I was just making the final adjustments, tightening the quartz rod and squeezing a drop of oil onto it. And just at this vital moment, Lucy walked in with a brief, “Hi, Daddy,” sat down and commenced to write.
“What are you writing? Let’s have a look,” I said.
Lucy wasn’t enthusiastic. But then she never was about anything. She flashed a page in front of me, hastily withdrew it, and blushed. “As long as you don’t try to read any,” she said. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“At least tell me what it’s about,” I said, hurt.
“It’s about a hundred thousand words,” she said. “Only the first draft.”
“A hundred thousand?” that shocked me. “That’s a lot, you know.”
“I’ll have to revise it,” she said. “Before I can show it to anyone, that is.”
“At least tell me what it’s about,” I insisted.
She sighed with marked petulance. She was seventeen, it was her job. “It’s fan fic,” she said.
“You mean fan fiction?”
“The Twilight Saga. I don’t want that broadcasting, I might be infringing copyright.”
“What are you doing, anyway?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
She rounded on me, “Typical patronising man. You have no idea that I wouldn’t understand you!”
“Well, for one thing you’re my daughter. And another, I’ve helped with your physics homework. And I know you really wouldn’t understand this.”
“Oh,” she said, arms akimbo.”Well go on, try me!”
“It’s very advanced physics,” I explained. “It’s relativity. Even I don’t understand all of it.”
“Well,” she countered, “touché! Because, dear fah-thah, you wouldn’t understand this, either. So there!”
She handed me her manuscript. I looked at it and, blow me! I couldn’t. “What’s this written in,” I asked, “Greg or Pitman. Never mind. I can’t read either.”
“It’s not written in shorthand,” she said. “It’s written in Koine Greek and Ancient Hebrew. You’d be amazed at what they are teaching us at school these days, dee-ah fah-thah.”
“Why are they teaching that?”
“Oh, honestly, Dad! Didn’t you pay attention at parents’ evening? I’m doing ‘that’ and Middle Eastern history and geography. I did tell you. You’ve forgotten.”
“Oh? Why are you doing… um, that?”
“I’m going to be a Biblical scholar. You see, I knew I couldn’t become a wicked, atheistic scientist like you. I wasn’t about to study the Big Bang and evolution from lightning striking a rock for millions and millions of years. You still never explained to me why, if we evolved from monkeys, there are still monkeys?”
I groaned. My daughter, the Creationist! I’d never live it down at the RI Annual Dinner. “Anyway,” she concluded, “What are you making?”
“Oh, funnily enough, it’s a bit like you. You’re studying ancient languages. I discovered a mathematical cypher in one of old H. G. Wells’s books. Amazingly, he uses a form of binary code in the layout of the words.”
“You’ve lost me,” she said. “Just tell me what this code told you.”
I took a deep breath. “It’s a schematic for a time machine. Like the one Wells wrote about. I’ve built it, and I’m about to test it.”
“Bril! I’m coming with you,” she said. And there was no stopping her.
“I tell you what,” I said. “We’ll go back to Ancient Palestine, and you can try out your language skills on the natives.”
“I’m hardly fluent,” she said. “But hey! Will it be safe to do that? With my accent I’ll sound like a tourist, or spy! And as for you…”
“I’ll leave the talking to you, Luce.”
And so I did. It was, as Lucy said, ‘a riot’.
We came running back, miraculously unscathed. Lucy was still in a panic as we climbed down from the saddle of the time machine. “Dad,” she said. “Have you got my manuscript?”
“I thought you had it?”
“Oh, crumbs,” she said, (which was mild for her). “That’s awkward.”
“Why’s that, precious.”
“Well, it’s just I doubt that I could write it again. I’m supposed to be handing it in.”
“What, your Twilight Saga?”
“Oh, Dad,” she said. “It’s not really Twilight as such, well it is, but it’s one I set in Biblical times. Totally invented, you see. I made up a whole new Biblical story, really far fetched and supernatural, with ghosts and zombies and so on. I really got carried away. I thought it would be a laugh with straight laced Mr Samuels at school. Well, to pull his leg, sort of. I’m always doing that, inventing quotations and so on. This time I invented a whole new book, but one so far fetched that nobody would believe it. So that’s all right. It’s about a prophet called Jesus who was crucified by the Romans, then came back to life.”