Detail from Big Bang by Dale Mackie
Stephen Hawking in The Heavenly Tea Rooms
The Heavenly Tea Rooms open at 10.00 am in The Celestial Garden of Paradisiacal Delight. The ladies assemble. They are beaming and beatific in the radiance of the morning sunlight that dapples the grass through the trees in the Edenic avenue leading to the shimmering crystal courtyard.
This is where the ladies gather daily; the welcoming committee of grandmothers and great grandmothers, aunts and great aunts. They are majestic as ancient oaks in their white-haired, wizened age. They are abundant with wisdom that dances in their light-filled eyes. Bony as birds, bent over silver-topped canes they carry the grace of well-lived years. Crowned with magnificent hats, plumed like peacocks and bedecked with the pearls of past tears, the ladies dazzle.
The waiter approaches and they rain smiles of pure love upon him for he is their most beloved one. He is a soulful and solemn fellow, dark skinned, bearded and exuding serenity and calm that exceeds his thirty or so years of common age.
‘My most dear ladies,’ he says with a voice that makes all living things take heed. He is solicitous without being oleaginous, taking care to help seat the ladies and attend to their comfort.
‘Dearest heart,’ says one of the ladies in a voice that tinkles like a tiny glass bell, ‘today is most auspicious.’
‘Indeed, indeed,’ he replies, smiling with his whole being.
‘And has he arrived?’ says another lady, a lady so finely featured she could be mistaken for a porcelain doll.
‘Oh yes, safely delivered and somewhat surprised. But thoroughly gladdened.’
‘Oh splendid. And has he spoken with…’
The waiter cuts her off with a laugh that ripples the air like an enormous tickle.
‘Oh yes, yes! They have been in deep conversation since he arrived and seem to be delighting in each other’s company.’
The ladies laugh sweetly and smile to each other, the knowing smiles of compassionate understanding born of loving companionship.
The waiter pours tea into each lady’s cup. The air is filled with the finest aromas. The ladies sigh contentedly and help themselves to delicate slices of lemon cake. There is an air of expectation. The waiter leans in and says, ‘dear ladies, the moment is at hand, but before he enters, I must tell you to check the ether, I think it may be of interest.’
The ladies close their eyes and join hands. They laugh, frown, give little gasps and tuts. Then they resume their ritual of tea and cake.
‘Dear boy, our friends in the Westboro Baptist church never fail to be disappointing do they?’ says the silver bell lady. The waiter shakes his head sadly.
‘And some of those gun-toting lunatics have a strange idea of where they are headed,’ says the porcelain lady.
Their voices contain no judgment, only sadness.
‘The face of ignorance is unblessed,’ says the waiter, ‘and ubiquitous.’
‘Well, when their day comes, won’t they be in for a surprise?’
‘Judge not, and ye shall not be judged,’ says the waiter, ‘and yet so many choose to be judges.’
The air changes very subtly and in a moment. The ladies shiver delightedly and rise from their seats. They turn their attention to the doorway. A child, a dear little boy with Blakeian, fleece-like hair dances through, laughing brightly. He carries a bright yellow balloon in one hand and in his being the very light of the universe. He smiles a heart mending smile of pure love.
A step or two behind is a slow moving, uncertain figure of a man. His expression is one of awe and bewildered wonder. He blinks and smiles at the ladies whose eyes are shining with tears of unbridled joy. The porcelain lady steps towards him and extends her hand in greeting.
‘Professor Hawking, welcome to the Heavenly Tea Gardens, it is such a delight to finally meet you in person.’
Professor Hawking, for indeed it is he, takes her hand and shakes it with great tenderness. The little boy watches him for a moment and then goes to stand by the waiter who gives a deferential bow.
The Heavenly Tea Gardens begin to shimmer and tremble slightly. Everyone’s gaze falls beyond its walls to where the universe beyond is opening and expanding. Stars dance, planets gyrate, galaxies and milky ways tumble. And the music, oh, the music. It is, of course the music of the spheres. The porcelain lady turns to Professor Hawking and says,
‘Dear Professor, it is all yours, to enjoy, and explore and delight in for all eternity. But first, do take tea. After all, you have all the time in the world …’