This is the 45th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
Coward’s Courage by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 15th January 2012
Word count: 645
Theme: risk, hero, self doubt, self depreciation, police, crime, robbery
Jackson never sought out to become a hero, even a minor one. Things just turned out that way. That day started off like any other, he got a call about a small problem, and went to deal with it.
“Breath deeply,” Jackson told himself, “Then cut the wire.”
“Okay, first one down now the next, just stay steady,” he braced himself.
He pulled himself out of the cupboard.
“That’s it,” he said to the lady looking nervously on, “We can remove it now, it’ll be safe.”
“Oh thank you,” she said, a little too profusely for Jackson’s tastes. “Its been nothing but trouble for weeks now.”
“Well I’ll get the new one fitted now, and then you’ll have a fully working shower again,” he said returning her smile, you didn’t get repeat customers being surly. “I’ll make sure it’s fully waterproofed as well, you can see here where water leaked in, the short was on the temperature gauge, so it always thought it was cold.”
“My husband always meant to fix it, ” she said,” But he’ll not get chance now. He died,” she said it so matter of factly that he guessed it must have happened recently.
An hour later Jackson was on the road again, heading towards the city centre, a shop was having trouble with its central heating.
He arrived in good time, went into the store.
It felt colder inside than out.
“I’m here about the heating system,” he told the girl at the reception desk.
“Thank god,” she said, “Come with me.” He was lead to the store manager, who explained that earlier that morning they’d heard a loud bang and then the heating had gone off. Their usual heating engineers weren’t available until the following day, he was quite apologetic. It wasn’t Jackson’s job to care about being first or last choice, jobs a job after all.
He went into the back and was testing the fuses on the antiquated central heating system when he heard the shots. At first he thought it might have something to do with central heating system, even though he hadn’t got it on yet, then he heard screams and shouts.
He grabbed his hammer and ventured towards the curtained exit from the back of the shop. The curtained door led right out behind the tills, in front of him was a balaclava clad man.
Jackson didn’t think, he just struck out with the side of his hammer sending the man reeling, the gun clattered to the floor. The heating engineer stepped through the curtain and kicked out away.
“Call the police he yelled,” breaking through everyone’s shock. I immediately five people were on their mobiles.
The would be robber was trying to get to his feet unsteadily.
“Stay down,” the robber complied seeing the hammer pointed at him.
The police reacted quickly, arriving in significant force. The robber was unmasked and lead away in cuffs to the ambulance. Jackson spent the rest of the day giving statements, and then afterwards the local newspaper wanted to talk with him.
The next day a major national paper wanted to feature his side of the story, but he turned them down. Firstly they didn’t want to pay, and secondly national coverage wasn’t nearly so good as the local coverage, he had an answering machine and email account brimming with potential new clients.
His fifteen minutes of fame didn’t last too long, but he hadn’t done it for fame, nor even the continued success of his small firm, it had been the right thing at the right time. Jackson frequently walked around after that trying to decide would he do it again, what if the situation were different. If the robber hadn’t been under his nose, he probably would have stayed hidden.
His last thought every night went from “was it heroic,” to “am I a coward.”
I felt like doing something a little less sci fi/fantasy, and a little more pedestrian. Just to keep things mixed up. And while there is that singular moment of high drama, it’s a catalyst for a self confident man to become doubtful not because of failure, but because of a success.