Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The tomato and the tortoise.

To be young takes a very long time - Picasso.

We are outside play school in not-to-warm-sun but lemonade-bright-yellow, the wind is sharp, like the edge of an ice cube against your face, but not as cold as the need for an Eskimo. We are going on the 89 bus with Misses Proudfoot and Ms. Lilly. They are the bestest teachers in any mile. I think a mile is a long way to walk without an s at the start of it. Ms. Lilly says that I am a clever boy, to think such a thought, both ends of her mouth got bigger, like a flower stretching in the sun, though the flower is her smile. Me, Harry, Lydia, Jackamo, Joyce, Steven, Ted and Jackie, and Linda, with lemon hair, all are waiting, on tender foot excitement. We stamp up and down, and point at the sky like it's a person. The bus arrives, all hiss and fume and rattle, bright red, like an apple or a tomato. A tomato tastes wet. An apple tastes sweet. 'We are going inside, to sit inside an apple or a tomato, Ms! I can't decide.' and she frowns in a way that means she is happy, but says the word precocious, which is a type of food, but one I do not understand.

Jackamo says, an apple is a circle and a bus is a square. And I said a square is only a circle with edges. And he said, maybe. Jackie, is humming a song, hopping up the stairs, she is good at hopping even though she wears glasses. Me and Harry sit at the front window, Jackamo and Ted, sit on the other side, and all four of us drive together, blowing the horns and skidding round corners. What an amazing tomato to drive in. And everyone agrees. Steven and Lydia are practicing singing to themselves or talking inside their heads. The bus sings with noise sun bursts through onto our faces, everything is bright and it's hard not to feel happy as we go.

We are going to the science centre, because that's were the world works. Joyce says – we are driving an apple-bus. Steven says – no, a tomato-bus. Linda says – a strawberry-bus. Harry says a potato, and everyone falls silent for a second, and laughs as they realise potatoes are the colour of skin, not buses. Mrs Proudfoot is talking about orders, and Misses Lilly listens with head nodding attention. We don't understand. We turn the corner, all of us driving on our chairs, and a bridge appears and we go under the bridge, and Jackamo shouts – 'It's night time!' then we come into the light, and Jackamo shouts – 'It's day time.' It is the quickest day. We all agree. We want to go back and forth under the bridge so we can have more than 10 days and nights in one day. Jackie can't count to ten so she can only have eight days, but we will wait for her, in the other two days. And we keep on driving the tomato, faster, through lights and the serious world. We pretend to lick the chairs and eat the windows, but it is no use. You can only eat an apple from the outside in, so we have to wait until we get off.

We are the seeds inside the tomato, Misses Lilly as her smile becomes Ms. Proudfoots smile. I think, we might be the seeds inside the tomato, maybe the seats are seeds. And Linda shouts, we are the green of the strawberry, but that confused me a bit. The science centre is bigger than a house, said Misses Lilly, bigger than nursery, bigger than five high schools, we couldn't imagine five high schools, and wondered how they could fit a science centre inside a world or even inside a mile. A mile is a long way to walk, Mrs Proudfoot taught us this morning, so we remember. She says, a mile is further than from my front door to the play school. And, Dad drives me to the school, and it takes as long as the bus, so she is right.

Linda says science centre is huge, like a machine, which can eat us. The swing doors are mouths into the belly. We all tremble and shake like it's snowing. I am scared of the idea, everyone is scared of the ideas, but not of the doors, and Linda holds my hand, and says that if it is actually a monster, she will ask Misses Lilly to call her Mother; we look into each others eyes and I promise to go inside the mouth first and check if it is OK, if it is, I will come back and tell her; and Linda says thank you and smiles and this made me grow a smile too. 'Nearly there everyone...' Misses Proudfoot sings out, and we bounce up and down, and wring our hands like they are on fire. And Jackamo messed up his hair and gasped and put his hand over his mouth because excitement made him crazy. And Jackie sang: 'We're driving a tomato, we're in a tomato.' We hissed with joy. And, the building came into view – we could see it – it is like a giant shell, like a tortoise, but grey like metal, and not green like tortoise; but Linda said it's a tortoise, slow and old, like an old man; so me and Linda thought, tortoise aren't monsters, they are nice, take their time and are gentle. And we gasp long like something when something bad has been avoided for something gooder. Much gooder. And we can’t wait to understand how science has invented the world.

We are going to understand science, the place were they made the world. Misses Proudfoot says science was about being sensible, and testing things, and I says, like putting your finger into water to see if it was OK to put in all the hand, and she nods, yes. Science is like that. Like making bubbles in water, smashing red roses into dust, showing the corners of the universe, switching one hundred light bulbs at the same time, and talking to dinosaurs. And everyone shouts yes! Science is amazing, an old slow man, who wouldn't run away but let us play with the toys he has made, and ask us to make some. And Misses Lilly asks us all to hold hands and shut our eyes, and love while we hold them, and then the tortoise, and open them.

(Editing to be done.)


Titus said...

Oh, this carried me along.

And as to the final sentence: if only.

We were there a few weeks ago with the young ones. Nina didn't show.

McGuire said...

Glad it carried you Titus, I think it might be a bit long, but I'll edit it and see what happens.

And yes, if only, in the last sentence; I mean, children often show signs of being little utopian soldiers, but then reality gets in the way and often thw downward spirtal into cynicism, hormones and indifference.

Who is Nina? A tortoise?

Titus said...

Sorry, I was in the land of pre-schoolers until recently.
She is a lovely lady scientist who lives at The Science Centre with her five Neurons, who help her find things out. I don't think the neurons are real.
Catch her on CBeebies, "Nina and the Neurons". Great theme tune.