After a Thousand Days

After a Thousand Days

A Story by A R Lowe

A worker's tale...




After a Thousand Days


   As he walked along the wet moorland track the sheep perceived him through the mist and scrambled up the incline to his left before calmly regrouping. A straggler froze in his path and he paused to allow it to recover its wits and rejoin the flock.

   “I sympathise, dear sheep singular,” he said aloud, before moving on.

   He often talked to the sheep and to himself on his country walks and today he was especially loquacious.

   “I too have frozen in my tracks and must now rejoin the flock, but not today. Today I walk; tomorrow I act.”

   Tom, you see, was fifty-three and had led a solitary life for one thousand days.

   The fiftieth, or strictly speaking fifty-first, year of his life had been apocalyptic. His wife of thirty years had left him and, months later, the textile factory where he had worked since leaving school had finally closed its doors for good. He found himself with a large redundancy payment, a third of a life, and an unwillingness to share either of them. The family home sold, he rented a tiny cottage in a small village five miles from town and settled down to the life of a post-industrial hermit.

   On the first evening in the cottage, his few possessions stored, he lit the wood stove and took a large notepad to the table. With the help of a sharp pencil and a wooden ruler he marked out a large square and drew thirty-two evenly spaced horizontal lines within the square. After drawing the same number of vertical lines he checked that there were in fact a total of nine-hundred and ninety-nine little squares. The day after the last square were shaded, he would take a day to decide what to do next.

   The thousandth day was foggy but Tom's mind was clear. Almost three years of solitary moorland treks, much reading, and sparse social intercourse had purged his mind of a conventional adulthood of work, beer and television, and he was now ready to face the world afresh. Funds were running low, so he would rejoin the workforce in one way or another.

   The following day, a Tuesday, he drove into town and went to the Job Centre for the first time in his life. He walked in looking for work and walked out reassured that by paying them a brief visit once a fortnight and filling in a little booklet he would have all his modest needs met for the rest of his working life.

   Undeterred, he went to the library and put his fragile computer literacy to the test. He had no dinner that day, but his clear energy saw him outlast the most dogged social net-workers and by five o'clock he had written up a brief curriculum and applied for ten jobs. After tea he walked to the reservoir and rested his eyes on the calm water. 'That wasn't so bad', he said to himself as he watched the sun begin to set.

   By the end of the week he had applied for fifty-seven jobs and by the end of the following week had attended four interviews and received two job offers. He accepted the post of handyman in an old people's home and continued to live in the tiny cottage in the small village.

   He had kept a photocopy of the email that he had sent to each of the fifty-seven employers. It read:


To whom it may concern,

A true working man seeks work. Please find evidence attached.

Sincerely yours, Tom Meredith


   Things are easy, he thought, if you get them done.


© 2013 A R Lowe

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Added on September 7, 2013
Last Updated on September 7, 2013
Tags: Flash fiction, work, unemployment


A R Lowe
A R Lowe

Lancashire, United Kingdom

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