Santa Clause saved my life. I know it sounds ridiculous but I swear it’s the truth. My name is Derek Spinner and I live in Nashville. I was homeless at the time. Like so many before me, I had moved to Nashville with dreams of becoming a great country singer. Obviously that never happened. Instead, I found myself broke and living on the streets; the victim of bad choices.
It wasn’t easy, but I was getting along pretty well, taking what jobs I could get, until one exceedingly hot July day. It was a Tuesday. I remember because I had breakfast that morning under the bridge thanks to the Salvation Army. I always looked forward to those breakfasts, not because of the Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but because of the pretty doughnut girl who handed them out. I was a regular customer. I never missed a week, and neither did she. I never asked her what her name was. I was, regrettably, too shy back then. Besides, I knew a guy like me had no shot at gaining her attentions. Even if by some miracle she would like to go out with me, I wouldn’t be able to take her home, or provide her with the type of life she deserved. It was enough just to see her smile. I’d smile at her, take a doughnut, say thank you, she would say you’re welcome, and then melt me with her laser-beam smile.
Later on that evening, I was heading to the shelter because it looked like we might get some thunder showers when I heard what sounded like a woman screaming. I survived as long as I had on the mean streets of Nashville by minding my own business, but something inside me said “go,” so I went.
I burst into the alley and saw a rather large man had my doughnut girl pinned to the ground. His forearm was pressed across her neck and she was just about unconscious. Her tan Salvation Army shirt was torn open. Her tears ran in rivulets, cutting through the alley’s filth that clung to her normally perfect face. The bastard was trying to remove her pants with his free hand while she flailed against her attacker with a flurry of ever weakening punches. I locked onto the tear-streaked face of my doughnut girl and saw abject terror. In that moment everything else faded away. It was just he and I.
I tucked my head down, and charged linebacker style into the rapist. We tumbled over and he came up on top. He hit me three times in the face. We struggled for what seemed like hours. Finally, he let up for a split second and I was able to land a lucky shot. He went down on his side and I kicked him twice once in the groin then in the face. And just like that, it was over; he was down. I limped over to help my doughnut girl. I offered her my coat to replace her torn shirt and she rewarded me with the most amazing smile. I’ll never forget how her perfect teeth contrasted with the black dirt of the alley. I felt a searing pain in my gut. I thought, wow, falling in love really does hurt. My doughnut girl’s radiant smile morphed into a look of terror. What had I done? I looked around and saw her attacker looming over me with a bloody knife. He dropped it and ran. Then the lights went out.
I woke up to a gentle prodding. An old man knelt beside me. He was dressed like Santa Clause and I took him for one of the Salvation Army volunteers working the Christmas in July kettles.
“Are you OK son,” the old man asked.
“Where is she?” I managed.
“Safe.” He smiled at me but I wasn’t convinced. “She went to call for help.” I noticed a glint in his eye and my fear drained away.
“Thank God,” I said. “I don’t think I’m going to make it. I was stabbed.”
“You’re going to be OK, Derek,” It wasn’t till later that I realized he already knew my name. He placed his hand on my shoulder and slowly moved it down over the wound in my stomach. “Just take it easy.” He closed his eyes and I can’t be sure, but I would swear a light radiated out from under his hand. “You’re going to be fine now,” he said.
I didn’t bother asking for assurances or how he thought someone who lost as much blood as me could possibly hope to live. “Thank you,” I said. It wasn’t near enough but it was all I could give at that moment.
“You’re welcome,” he said. He stayed with me, holding me up until I heard someone running toward me. I turned to see my doughnut girl sprinting down the alley. I looked over at the old man, but he was gone. I started looking for him, but oh, her smile. It filled me up and made me more. She bent down and helped me up and together we walked out of the alley.
“I think I need to get to the hospital,” I said. After all that had happened I was still bashful around this girl.
“Sarah,” she said.
“I think I need to get to the hospital, Sarah,” I said with a grin.
She flashed that smile and held it, and me, as we walked to the street to hail a cab. We passed a young man in a red tee shirt and shorts standing next to a Salvation Army kettle ringing his bell for Christmas in July. I motioned for Sarah to stop while I reached into my pants pocket and pulled out my last dollar then slipped it into the man’s kettle. He gave me a suspiciously knowing nod. Sarah and I continued down the streets of Nashville, together.
Author’s Note: This story was written from a prompt provided by Write Anything’s [fiction] Friday. The premise was inspired by The Salvation Army‘s “Christmas In July”. If your on twitter search the #fictionfriday hashtag to read even more great Flash fiction every Friday. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.