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Reality Check

by Allen Scovil  
7/17/2008 / Short Stories


Jerry Mahar rested his chin on his hands, watching a softball game that the Mahar families had put together as part of a big picnic to celebrate the Canada Day long weekend. He was scared. At the opposite end of the picnic table sat his older cousin Sandi, but that wasn't why he was scared.

"What is real?" he blurted out.

"Huh?" Sandi turned to look at him. "Why aren't you playing softball?"

"They're all big kids and grownups," he said. Besides, he thought, I really don't want to right now.

She seemed to think for a moment. "Hit this table," she said finally.

"Huh?"

"Go ahead and bang it. Right here." She pointed to a spot.

He gave it a thump with the palm of his hand. "Yeah?"

"Feel it?"

"Uh-huh."

"That's real."

He frowned. "No, you don't get it. Like, how do you know we're not just in a big video game or something?"

"Video game?" she asked disdainfully. "No way!"

"But how do you know?"

"You're a dork, you know that?" She got up and walked over to sit on the grass by her mother.

Jerry laid his head on his arms. First I'm scared, he thought, and now I'm stupid. He sighed.

A moment later, the picnic table shifted, and he looked up. "Hi, Mike," he mumbled as a cousin from another branch of the family tree sat down across from him. He wondered why Mike wasn't playing softball until he caught sight of the cast on his foot.

"Hey, squirt," said Mike. "What were you discussing with Sandi? She looked kind of ticked off with you."

"Yeah. I asked her what 'real' is, 'cause I played this video game about being in a video game, and she called me a dork."

Mike laughed, and waved a hand dismissively. "That's a question philosophers have argued about for centuries, so there's no way that a mere grade-niner like Sandi would be able to help you."

"Oh," Jerry said, his hopes rising. "You're in university. Can you tell me?"

"Hmm." Mike put his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his hands. "Let's see." He was silent for a minute. "I think you could be on to something."

That wasn't what Jerry was looking for. "You mean we might really be in a video game?!"

"No, no. I mean that we and all this stuff around us might be unreal like a game." He indicated the park with a sweep of his hand.

"No way!" Jerry sagged, frustrated. "How do you figure that?"

Mike grimaced as he stretched his injured leg out onto the bench. "Okay, I'll keep it simple. Scientists who study these things are saying that matter -- that's what we're made of -- is made up of particles that are only complicated twists in space."

"What's that mean?"

"It means that matter is really only space, specially wrapped -- in other words, nothing."

Jerry swallowed, and his voice quavered. "We're made out of nothing?"

Mike hesitated, then nodded. "Right. But ..." He held up his index finger. "But God made us to be more than nothing, and He's definitely real."

"But we can't see Him."

Mike smiled as he looked at Jerry. "Can a video game character get out of its game and see us?"

Jerry giggled nervously. "Oh yeah." He thought for a while, then asked, "Why'd God make us then, if we're just a game?"

"That's God's secret."

"Aw, come on!"

"But He told us what the secret is."

"Yeah? What is it?"

"He gave His Son, Jesus."

"Jesus is a secret?"

Mike glanced up at a cloud that was drifting by. "Nope; giving is." Looking back at Jerry, he said, "You see, God made up this whole universe just to give it to us."

"How come? What does he get out of it?"

"Just one thing: the chance to keep on giving. All He wants is to give us what we need, and all He asks is that we give too. That's what's real for us, which is why we're more than nothing, more than just characters in a video game. If we give, we live. And Jesus, he came and showed us what giving is all about too, to teach us."

"Oh." Jerry stood up, feeling better. "Uh, thanks," he said, and started off toward the ball diamond.

"You're welcome, squirt!"

Allen Scovil has been writing as a hobby since 2003, struggling to learn to tell the story that God has put on his heart.
(c) 2008

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