A story for 2007. An exercise asking what would happen if, ignoring reality we took the premise that things just get better.
People who find themselves in a low state of mind might try a similar exercise creating their own lead figure - bearing in
mind it is a story, a fantasy if you will, but also a kind of meditation that puts the mind in a positive mode. At the end of it
remind yourself that God knows best of all and nothing can be better than that.

Getting Better

The problem with writing stories is that one must invent some dire calamities to be
overcome, some daunting odds to be defeated before the final cathartic release of
victory and success or tragedy. Here we have taken a different route.

Equally, our hero may have lived in times past or in some mythic time of dragon and
monsters or a historic story of a golden Sufi age, and then our story would have taken
some different form with sword and sorcery or wise men and fools etc. Instead we
have set it in the present day, which changes the form but not the essence of our tale.

Therefore our story, O reader, opens in an airport café. Our hero, though as you will
see the term ‘hero’ is a rather archaic term in the context of the story, is a fair haired
man who appears to be in his mid to late twenties, who could be described as
potentially quite good looking or ‘pleasant’ in appearance, but with a gloomy aspect
that rendered such terms inappropriate. There is a background of half heard chatter, the
sound of cutlery and plates being cleared, background music and announcements
across the airports sound system. These hardly penetrate the sombre thoughts that
circulate through his mind. He was a man who had reached what is sometimes termed
‘rock bottom’. Indeed he had passed beyond thoughts of suicide, ‘a coward’s way’. All
about his life seemed to him grey, colourless. His very body seemed a pain. Nothing
seemed ever to go right.

Looking up he saw that opposite him was a young woman sitting at a nearby table
enjoying animated conversation with a man of her own age. He could hardly avoid
noticing her vivacious looks, elegant legs and impressive figure all set off by an outfit
that was tasteful without ostentation. ‘A classy lady’ sprang to his mind as he averted
his eyes to avoid the glance she cast in his direction. ‘What I would give to meet
someone like her’ he mused. He pushed the thought away – ‘I bet she has everything’
he said to himself – ‘money, looks, probably dozens of boyfriends and all the rest’. He
caught the words of a Beatles song in the background…’
….I’ve got to admit its
getting better…’
 ‘Oh yeah, yeah’ he thought, with heavy irony.

Having come to the end of his coffee he was contemplating whether to make the effort
to get another when he noticed the woman’s partner had got up and left. She sat back
down after hugging him farewell and then her gaze appeared to turn towards him and a
warm smile spread across her face.  He glanced behind him in classic fashion checking
the smile was directed at him. She unwound her elegant legs to stand and he assumed
she was leaving but no – she picked up her cup and walked directly towards him.

‘Do you mind if I join you?’
‘…Er..not at all, please do’.
‘I was just seeing my brother off’
‘Oh....’

She was pleasant in manner and an easy talker and gradually the conversation became
a little less one sided. Another cup of coffee later and they were talking animatedly in
a way in which he astonished himself.

Later as he watched her walking back to the table with yet another cup of coffee for the
two of them he began to speculate – ‘This cannot be happening to me…wait a minute
with my luck I bet she is some kind of call girl or something, these things just don’t
happen for real…’ He pushed the thought away determined at least to enjoy the
moment, but at the back of his mind clouds of suspicion and doubt lingered.

The conversation turned to him and his flight – ‘To be honest’ he said, ‘I was sitting
here wondering whether or not to book a flight.’  He went on to reveal his plans to
return to his home country as he felt the present situation unbearable.

‘Well’ she said eventually ‘I had better go, but I live in a flat nearby here overlooking
the river, and if you decide to remain in this country you would be welcome to come
over to stay the night. I tell you what, I have to collect my car – if you decide you
would like to stay, meet me at the airport pick up place in about 15 minutes. If not I
will understand. Oh! By the way we haven’t really introduced ourselves formally have
we, my name is Lucy but my friends usually call me Lucky’. She flashed a disarming
smile at him, kissed him easily on the cheek, and left.

He sat a moment contemplating – ‘Either things have really started to get better or I am
dreaming … or more likely there will be some sting in the tail – she really is some
sophisticated call girl or there is some con trick going on here…still what is there to
lose!

As he made his way with his luggage towards the airport exit he thought ‘I bet I either
can’t find the pick up point or she has changed her mind and doesnt’t show’. But even
as he thought that, he saw a clear sign pointing to the pick up spot and on arrival he
found a smart white sports car just pulling up. ‘Jump in’ she cried and before he knew
it they were speeding through the traffic. She seemed a skilled driver and had a knack
of weaving through the traffic and catching the lights on green. It was not’t long before
the crowded city gave way to a pleasant park at one end of which the road wound up a
large hill. At the top she pulled up outside of an elegant mansion and they took an
elevator to what turned out to be a spacious apartment covering the whole of the top
floor. In what seemed no time at all he found himself sitting with her on the veranda
overlooking a winding river below, having just finished what undoubtedly must be the
best meal he had ever eaten. Doubts about her being a call girl had evaporated – he
had never met one but there was no way they could have behaved like this woman.

Whilst she cleared away the dishes he sat on the veranda musing. Things just seemed
to be getting better – but now a new set of doubts entered his mind. ‘Perhaps she just
likes to take in waifs and strays’ he thought – ‘I suppose tomorrow I will be lugging my
case back to the airport. Or else she is married and her husband will arrive’. Several
other scenarios all ending in ignominy for him presented themselves to his imagination.
However the evening continued to get better – sitting on a lamb’s wool rug by a large
open fire – (‘this just cant be happening’) -  he discovered that she was single and
unattached and was not in the habit of inviting strange men back to her apartment but
found him really interesting. Talk soon became more intimate and when the hour
became late he began to have thoughts of making a pass at her but felt sure he would
mess it up and end up being kicked out – he always misread signs from women.
However she took the lead and indicating it was time for bed kissed him just long
enough to be passionate and inviting – giving him just the confidence he needed to feel
in command. She showed him to the guest room she had prepared for him and they
took one further kiss, lingering a bit longer with even more hint of promise.

On his bed he contemplated the situation with rising excitement. Things just seemed to
be getting better and better. Something would surely go wrong soon. But they just kept
getting better. As he lay awake with a restless vibrancy of anticipation mixed with an
expectation of disappointment. He imagined her appearing at the door ready to fulfil
the promise in that kiss but then thought – ‘even were that to happen I would surely
disappoint her for I am no sexual athlete and that would surely be followed by
awkwardness in the morning as she found excuses to get rid of me’. Then again he felt
he was surely reading more into that kiss than he should. Despite what she had said
may be she was just one of those girls out for a bit of fun – no strings.  But even whilst
amidst these thoughts the door opened slowly ‘ I am sorry to disturb you ‘ she
whispered, ‘but I thought you might like some company’.

O reader we must draw a veil over the scene that followed or risk offending
sensibilities but suffice it to say that thing just kept getting better and better and better.
By morning they were lovers many times over and it was well past midday before they
even thought of getting up for food. In fact it was many days and nights before they
even contemplated leaving the apartment for walks in the park or along the sunlit river.
When they did people who passed them moved on with lighter hearts for observing two
so obviously in love. Things were clearly getting better.

‘Love like this must surely end in heartbreak or losing its vibrancy’ he pondered, as he
sat watching the sunset one evening whilst she was clearing the dishes from yet another
superb meal. ‘Or perhaps we could marry – but then too the harsh realities of life
would eat away at our joy day by day. More likely’ he said to himself, ‘that this will
be one of those short once in a lifetime romances that leave a lingering hole in one’s
heart’.

But, O reader, things just kept getting better. They married quietly with her brother and
just family and a few of her friends present. He expected opposition from her family or
the usual in-law problems but no opposition arose and they turned out to be both
delighted and delightful people.

He felt sure the strains and complexity of making arrangements for a wedding would
lead to problems but as it happened the arrangements were made by Lucy’s brother
and proceeded with ease. He was concerned about how they would manage financially
but the flat was her own and she turned out to have considerable financial
independence. ‘This puts me in a position of financial dependence and that can easily
mar a relationship’ he thought.  Two days later he received a call on his mobile
notification him that his doctorate had been recognised and an offer of a lectureship
was available requiring a limited amount of time at a nearby college. ‘Life does not
work like this,’ he thought, as switched off the phone. There will surely be some
downside to this – but, O reader, things just kept getting better and better.

Now he had someone so dear to him he wondered what would happen if she were to
fall ill or meet with some accident.  He felt he would be inconsolable – but nothing like
that did happen. She and he continued to enjoy good health, and instead of their love
growing less intense it matured into something deeper and better. Sexually it was
different every time – like having many wives. Some nights would be intense and very
physical others gentle and warming, sometimes she would be submissive others
demanding or experimental.

In the days he thought there must be occasions of conflict as there were in all
marriages but she seemed to detect his every mood and adapt to it with ease so that
even the daily routines became a kind of extension of love making in a different
sphere.  

His grasp of his academic work somehow became easy and his students learnt with
enthusiasm and hung on his every word. He became feted in the academic world for
the quality of his scholarship.  Things just got better and better.

He found physically he grew in strength, vigour, and coordination on an almost daily
basis.

Meanwhile Lucy bore him two sons and a beautiful daughter – he felt sure this would
bring pressures in to the home situation but instead of difficulty all three proved a
delight to raise and loved their father and mother immensely – responding to their
words with loving obedience. At times he would muse on the situation and wonder
when some turn of events would bring the rain that must fall into every life – but no
such event materialised instead, O reader, things just got better and better.

He made some financial investments and despite concerns that these were risky and
could put their growing wealth at risk, each one proved better than the last till he could
be described as more than merely affluent – indeed he became first very wealthy and
then extremely wealthy. ‘Wealth can destroy a man’s values’ he thought, but along with
it came wisdom and generosity. In fact O reader things just continued to get better and
better,

Midlife arrived and he began to notice his attraction to some of the female students
began to increase – surely this he thought will be my undoing, but Lucy anticipated the
situation. ‘If you feel attraction to these beautiful girls you must not resist’ she begged.
He contemplated the morality of the situation and sought the company of a number of
known stern divines from various faiths but though they were known for their righteous
attitudes in general, when they sat with him they found themselves unable to be critical
in his case of anything he might do. Thus he found himself with an ever ardent wife, the
loving mother of his children, and with the occasional company of beautiful young
girls. Surely there will be some consequences to such philandering he thought, either
some emotional complexities or physical disease or some such, but this never
happened instead things just got better and Lucy’s happiness grew too.

Surely, he thought, in the after life I will have to pay for all this happiness or perhaps
my good fortune is at the expense of the suffering of others. So he sought for the
company of some mystics of great knowledge. From each he learnt of the various ways
of attaining knowledge of the inner secrets of life. He found he mastered each way with
ease and without the kind of hardship the masters had undergone to attain their
knowledge. In fact they all proclaimed him their own master. He saw for himself the
inner workings of man’s soul. People flocked to him for guidance and help and he gave
it freely. He wondered about the effect his growing fame would have since he
understood fame can bring with many problems – but these problems did not
materialise – instead things just got better and better.

In older age his health and vitality continued to grow and his looks took on a maturity
that added to his attractiveness. He pondered the effect of the probable death of his
dear wife but when this actually happened he was already so much in contact with the
unseen world that her passing from the body seemed to him a joy and things continued
to get better.

He reflected on the responsibility he had to deal with the misery and hardships of life
experienced by others and undertook to bring greater happiness not only to those close
to him but to the community, indeed the nation. He felt sure this would be a great
burden but in fact the nation’s moral and even material wealth flourished under his
inner and indeed outward direction and under the direction of those he trained. In fact,
O reader, things just got better and better.

One day death came to him – I mean, in the form of a man death walked in through the
door and stood respectfully near by. ‘So my time has come too has it?’ he asked. ‘No!
Not so, sir’, death replied. ‘I came merely ask at what time and in what way you
would  wish me to come for you’. ‘I will call you when I am ready’ our hero replied. O
reader things just kept getting better.

At the age of 120, revered by all, he finally called death and asked him to take him. He
wondered whether this would involve some difficulty of passing over. ‘Not so in your
case’, death replied, ‘If you would just step through this door sir’.  He followed him
out of the room and found himself in the other world, greeted and feted by all who had
passed before. However he paused a moment and said to death – ‘Is it possible to
return for a moment there is one thing I would like to say to those who may be
grieving’ ‘In your case sir you can pass in either direction at any time.’ death replied.

He returned back and found his sons and daughter and some disciples in the room.
‘Sir’, they said, ‘we were wondering where you were!’. ‘I am leaving this world now’
he replied. ‘I came to make my farewell but I can return when I wish so look out for
me from time to time’. ‘Sir,’ begged one of his disciples, ‘tell us the secret of your
success in life please’. ‘My secret’ he said, ‘is simple, it is due entirely to my good
luck. I cannot explain it except to say
things just kept getting better and better’.

O reader, may Lady Luck walk in to your life this coming year.

Jamiluddin Morris Zahuri
Southampton, December 24th 2006.