Robert wasn't sure what had suddenly made him think of his old neighbourhood and want to visit it again, but before he knew it he found himself walking along the street where he'd lived as a child. It was a beautiful sunny day, which puzzled him as he could've sworn it had been pouring with rain not too long before. He prepared himself for the shock of the changes he'd first seen around forty years ago, on a visit twenty years after he and his family had moved to another house in another area. He'd lived in many different houses and areas since then.
But what was this? The old folks' home that had been built on the field he'd once played football on with his pals had gone, and the field was once again as it had been in his day. What's more, the new houses which had been erected on the site of his former primary school had also vanished, and a perfect duplicate of his boyhood seat of learning now occupied the space. Robert was astonished, reminded of his dreams of winning the Lottery and restoring the neighbourhood to as it had been when he'd lived there. Had someone else done that very thing?
"Let's have a look at the old house," he thought, and made his way down the back lane of the top terraced row where he'd lived from the age of seven to fourteen. He froze in his tracks as his eyes fell upon his former home, the site of so many joyous childhood and teenage memories. A man worked in the back garden, while his wife sat in a deckchair, sipping lemonade and reading her women's magazine. A boy played keepie-uppie in the corner, and the impression of domestic bliss was almost tangible. Robert rubbed his eyes, not quite believing what he was seeing. Wasn't that his father and mother, as well as his brother he saw before him - or at least their very doubles? It couldn't be them, because they'd died years ago, at different times and in different places. Was someone playing a trick on him?
Perhaps he was dreaming, but he could feel the cool breeze that lovingly caressed his heated brow and hear the musical murmur of birds twittering in the nearby trees with a greater potency than even the most seductive dream was capable of. Surely this was no delusion? He tried to recall what had prompted him to revisit his old environs. Last thing he remembered was that it was raining, and that he was about to cross the road to buy a paper from the newsagent's on the other side of the street. Was that a rapidly approaching car he saw from the corner of his eye as he stepped out onto the road...? Why did he find it so difficult to think, to remember?
His father looked over and hailed him, and his mother and brother smiled in happy surprise. "We were wondering when you'd turn up," his mother said. "Come into the house and we'll have a bite to eat." Not quite understanding, Robert glanced at his watch to see if he had time to indulge this welcome fantasy, whatever its explanation, but the watch was gone from his wrist - a wrist which now belonged to that of a young boy.
And then he understood, fully and all at once, what had happened, and with that knowledge came the realization that Paradise is precisely what we wish it to be.