Change is inevitable, they say. Change is all around. Everything changes. We are all changing, all the time. In everyday speech, we are constantly being made aware of these observations — so often that they’ve turned into cliché.
A good, well-received story is one that shows the evolution of a character, or characters, from one point in their lives to another; how, through circumstance and happenstance, the character moves from, say, lowliness to success; from seemingly eternal grief to joy; from the dizzying heights of success to that equally dizzying gravitational plunge.
Readers shut a book at its end and say, ‘That’s what makes a good story, though you just don’t want it to end.’ But all stories, just like all lives, are, sadly, finite.
There comes a point when that final ‘full stop’ has to be affixed. This is, some of us are frequently told when young, The Day of Reckoning. Or, Judgement Day. The day when, ‘all your deeds on earth are going to be evaluated.’ And then, what?
‘Then, whatever happens happens,’ as Jeffrey’s mum used to say, because she herself was still alive and so didn’t have the answer. Either that, or she loved clinging to the vagueness of what ‘may or may not happen.’
Jeff’s mum’s circle of friends used to include devout believers and those at the other end of the spectrum, so in most cases, in order to keep all her friends happy, she herself straddled a fence, or ‘I took the Middle Path,’ as she used to like to describe her non-partial position.
Jeff’s dad used to remind her, only half in jest I now realise, that, ‘You sit too long on a fence, you could do yourself serious damage, especially if it’s a picket one like ours. Choose one side, and stay there!’
But Jeff’s mum always used to counter, ‘The problem with that, Jerry, is that you only get to see one side of things. Up here on the fence, I can see both points of view and even appreciate the landscape.’
Jeff’s mum had two boys. Jeff and Jeremiah, who, inevitably got called Jerry, like his dad and so, to avoid the confusion of having two Jerrys in the house, everybody took to calling Jeremiah Tom.
Just so that the family could be amused whenever Jerry took his younger son out for a stroll, the rest of the family could say, ‘Look, there’s Tom & Jerry going a-walking.’ Or, something like that.
Career in bookkeeping
It was all good-humoured back in the day when the kids — Jeff and Jeremiah — were growing. Jeff went on to have a career in bookkeeping, a career that doesn’t and didn’t even in those days make headlines.
Bookkeepers were often the sort that, one was given to understand, worked in gloomy, unlit spaces where, soon, they were required to wear spectacles because of the plethora of fine print they were required to read.
Tom, on the other hand, or Jeremiah, became a craftsman, working with wood. On the surface, another mundane career, one would think, until one actually saw the kind of stuff Tom was producing.
Back in the day when the word ‘miracle’ was starting to be used rather loosely, Tom’s wood creations were called exactly that, ‘little’ or ‘huge’ miracles.
In no time his fame grew, and he went from being a humble rail worker’s son to one worth millions; also, to one who, sadly, went from a boyhood of utter humility to one of sneering scornfulness, displaying an amazing skill for looking down upon others, particularly his family.
Things change, people change, as they’ve always said. And some, with sharp insight into human nature, have also pointed out that, ‘Pride serves mostly at the doors of success.’
— Kevin Martin is a journalist based in Sydney, Australia.