Science Museum Space Exploration

The Old Man and the World


Sharif Gemie

‘This isn’t going to work. He never likes anything we choose.’


            ‘No prob’s, Gab. It’ll be cool.’

            ‘You’re always such an optimist, Raffy. No, I’m sick of it. The same thing every year. The old man grumbling into his bloody beard. Why do we go along with it?’

            ‘Tradition, innit?’

            ‘Yes, I know, but…’



It was as Gab predicted. The same as always: the long table, the glowing white light, the grumpy old man.

            ‘Watcha got?’ he rasped.

            For a moment, Gab couldn’t speak. But Raffy wasn’t frightened.

            ‘Yeah. Something real special.’

            ‘Like last year?’

            ‘Nah. Not like that,’ said Raffy.

            On the table a green-blue sphere slowly materialised. The Old Man frowned, then leant forward to look more closely. 


            ‘Wozzat?’ he growled.

            Gab could stay quiet no longer. ‘It’s a world.’

            ‘A world? I got one already.’

            ‘But not like this one,’ said Raffy.

            ‘I’ll say not!’ said the Old Man. He looked again. ‘I like the colour. But it ain’t stable.’

            ‘That’s evolution,’ said Raffy.

            ‘And it’s got natural selection,’ added Gab.

            The Old Man shook his head. ‘I dunno. Sounds complicated to me. Why d’you have to keep changing things?’

            ‘Progress, innit?’ said Raffy.



After Gab and Raffy left, the Old Man lifted up the world, and gazed upon it. He breathed over it, parted the earth and waters, and fiddled with the graphics control to make day and night clearer. Then he got bored and put it down.

            Later, his son visited and showed the Old Man how to finish the first stage. He offered to come round again and help take the world onto the next stage.

            ‘Leave it out, Jay,’ said the Old Man. ‘I can’t be arsed.’

Being a Short Digression on the Role of Popular Music from the 1960s
in Contemporary Courtship Rituals


Sharif Gemie

Second date. Going well, thought Joaquin. I like her. Nice smile, clever, witty. Little bangles that jingle when she picks up that cup. But now—a silence. Awkward. Order another coffee? No—

            ‘So, what’s your favourite Beatles' song?’ he asked.

            Fernanda blinked.

            Wrong question, he thought. Where did it come from? Can’t stop now.

            Fernanda looked away, glancing at the red-gold leaves on the trees outside, then to the lines of hills. She frowned.

            ‘What’s that one?’ she asked. ‘The man with the foolish grin?’

            ‘Fool on the Hill?’ he said. No. She thinks I’m an idiot.

            ‘Yeah, but—it’s not my favourite.’ She frowned again, then laughed.

            ‘There’s so many, aren’t there? Difficult to choose.’

            ‘Somehow you just seem to know them, don’t you?’ said Joaquin. ‘Without actually listening to them.’

            ‘I don’t like all of them.’

            ‘Too many, I s’pose.’

            ‘Then there’s…’ she was frowning again. ‘Take a—take a sad song and make it better?’

            ‘Hey Jude.’ This was more like it.

            ‘That’s the one with the na-na-na-na chorus at the end, isn’t it?’

            ‘Absolutely. Goes on for five minutes.’

            Fernanda shook her head, wrinkled her nose. ‘No. That bit goes on too long.’

            ‘So…’ he said.

            She looked at him, smiling. She was teasing him, he could see it. She knew what she liked. He smiled back.

            ‘There was—that other one…’

            ‘Yes?’ he said.

            ‘Their first one, their first big hit, the happy one.’

            Yeah, yeah, yeah, thought Joaquin.

Sharif Gemie is a retired History lecturer living in Newport. He is currently writing a historical novel set among UN aid-workers in Germany, 1945-46. He has been writing fiction for three years.