’ll win in the football tonight. Arsenal or Fulham?”
The bus gets closer. The man with the shiny metal ball placed on a purple velvet inside a box, which could very well be maple wood, catches sight of the bus and knows he doesn’t have much time.
“Fine” he says, as he rubs his hand over the orb like a bald man waxing his head.
“Arsenal or Fulham?” A moment passes and he looks up at me. “You could have discovered the meaning of life. Instead you have discovered the outcome of a game where 22 wealthy men try to kick a ball into a net. I hope this secret knowledge is of great importance to you and steers your life in all the right directions. You have failed yourself and the human race, but I am glad that I was able to prove that my invention works and give you this information. The answer is Arsenal.”
The bus arrives and the man with the orb walks away proud that he has proven he’s created a machine capable of unravelling life’s mysteries. Sadly there was no mystery here. Arsenal are in top form and Fulham haven’t won away from home all season.