by Barrie Christian
The first occasion that Blip appeared Jeanette had been sitting
comfortably on the floor of the playroom, giving her favorite
Barbie doll her fourteenth makeover that day. The young
stranger announced his unexpected arrival by tapping on the
window and offering Jeanette a cheery wave from the patio;
then he pressed his beaming face up against the double glazing,
giving the eight-year-old girl quite a start. She could see, right
from the beginning, that Blip, with his faint green complexion
and unusually large eyes, was unlike any other boy.
His gesticulating could only be interpreted as a request to
be let in to share the warmth and comfort of the large house.
Jeanette's acute sense of curiosity overcame her feeling of
uncertainty about letting a strange boy across the threshold,
and so she plodded across the thickly carpeted floor of the
playroom and slid the patio door open.
"Hi!" said Blip, stepping inside and taking a good look at
the surroundings. He was wearing an unusual light blue
all-in-one tunic with large pockets. Jeanette was reminded of
a children's television program that she used to watch in which
the presenter wore baggy overalls and gave balloons away.
He was very silly and invariably finished up covered in bright
"What do you want?" she enquired. "I hope your feet are
clean or my mom will shout." But then she spotted that her
strange visitor's feet were bare. "Where are your
shoes?" Not that the absence of footwear worried Jeanette
unduly because shoes weren't allowed in the playroom
"My name's Blip," said the boy, examining Jeanette's
Mousetrap game. "I'm from a parallel universe.
What's your name?"
"Jeanette," replied his young hostess. "What's a
"It's a bit like yours only some things are back to
front and can get scary."
"Back to front?" said Jeanette. "I'd like that, it
sounds fun. Can I see it - your - your universe?"
"If you like," replied Blip, "but right now I'm
looking for a starting handle. Do you happen to have
"I don't know what a starting handle is, either. What's
the name of your - your -''
"World?" Blip offered. "It's called Herat and it's pretty
much the same sort of place as yours."
"Is it exactly the same?"
"Not always; sometimes time starts going backwards.
It's happening at present. I think there's a black hole going
around - you know, like you have your bugs, we have our
black holes. You can't see your bugs, we can't see our black
holes. Say, do you want a game of this?" Blip opened the
box containing the Mousetrap game and quickly
set up the parts.
"We can play a computer game, if you like," said Jeanette.
"No, I don't want to play computer games. I think I'd
rather play with these boxed games; they look so much more
A quarter of an hour later the door to the playroom
opened and Mrs. Foster, Jeanette's mother, looked in. "Oh!"
she said, taken aback. "You might have told me you'd got a
visitor, Jeanette. I thought I heard voices."
"Hi!" chirped Blip, boldly. "I'm Blip. I'm from another
"So is her older sister," quipped Mrs. Foster,
"so you're in good company. I haven't seen you before.
You're not at Jeanette's school, are you?"
"No," replied Blip, selecting pegs for a game of
Mastermind, "my school's a bit farther away."
"How did you get here? I didn't see-"
"I came by bubble-''
"Bubble car!" exclaimed Mrs. Foster. "How quaint;
I haven't seen one of those since I wore plaits. And -
and who dropped you off - uh, Blip?"
"No one, I came alone."
"But that's impossible. Why, you're much too young
"Mo-o-o-m!" groaned Jeanette. "Blip's already told
you - he's from another planet; well universe, and I'm
going to see it soon."
"Have you got a starting handle?" Blip enquired of
"What?" said Mrs. Foster. "A starting handle? For
your bubble car?"
"No," smiled Blip. "You see, we've slipped back to
what would be your 1940s and most of our cars are
Ford Prefects now - black ones. We
call them Wilberforces where I come from but I don't
want to confuse you. You see, back home we can't get
our own car started and I had this bright idea to pop
round to our neighbouring universe and get hold of a
new starting handle."
Mrs. Foster couldn't stop herself giggling as she tried to
take in all of the silly things Blip was coming out with.
"It's not funny, Mommy," snapped Jeanette. "If Blip says
that he needs a starting handle then he needs a starting
handle. Why don't you just give him a starting handle, if
you've got one?"
"Well," said Mrs. Foster, doing her best to keep a
straight face, "a starting handle isn't the kind of thing I -
or your dad - could easily lay our hands on. Whatever
it is you've got, Blip, a Wilberforce, a Ford or a Noddy
car even, you're going to have to push-start it, to get it
"Push-start - you mean get behind and
hadn't thought of that. I must get back, at once."
"Isn't Blip going to stay for tea, Jen?" Mrs. Foster
turned to her daughter.
Blip answered her question: "Perhaps next time,
"Mrs. Foster," said Blip. "My parents can't be left
for too long."
"Oh, I'm sorry, are they poorly?"
"No," answered Blip looking puzzled. "They're very
well, as a matter of fact. I usually get my younger brother
to sit but he's gone to the movies."
"What's he gone to see?" asked Jeanette, glancing
down at her lemon tee shirt and new red track suit
bottoms, trying to decide whether her attire was as smart
"A Humphrey Bogart film. His films are like
yours except he doesn't get the girl."
"I see," said Mrs. Foster, by now tongue firmly in cheek.
Blip chuckled, "But then, everything gets jumbled up in
a parallel universe, especially on Herat - that's my planet, by
Mrs. Foster's mouth opened but no words formed on her
lips. And then, before she knew it, he was gone. He was
through the patio door so quickly after saying his goodbyes that
by the time Jeanette had reached the window, to watch his
departure, there was no sign of him.
Mrs. Foster found her voice again: "Well Jen, you kept
him a secret. What an extraordinary boy," she said,
leaning over her daughter's shoulder. "And so young to have
streaks in his hair
I do hope he can find his way out of
the back garden."
Jeanette knew that Blip would return another day. In
fact, she didn't have to wait very long before his smiling face
appeared at the playroom window again.
"Hi Jeanette!" he greeted her, as she let him in. "My
bubble has landed on top of your garage, this time."
"Oh!" exclaimed Jeanette, excitedly, "let me see."
She rushed to the window and looked in the direction of
the garage. To her disappointment there was nothing there,
except for a lonely pigeon, preening itself.
"I can't see it-" Jeanette started to say.
"Can you spare any sugar only we've run out? Half a
bag will do. Say, you're not at school," said Blip.
"It's the summer holidays, silly," Jeanette informed him.
"Can we play some more board games?" said Blip.
"Maybe we should tell your mom I'm here."
"You'll love Monopoly; I'll show you how to
play. Did you get your dad's car started?" Jeanette asked
her guest as she almost pulled the boxes of games down
on top of herself.
"What? Oh yes!" replied Blip. We've moved back a
few weeks in time and the old starting handle was working
"So you've still got the black hole?"
"I'm afraid so. By the time I get back it will be
yesterday. Did I tell you? - soon my parents will be
younger than me."
"My dad says tomorrow never comes," said
Jeanette, trying to sound helpful.
The two companions spent the entire afternoon
playing Monopoly, Mousetrap and
chess. Mrs. Foster popped her head round the door
at intervals and supplied them with drinks and biscuits.
She enjoyed a brief chat with Blip but he kept the
conversation simple and polite, this time.
"What's this?" said Blip, at one point, picking up
the tiny sailing ship from out of the Monopoly
"Haven't you got ships in your parallel universe?" said
Jeanette, looking surprised.
"Not these kind of ships," said Blip, rubbing his
fingers over the little shape on the palm of his hand.
"But you must have seas. We've got seven; they told
us at school. I'd hate not to have seas."
"And you just float along on these things," Blip
suggested, holding up the Monopoly piece.
"Not just float, silly. There's a captain and - and
a mate - or is it a bosun? Well anyway, the captain tells
the bosun where to steer. You sit on a deck chair and
someone brings you drinks with lots and lots of ice; and
I close my eyes and pretend I'm mega rich and that I'm
sailing all around the world." At this, Jeanette's hands
became gentle, rolling waves. Blip watched them in awe.
"I'd love that," sighed Blip, copying her
hand movements. "I'd sail forever if I could."
"Say, may I borrow your Monopoly game?"
Blip asked, when it was time to go. "I promise I'll bring it
Blip did return the Monopoly game. Jeanette
noticed that the ship piece was missing but she didn't say
anything. He paid her several visits that summer holiday
but never came when she was entertaining her other
friends. He didn't even meet her elder sister or dad. If
the weather was nice they would play in the garden. Blip
would push her on the swing then he would take a turn
and make her laugh each time he fell off. That summer
was a very happy time for Jeanette.
"I'm afraid things are getting worse in my universe,"
Blip told Jeanette on his next visit, his cheery manner
concealing his fears.
"Is it the black hole?" she asked, never having
properly understood what black holes were.
Blip nodded, his face solemn for once. "We've gone
back months, all of a sudden. Soon, my mother and
father will cease to exist."
"Are they dying?"
"You don't understand. I mean they won't have
Jeanette sat silently, for a moment, on the edge of
the sandpit, describing circles in the sand. She was
thinking about what it must be like in a parallel universe
and now knew why Blip had never taken her to his; it
was too dangerous. Suddenly she stopped what she was
doing and looked at him.
"Why haven't you and your brother ceased to exist?"
she said suddenly. "Surely it would have happened to
you before it happened to your mom and dad?"
"I haven't told you but my brother's already gone.
He went a long time ago. I don't know why it is but
although the clocks keep going backwards in our universe,
I stay the same age. There are others like me; they
say we're immune. Do you know what immune means?"
"Drinks, you two?" Mrs. Foster arrived with cake and
orange squash on a tray.
"Mommy!" cried Jeanette, "there's a black hole that's
going to destroy Blip's universe!"
"Oh really, Darling?" said Mrs. Foster, placing the
tray on the ground. "Is it true, Blip?" Blip nodded but
she barely noticed. "How tiresome," she remarked. "Now
then, anyone for a slice of farmhouse cake?"
"What are you going to do?" said Jeanette, after Mrs.
Foster had gone.
"I don't know yet," said Blip. "It will seem funny with no
family and living among strangers from the past. I'll have to
find my granny. And I think there's a war coming too."
"You could come and live with us," suggested Jeanette,
"It won't work. Your mom doesn't understand and she
wouldn't like me staying here. Besides, anyone from a
parallel universe gets sucked back into it if he stays too
When it was time for Blip to go, Jeanette watched him
as he clambered on to the garage roof, gripping the plastic
carrier that contained the packet of sugar and the remains
of the cake. He turned to wave, something he had never
done before, and that was when Jeanette knew it had
been their last meeting. Whether his problems at home had
become insurmountable she could only guess. Perhaps he
was searching for a grandmother whom he had never
known in a normal life. He said that she would only be
twenty-five, if the present rate at which time was going
backwards on Herat was taken into account. Whatever
the reason, Blip did not return.
One night, Jeanette was lying awake thinking about
her short but happy friendship with Blip. Suddenly, she
noticed something fluttering about in the dimness of her
room. She thought it was a moth at first, one of those
horrible puffy things that her dad called Bo bowlers. It
was slowly circling and seemed to be seeking a place to
land. She got out of bed and switched on the light,
ready to run and fetch her dad. The object, however,
turned out to be a tiny bubble that, by now, had alighted
on the carpet. Jeanette knew, at once, that it had
something to do with Blip; she got down on her hands
and knees and gently touched it. As she did so, the bubble
appeared to evaporate rather than burst; all that was left
was a small, solid, plastic item, wrapped in a piece of
yellow parchment. It was the ship from the Monopoly
game; the note with it read:
'Dear Jeanette, Things are reaching the point
where it will be impossible for me to return to your
universe. Guess what, now we haven't even invented
the train, here! Can you believe that? I won't ever give
up hope of meeting you in another universe one day,
perhaps on a sailing ship like this one. By the way, a
good opener to try in your next chess game is knight
to bishop three. Thanks for everything. Blip.'
The months went by and the family holiday in
Majorca neared. Jeanette's sadness at losing such a fun
friend as Blip receded but never deserted her completely.
One day, she decided, she would try and find the way into
Blip's parallel universe and look for him. Maybe, by then,
his world - Herat as he called it - might have righted itself
and he would be able to show her lots of exciting stuff. Right
now, however, nothing could be better than Spain in the spring.
Published by Fools Motley Magazine, 2005. All rights are property
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