Friday Flash: The Problem With Gavin

Gavin had a problem. Everybody could agree on this, although they’d probably argue the toss over what the problem might actually be. There was definitely something the matter with Gavin.

Friday Flash: The Problem With Gavin
Photo by Greg Rakozy / Unsplash

Gavin had a problem. Everybody could agree on this, although they’d probably argue the toss over what the problem might actually be. There was definitely something the matter with Gavin.

His mother, standing at the kitchen sink and peering out at the garage where Gavin spent most of his time, thought Gavin’s problem was that he didn’t get out enough. Wringing her hands, trying to come up with ways to get him outside, she wondered how she’d managed to have a son who didn’t seem to be quite, well, like other people.

Gavin’s father, sitting in the living room and deeply ensconced in the world according to the Daily Mail, was certain that it was all because Gavin wasn’t a “real man”. Gavin was a pansy, that was all there was to it, and nothing could be done. Pansies are defined at the genetic level. Gavin’s father had better things to do with his time than worry about Gavin.

Gavin had an uncle, too, who thought Gavin needed more “stimulation”, although what form that took depended on who you talked to. Uncle Jim was the one who thought perhaps Gavin needed a bit more encouragement. That’s why he’d bought Gavin the gift set.

As far as Gavin was concerned, his only problem was the gift set itself. Mostly oblivious to the outside world – unless it directly impinged on his business in the safe haven of the garage, Gavin didn’t worry about what his mother thought, or indeed what his father thought. He was currently completely absorbed in the problem of the gift set.

He’d had gift sets before, of course. The chemistry set his Aunt Maude gave him for his birthday had been fantastic, and kept him completely absorbed for several days. At least, right up until that unfortunate combination of substances that led to the explosion. The doctors at A&E were very understanding, and he didn’t lose his ear in the end. His eyebrows were still singed, but despite the fuss his mother made, it didn’t take too much effort to replace the glass in the garage windows.

Perhaps Uncle Jim might have paid heed to the experience with the chemistry set if he’d known about the explosion, but he’d been at the Mount Everest base camp at the time, and had other things on his mind. Most of these revolved around the gift set he was planning to give to Gavin.

It came from a strange and unlikely internet company. You can’t trust internet companies, said Gavin’s mother. But Gavin wasn’t bothered by that. Big Bang Electronics Ltd looked perfectly respectable by him – although perhaps he wasn’t qualified to comment. He was more concerned with the problem of working out what the kit was actually for.

A simple cardboard box, about the size of a Monopoly set, arrived in the post that morning, and Gavin opened it at once.

“A universe in a box!” the writing on the side exclaimed. “From the Big Bang onwards! Glue included. Do not inhale. Not for children under the age of three.”

It was a very baffling kit, however. Some of the parts were so small that they couldn’t be seen. Others appeared to be missing. Still, he laid it all out on the table in the middle of the garage and set to work.

Nobody saw Gavin for quite some time after that. There were occasional flashes of light, especially one Saturday evening at about 7pm, when a soft boom could be heard reverberating through the streets of Surbiton. Most people decided it was just another of those freak earthquakes, or an accident on the train line. Gavin’s mother took up her place at the window, and watched.

After that, it was very quiet.

For a few days, nobody saw Gavin. His mother started to get worried. She took him sandwiches, but he wouldn’t open the door. She started to regret letting him play with that kit. It’d be just like the chemistry set all over again. His father ignored him (as usual). Uncle Jim was climbing Kilimanjaro, and couldn’t be reached for an explanation.

Finally, Gavin’s mother decided it was time to sort this out. Fists clenched, she stalked out to the garage and banged on the door.

“Gavin! It’s teatime!” she called out.

There was no answer.

“Gavin?” She knocked on the door again. There was still no answer.

She tried the handle, and she was surprised when the door swung open.

The light inside made her blink. She took a step inside.


Gavin was standing by the table, his face shining triumphantly. In front of him, a huge sizzling ball of energy floated above the table top. In his hand, he held a strange little microscope that peered into the glowing ball. Within its electric shell, Gavin’s mother could see tiny objects moving.

“Look Mum,” said Gavin, “I’ve created a universe!”

Gavin’s mother frowned.

“No, really, Mum,” he insisted. He pointed into the light. “There’s even a planet with people like us. They think I’m their God!”

Gavin’s mother put her hands on her hips. “Oh, come on now, Gavin. It’s tea time and you haven’t eaten properly for days. Don’t be so silly.”

“But… But Mum! I’m God!” said Gavin.

But Gavin’s mother wasn’t listening. She grabbed Gavin’s hand and marched him back into the kitchen.

Notes: This story was inspired by the Archbishop James Ussher, who in his Annals of the World, 1650, wrote that the world was created on the evening of Saturday, October 22, 4004 B.C. It made me wonder what might have inspired a deity to go about doing such a thing.