Again, the butler didn’t reply right away. I considered that perhaps he didn’t feel that it would be proper to advise his superior on such questions. But after several minutes of bouncing in the Jeep, Tompkins opened his mouth again.
“Sir has done quite a lot for the world already,” he pointed out. He momentarily had to pause as we reached a steep embankment leading up to a proper road, and the Jeep’s grinding engine made conversation impossible. But the little car gamely reached the top, and we were once again able to hear each other. “Your invention has saved countless lives as well as providing you with the money necessary to pursue your desires.”
I nodded. Once again, the man was right. I had set most of the world abuzz a few years ago when I created the device. A system of artificial nerves that allowed perfect interfacing between man and machine? Most people wouldn’t have believed that it was possible – many were still incredulous. But the invention was surprisingly easy to build, and as well as offering amputees a new shot at a more normal life, it gave workers a never-before-seen degree of control over the machines they used to accomplish tasks every day.
Companies had scrambled to throw money at me, and before I knew it, I was being touted as one of the richest men in the world. Frustrated by the fawning attention I received everywhere I turned, I had returned back to my childhood home in search of some sort of answers.
There, in the corner of the dusty attic, I had stumbled upon a box of childhood mementos and treasures. Tucked into the pages of my dusty elementary school yearbook had been this bucket list, painstakingly scrawled down by my earlier self. And in my moment of existential crisis, I had clung to that paper and its ridiculous list like a drowning man clings to a piece of floating wreckage in a storm.
“Also,” Tompkins continued, “I received word that the deal with Ford to provide an integrated system has been approved. With the extra funds from that deal, sir should still have more money than he knows what to do with after completion of his list.”
“And I could donate that money to charity, or set up my own,” I finished the butler’s unspoken thought. “Tompkins, I think you’re the best decision I’ve made, you know that?”
The butler permitted himself a very brief smile. “So what task shall sir pursue next?” he inquired.
I glanced down at the piece of paper, still clutched in one hand. I had long since memorized every item on the list, but I still unfolded it, running one finger down the list. “Wear the Pope’s hat,” I read off. “That does sound fun.”
“You recently received an invitation to the Vatican as a guest of honor,” Tompkins offered. “I held off on responding, but perhaps it would be time to set a course for Europe.”
I grinned as we headed into town, towards the airport where my jet was waiting. Yes, this was certainly going to be fun…