Oliver came out of the house and onto the porch a little after the last bit of sun ducked beneath the horizon. He saw the tether leading up into the tree and the silhouette of the boy sitting on the branch against the now muted colors of the sunset. At first, he smiled at the sight, and almost called out to him, but then something caught in his throat and a look of sadness, even pain, veiled his face as he closed his eyes and bowed his head. He stood in this aspect for just a moment or two. He raised his head again and his eyes were a bit moist, yet he mustered a small smile as he stepped down from the porch and approached the tree.
“I see you’ve conquered the tree. Impressive,” said Oliver.
“It wasn’t hard.”
“When I first saw you, you reminded me of my son. He used to climb this tree too. Of course, he used a ladder. He was younger than you.”
“I don’t need a ladder.”
“So I see. Well, it’ll be dark very soon. I’ll go get my telescope, and we’ll have a look.”
“You have a telescope?”
“Yes...and it’s a good one too,” he said, mimicking the creature’s previous statement. Oliver walked over to the barn, which was near his house, and after about ten minutes, the noise of a tractor engine broke the quiet of the evening. As the noise grew louder, the creature craned his neck to see a tractor pulling a large object covered with a black tarp.
“Wow…” said the creature. Instantly, he swung down from the branch, hung for a moment, then dropped to the ground. The tractor pulled around to the other side of the flagpole, away from the tree and the house.
Oliver shut off the motor and got down from the tractor. “What do you think?”
“That thing’s huge!”
“Indeed it is. Do you know the magnification of your telescope at home?”
“Well, I can’t remember the magnification of this one either. I’ve heard it’s not that important anyway. What’s more important is the aperture and the resolution.”
Oliver began to unzip the tarp encasing the scope. “Aperture is the amount of light the scope can capture. Resolution is the clarity of the image.”
“Well, does this have good…uh…what you said?”
“Well, the man I bought it from told me it was better than the scopes of most amateur astronomers.” He removed the tarp. “I believe he said it would make it easily into the top 20% of all the scopes in the world. Of course, that was ten years ago.”
The creature goggled at the large black instrument. “Woooooow. I’ve never looked through one this big before.”
“Really? There’s an observatory over in Delaware…Perkins Observatory, I think it’s called. Maybe we’ll take a trip over there sometime. That telescope makes this one look like a pee-shooter.”
“I used to be quite an astronomer…when my son was here. But I haven’t used this telescope for the past seven years.”
“Geez, why not?”
“I...well...I guess the desire just left me.”
As it was not yet quite dark enough, Oliver laid down on the ground, propped up on his elbows. The creature squatted beside him.
“How much did it cost?”
“Well, the man that sold it to me just wanted to get rid of it. He originally wanted two thousand dollars for it, but he sold it to me for a thousand. I imagine if you tried to buy something like this at a store somewhere, it would cost several thousands of dollars.”
“Wow...well, let’s look at something!”
“It’s not quite dark enough yet. I see Polaris and Venus, but they’re not all that interesting to look at. We’ll wait until it gets darker and maybe have a look at Saturn first. That’s always a crowd pleaser. Then maybe Jupiter, and, of course, the moon.”
The telescope had a seat as part of its structure. The creature climbed up into it and his hands roamed over the manual controls of the device.
“How does it work?”
“I’ll show you. Get out for a second.” Oliver climbed into the seat. In front of him, beneath the main body of the telescope, was a disk of about sixteen inches in diameter with its rim facing toward Oliver. There was a handle at the top of one face of the disk and another at the bottom of the opposite face. Oliver grasped both handles and began turning the disk counter-clockwise, as if he were pedaling a bike with his hands. The main body of the telescope slowly lowered as he turned.
“This wheel raises and lowers the scope, and these,” Oliver grasped the handle of another disk on the right side of the chair and another on the left side, and began turning them with the same kind of pedaling motion. The whole device, seat and all, slowly rotated. “These wheels rotate the scope 360 degrees. With these two controls, we can train the scope on any part of the sky we want.”
Oliver placed his hand on a lever beside the seat. “This lever switches the movement of the scope from course to fine. It’s back now, and you saw how slowly the scope moved when I turned the wheel. Watch how fast it moves when I push the lever forward.” He pushed the lever forward and turned the wheel clockwise. The scope rose much faster than it had lowered before. He turned the wheels on either side of the seat and the scope also rotated much faster.
“Wooooow…can I try?”
“Sure.” Oliver climbed down from the seat and the creature climbed in. “Why don’t you lower the scope? I have to remove the lens cover.”
The creature turned the disk in front of him with a little more difficulty than Oliver, but he eventually lowered it enough for Oliver to reach the lens cover, which was a large piece of black vinyl secured over the end of the scope with snaps. Oliver unsnapped it and tossed it to the ground. The creature stood in the seat and put his eye to the eyepiece.
“Hey, I can’t see anything.”
Oliver smiled. “You have it lowered. You have to raise it up.”
“Oh, jeez, yeah.” He sat down and began cranking the wheel to raise the scope. He tried, but still saw nothing. Oliver told him to be patient and wait until it darkened more, then he’d show him how to aim the scope at a target.
Oliver stretched out on the ground with his hands behind his head, gazed up at the darkening sky, and sighed. He said, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.”
“What? What’s that mean?” asked the creature.
“It’s from the Bible. It means if you need evidence to believe in God, just look at the stars. They’ll tell you about Him.”
The creature slid down from the seat and laid on the ground next to Oliver to look at the stars. “Huh. What do you mean? What do stars tell you about God?”
“Well, where do you suppose the stars came from?”
“Well, in school, they told us about the Big Bang and everything, and how everything sort of grew from that.”
“Do you believe it?”
“Well, it’s what the scientists say happened.”
“Hmm...tell me, have you ever blown up a balloon until it popped?”
“Ever lit a firecracker?”
The creature turned toward Oliver, propping himself on one elbow. “Oh, yeah! Once, I put a cherry bomb in a bag of potato chips...BLOOEY!”
Oliver laughed. “Ever seen footage of dynamite exploding or maybe even a nuclear bomb?”
“Sure. All the time.”
“Now tell me, with all those different types of explosions you’ve witnessed, did things look better or worse after the explosion? Was it more organized or disorganized?
Oliver laughed again. “Suppose I were to plant fifty sticks of dynamite under my truck and blow it to smithereens...”
Oliver chuckled. “...Do you suppose if I waited a few years after that explosion, even billions and trillions of years, the pieces of my truck might somehow reassemble themselves into a Ferrari?”
Now it was the creature’s turn to laugh. “Get real!” he hooted. They laughed together at the idea until its ridiculousness provided no more fuel, and then it was quiet for a moment.
Oliver pointed to the heavens, now littered with twinkling lights, and said, “That, Preston, is a Ferrari. And the only way to get a Ferrari is from Someone who knows how to make one.”