Shishir - 2023 Stories - Thomas Healy



By Thomas Healy


Not believing what I saw in the Sunday Gazette, I sat back in my chair and furiously rubbed the grains of sand out of my eyes. Then I looked again and there, in the middle of the obituary page, was the announcement that I had died three days ago in a traffic accident at the beach.

Impossible, I thought, as I read the brief obituary. Absolutely impossible. I am here, in my kitchen, as alive as ever. I pinched my left elbow to be sure, pinched it again and again until I drew blood then stopped.

The only thing special about me is my name, Declan Gooch, I believed, as I set the paper aside. It was something that made me different from other people. Not only had I never heard of anyone with my Christian name but I never heard of anyone with my surname, either.




“You’re still up and kicking,” Alex, who lived in the apartment at the end of the hallway, cracked as I stepped out of the elevator.


He chuckled. “I thought you’d passed away.”

“Oh that.”

“You related to that guy in the paper?”

I shook my head.




The other Declan Gooch, according to another obituary I found the next day on the internet, was a vagrant who for years had wandered around a small beach town where he was struck by a vintage muscle car late one night. No charges were filed against the driver of the Road Runner, a blackjack dealer on his way home from the casino where he worked the overnight shift. Apparently, the other Declan Gooch suffered from a mental disorder that he was only able to keep under control through medication.


He often failed to take his medicine, however, according to his sister, and was known to walk up and down the main street of the resort town talking to himself and to anyone who bothered to listen to his rants. He was a familiar figure to the authorities in town who had arrested him on several occasions for disturbing the peace. He seldom presented a threat to anyone, however. And pretty much kept to himself, although once he was arrested for waving a broken beer bottle at a pedestrian who refused his demand for some spare change.

I found only one picture of him on the internet, a black-and-white snapshot of him as a young man balancing an ice cream stick on his nose. It made me smile and for whatever reason I made a print of it. Then I stood in front of the bathroom mirror and held it next to my face. We didn’t look anything alike. His face was round as an orange with close-set eyes and a hint of a chin. Mine was long and slender with my eyes wide apart and my chin as broad as my nose.




As a youngster, I desperately wished I had an ordinary name like James or John because I was subjected to so much ridicule. In elementary school, one boy in particular, Howie Charen, made fun of my name all the time. He called me “Deck Hand” and sometimes, during recess, he would shout “All Hands On Deck” and he and his friends would surround me and start slapping me until some teacher would tell them to stop.


In high school, other students also made fun of my name but it didn’t bother me as much because, by then, I had grown used to the wisecracks. Moreover, I began to appreciate the uniqueness of my name. Not aware of anyone else who shared what my father called “my moniker,” I assumed I was the only person in town named Declan Gooch. And for a long time that seemed to be so until I saw the obituary the other morning in the Sunday paper.



“Oh, Declan,” Harriet, also an underwriter at the insurance firm where I was employed, sighed as soon as I entered the office, “I want to say how sorry I am.”

“For what?”

“I saw in the paper that a relative of yours passed away.”

“He wasn’t any relative of mine.”

“He wasn’t?”


“Oh, I assumed since he had the same name as yours you were related.”

“Not to my knowledge.”




I wasn’t sure why, probably out of curiosity, I attended the funeral service for the other Declan Gooch. There weren’t more than six or seven people there, including the minister who appeared so frail I wondered if he could make it through the service before he passed away too. I sat in the very back of the drafty Presbyterian church, and though I tried to follow the remarks of the minister, I found it difficult because, though I hated to admit it, I was glad this person was gone because now I again had my name all to myself.



Thomas Healy from U.S. was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He is the author of the novels The Great Dissent,Soul City, and, Cruel Earth.


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