The butler didn’t reply to this, although I could swear that I saw his chest puff up a little more. “And how was this item from the list?” he asked instead. “As enjoyable as sir may have imagined?”
I shook my head back and forth as I pulled myself up into the open Jeep’s passenger seat. “Nah, there’s way too much wind,” I said. “It stings a bit. Chafes the skin.”
“Then perhaps it would be unwise to next tackle #41, “swimming in a pool of Jell-O,” sir,” Tompkins offered. His voice was perfectly neutral, a skill that must have taken years to perfect.
As we rumbled back towards civilization, I glanced sidelong at Tompkins. His eyes were on the lack of road before us; I momentarily imagined seeing through his eyes and viewing a perfect two-lane path ahead of us. I often wondered what it was like inside Tompkins’ head. Or really, inside anyone’s head beyond my own. Was I the crazy one?
“Tompkins, be honest with me,” I said, half-yelling to be heard above the sounds of the engine and the rubble beneath the wheels. “Is this a stupid thing that I’m doing?”
The butler didn’t look at me. “You will do a number on the pool filter, yes,” he nodded, “but they aren’t too expensive, and we actually received quite a reasonable deal on the bulk order of gelatin. Apparently you are not the only one with such an esoteric desire.”
I shook my head. “No, not just the pool full of Jell-O,” I clarified. “The whole thing. The bucket list. I mean, I was only nine when I wrote it all out! I didn’t know about being an adult? How could I have known back then what would make me happy now?”
The question was surprisingly deep, and I saw that the butler was caught off guard. For just a moment, his white-gloved hands slipped ever so slightly on the wheel. Nobody else would have caught that reaction, but I had been watching for it. That was akin to a gasp of shock from anyone else.
“I think that many people do not know what will make them happy, sir,” he ventured after a minute. “And they are willing to try many different things to capture the happiness that they had when they were a child.”
I nodded. Sage words as always. Tompkins must have taken some sort of class at Butler School on how to counsel concerned clients. “I suppose,” I nodded. “But shouldn’t I be donating some of this money to charity or something? Helping the world?”
To be concluded!