Twelve days before his forty-seventh birthday, it dawned on Thomas Mearns that he’d never done anything remarkable in his entire life.
Well, to alleviate his pedantry, it was twelve days, eleven hours and four minutes whilst he was sitting with his customary packet of ready salted crisps reading David Eagleman’s Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives when he got to the passage that said, when our name is spoken for the last time, that is when we truly die.
For a life content in routine, it aroused a peculiar stirring of existentialism. He pondered this then went off to retrieve the cracked pepper from a meticulously categorized kitchen cupboard. With an air of satisfaction, he held it over a single crisp before adding minute specks. Crunching down, he spat out what hadn’t been swallowed.
It continued to gnaw away as he dodged pavement cracks on his way towards the village centre. What would he be remembered for? Not his work. He was no tax accounting savant. Not his relationships. His only close social interaction was a yearly Christmas card to a distant cousin. His book collection?
He thought of the people remembered throughout history for their noble deeds. Perhaps if he could perform one, like saving a life, he too would be remembered long after he’d passed.
Checking his watch, he noted that the hourly bus was due. It didn’t feel right to foreshadow a child chasing a ball onto the road, but if his noble intervention was needed, he was somewhat certain that he would oblige.
After waiting precisely fifteen minutes, both bus and child failing to appear, he decided that maybe, like tax accountancy, it was in the finer details of life where real importance came.
Spotting a spry elderly lady leaving the grocer’s shop, and with the relative safety of an empty road beside them, assisting her across could be a start.
Swiftly rebuked with a handbag to the forehead, he retreated to the village cafe to reflect. As he was nursing a habitual coffee, milk no sugar, and studying the bill, another thought occurred. Those who are remembered throughout history are not only of the virtuous ilk, but of the nefarious too.
Keeping watch of the cafe assistant until she disappeared into the back kitchen, the cup was quickly drained. Head racing, heart pounding, he crept towards the front door, fighting the urge to reach for his wallet as his fingers brushed the handle.
Twelve days, nine hours and sixteen minutes before his forty-seventh birthday, Thomas Mearns had never done anything remarkable in his entire life. With his customary packet of ready salted crisps, a lump on his forehead and a lighter wallet, he was perfectly content with that.
Kris McGinnis is a Scottish writer of flash fiction who has been published in Clover & White and Less Than 100 Words e-book anthology.