Spirit of the Season

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.

New Recruit

William opened the door to the hospital room and stepped inside. Several pieces of life sustaining equipment surrounded the bed. They beeped, clicked and buzzed as he checked the name on his clipboard against the name on the patient’s chart. Mr. Dawson began to wake up.

“Mr. Dawson, I’m William.”

“William who?”

“Just William, Mr. Dawson.”

“I knew a William once”, said Mr. Dawson. “Back in the war. A good kid, scared shitless all the time though. Hell we all were. He took a bullet in his head, on his birthday no less. I was his Cap–“ Mr. Dawson was interrupted by a coughing fit that lasted several minutes.

“What kind of Doctor are you anyway?” asked Mr. Dawson “Letting an old man cough himself to death. Ahh, who cares? I’m the last one anyway.”

William kept quiet; experience taught him it was better to keep his mouth shut and let the patient guide the conversation. He pulled up a chair and sat along side the frail Mr. Dawson. The sound of the machines began to grow faint.

“Last one?” asked William.

“I’m the last of my platoon and last of my line. They’re dead, all of my friends, all of my family, gone.”

The coughing began again. A small amount of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth but Mr. Dawson lacked the strength to do anything about it. William wiped it away.

“Should have been dead years ago.”

“Yesterday,” whispered William.


“Yesterday was my birthday,” said William. “I was going to get promoted but I called in sick.” William patted Mr. Dawson’s hand. The lights seemed to be dimming.

“Good idea. If there’s one thing I learned in this life, it’s don’t move too far up the line. Sometimes too much responsibility gets the people you care about killed.”

Mr. Dawson’s eyes began to tear up. William clasped the old man’s hand. This time the coughing spell lasted a little longer.

“I called in sick yesterday so my schedule would have to change and I could be here today, with you. Just like you were there for us,” said William. “You always looked after us back then Cap. I never forgot how you looked after all of us. Scared as hell, but you never let it show. Today’s an important day for you Captain and I wanted to be the one who brought you over.”

“William? I-I don’t under…”

“It’s OK Captain. You’ve been a good and faithful servant. Now you have a choice to make. The same choice I had to make when we were in Germany together.”

“What choice? What are you talking about? I’m too old for fighting. Look at me. I can’t even stay alive without all this crap hooked up to me.”

“My life wasn’t ended by that bullet Cap, but it sure as hell was changed by it. Now I offer you the same choice. I can deliver your soul, or you can become as I am.”

William wasn’t surprised that his old Captain wasn’t shaken by this rather unique offer. Nothing ever shook the old man. He had nerves of steel, but under that gruff exterior William knew the Captain was a kind soul. Just the sort of disposition you had to have for this type of work.

“It’s time Cap.” William reached over and shut off the machines that kept the old Captain alive. There were no alarms on the machines. No doctors running in with paddles and yelling “clear!” No noise. No fanfare. Just the Captain and his reaper.

Captain Dawson stood up and took a few tentative steps toward the door. He turned and looked at his body lying still on the hospital bed. “Lead on Private, it seems it’s time for me to report in.”

Author’s Note: This story was written for Write Anything’s [Fiction] friday with this week’s prompt: Yesterday, your character called in sick on their birthday because they knew their co-workers had a surprise party planned. Write what happens today. I substituted a promotion with surprise party because I’m a naughty boy. All work and no play blah, blah, blah. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about this one. Cheers.

The Crazy Mixed Up Day of Bob and Tony

Tony stared at his friend in total disbelief.

“So, what your saying is, you bought a pan flute at a store called ‘Pete’s Pan Flute N Things’ which just so happens to have had its grand opening this morning, right as you passed by on your way home from work.”

“Yup,” said Bob. “Cool, huh?”

Bob began to blow on his newly acquired pan flute.

Toodlie, doodlie, doodlie-doo.

Tony winced as Bob kept blowing across the pipes of his new musical instrument.

“Seriously, dude. What the hell?” said Tony when Bob’s bad blowing of the pipes finally ended.

“Come on Tone, you know I’ve always wanted to be like Sam Fear, Master of the Pan Flute,” replied Bob. “And when I saw that store, I figured why not. Lots of guys like the flute.”

“It’s Zamphir, you frickin’ moron” said Tony as he cuffed his friend in the back of the head. “And no, I had no idea that your life long dream was to play the pan flute as well as a guy, whose name you don’t even know, to a room full of screaming grannies and their emasculated husbands.”

Bob ignored his friend’s tirade and piped his way into his room. He practiced blowing his new pipes throughout the night finally falling asleep around 4:00 in the morning. Tony on the other hand was unable to fall asleep. He crept into Bob’s room and found his friend sound asleep, grinning ear to ear and clutching his damned pan flute. Tony was able to carefully pry the cursed musical instrument from Bobby’s clutches. His plan was simple, return the flute and tell Bob something stupid like space monkeys had broken into the apartment and stolen it. Bob would be pissed, but he’d get over it.

Tony returned several hours later, flute in hand and confronted his friend.

“Uh, hey Bob, I thought you said you bought your flute at ‘Pete’s Pan Flute N Things.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Why?”

“Well, when I went there, there was just a store called ‘Ronnie’s Roommate Finders’”

“What are you talking about?”

“The store were you bought this stupid flute doesn’t exist.”

“No, I mean why were you trying to find ‘Pete’s Pan Flute N Things’?”

“Doesn’t matter, the point is the place doesn’t exist.”

“That’s crap. Come on, I needed to stop there to pick up some pan flute music books and a swanky new carrying case anyway.”

They pulled up to the storefront and watched in disbelief as the sign that said ‘Ronnie’s Roommate Finders’ erased itself and became a blank piece of wood.

“I say we go in there and see what the hell is going on here,” said Bob.

“Word up,” said Tony as he did his best to get into a B-boy stance. It was Bob’s turn to do some cuffing.

They walked inside and approached the counter. The store was empty except for a small bell and a sign that said “Ring me”. Tony rang the bell and they waited for someone to appear.

“Can I help you?” said a creepy old man. He looked very cliché.

“What is this place?” asked Tony

“Well,” said the old man, “It’s whatever you want it to be.” He pointed to Bob. “You desperately wanted to play the pan flute, so it became a pan flute store, and you,” he pointed to Tony, “wanted a new roommate, so it became a roommate locating service.”

“Holy crap!” said Tony. He grabbed Bob by the arm. “Don’t you see what this means?!”

“Yes!” said Bob as he grabbed Tony’s other arm. “You want another damn roommate, but you ain’t getting my CD’s.”

“No you imbecile, we can finally get whatever we want.”

They were wearing mile wide smiles as they ran out of the store and across the street. They turned to face each other.

“OK, Tone, you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“I think so, Bob. Ready? ”

They both closed their eyes and began concentrating really hard on what they wanted. A few seconds later words began forming on the store’s sign. “Petunia’s Peanut Butter Sandwich Shoppe”

Bob laughed hysterically. Tony slapped him across the face.

“This is serious you dink, now stop screwing around.” Tony’s face was stern. “We have a shot at riches beyond our wildest dreams, or a bevy of hotties just waiting for us and you want to piss it away on fluffernutters?”

“OK, OK, for real this time. Ready? Go.”

The sign blanked out then began to rewrite itself again. “Nancy’s Nudes”. Tony noticed a small sign in the window that read: “1500 Gold Bars Free With Every Nude”. Directly underneath a faded sign read: “Buy one nude person get two free”. The two friends, giddy with anticipation, burst through the doors of the shop. This time the creepy old man was replaced with fifty completely naked men.

Tony closed his eyes and shook his head. As he opened his eyes he slowly turned to look at Bob.

“Seriously, Dude?”

Bob just smirked and arched an eyebrow.

“Fine,” said Tony. “But after this we’re going back out there and this time you better think ‘New roommate’. And I get the CD’s.”

Author’s Note: OK this one was a departure for me. The story was inspired by the prompt: On the way home from work your character stops into a music store and purchases an unusual musical instrument that they’ve always wanted to learn to learn to play. Why today? I hope you enjoy this little tale. Please leave me a comment and let me know.

The Dance

“No, No, NO! Cara, how many times must I show you? Watch me.”

Cara watched as her mother moved her arms with practiced grace. She paid close attention to how her mother placed her slippered feet confidently upon the worn floorboards. She knew this dance far better than she let on. Her missteps and clumsy movements were Cara’s way of rebelling. As much as she hated to admit it, her mother’s dancing ability was something Cara always coveted. Some of Cara’s fondest childhood memories were of dancing alongside her mother. She would watch as the local men spent their hard earned cash to see her mother’s dances and forget about their wives.

When Cara was seventeen she thought herself old enough to start earning money with her dancing too. She danced for some local boys behind the general store. Unfortunately they weren’t interested in spending money; they were interested in kisses and more. Cara was worried about what her mother would say or do when she found out what happened. Her mother didn’t scold or berate her. She hugged Cara until Cara stopped crying. The next day Cara began learning a new dance. Every bit as seductive as the others, but concentrating on new steps and movements and rhythms helped Cara forget the events of the previous day.

Cara’s mind snapped back to the present as her mother’s dance ended.

“Sorry mother, I’m just a little tired,” said Cara

“Well, you better get un-tired and get it right. I spoke with Mr. Johnson today and he agreed to let you dance on stage this weekend,” Said Cara’s mother.

Cara’s face blanched. “I – I don’t know if I’m ready mom,” said Cara. She couldn’t look her mother in the eyes. “I don’t want to be a whore.”

Cara flinched as her mother’s hand flew toward her face. It stopped just before making contact.

“I am not a whore!” Her mother grabbed Cara’s chin and lifted her head, forcing Cara to make eye contact. “Cara, I don’t take those men into my bed. There was only one man in my life, your father, and he was murdered when you were young.”

“I know,” said Cara sullenly.

Her mother let out a large sigh. She was a strong woman and Cara knew her mother was anything but a whore.

“One more time, Cara, then we’ll go downstairs and get some food.”

Cara watched as her mother walked across the floor of their small room above the saloon. She had no desire to hurt her mother and knew exactly how she would make it up to her. Her mother placed the needle at the beginning of the record and cranked the phonograph.

The music started. Cara danced. Perfectly. Every step perfectly placed. Every movement of her arms perfectly timed. Her lithe body curved provocatively left, right, left, down. Her back arched. Her chest heaved. The music quickened. Her movements were hypnotic. Her silk skirt slid down her long leg as it kicked up past her head. The music became part of her. The room and her mother disappeared. All that was left was the dance. A perfect melding. A perfect dance.

Cara’s mother stood in stunned silence as the needle bounced back and forth against the label of the record. She smiled as she realized that Cara had been holding back for years. She ran across the room to hug her daughter.

“I know we aren’t whores mom,” said Cara. She pulled back from her mother to see her face. “You said something about food?”

The next few days passed quickly as Cara and her mother practiced their steps during the day and worked for the saloon at night. Cara was a serving girl and spent most of her nights in the smoke filled saloon trying to keep her bottom from being slapped by the men playing faro. But tonight was different. Tonight she was in the dressing room getting ready. Cara smiled as she looked at herself in the mirror. She wore a black, high-cut dress. The bodice was cut low and revealed an obscene amount of cleavage. Cara walked to the side stage to watch her mother dance.

There was a large group of men Cara had never seen before in the saloon tonight and they were rowdy. That was good though. It meant her first night would be a lucrative one. Cara watched her dance until two of the men rushed the stage.

Cara ran out to help her mother but was quickly captured by two more men and pinned against the wall.

The men stunk of whisky and their stubble scratched her skin as they began to have their way with her. She screamed for her mother. One of the men holding her grabbed her by the hair and held her head still.

“You might wanna watch this sweetheart.” The man said breathily into her ear. “Your momma pissed off the wrong man some years ago and Jack don’t take shit from no whore.”

Her mother, held by two men struggled to get free, while another man, presumably Jack, advanced slowly.

“Remember me bitch?” said Jack. “I’m the hombre who killed your husband.” Jack backhanded Cara’s mother across the face, splitting her lip. “Did you think you could hide from me forever?

“I’ll kill you!” Screamed Cara’s mother, as she struggled against her assailants.

“When I’m done with you I’m gonna let my crew loose on your daughter.”

Cara’s mother turned her head to look at Cara. “Cara, I want you to run from here and don’t come back, no matter what.”

Jack laughed openly. “She ain’t going nowhere, bitch”

Cara watched as her mother jerked one wrist free and then drove her elbow into the nose of one of the men behind her. Cara recognized her mother’s powerful movements. It was the new dance. Cara realized that for years her mother was teaching her far more than how to make a living; she was teaching her how to survive, how to fight and how to kill. Cara saw her mother reach into her tall black boots and retrieve two silver daggers. She hurled each one in Cara’s direction.

Each dagger plunged into the chests of the men restraining Cara. Cara instinctively pulled them free from their chests. They felt as though they were made to fit her hands. Cara, in the midst of this horror couldn’t help notice every little detail of the daggers. They were perfectly balanced. The handles were fashioned from silver and inlayed with wooden crosses. She held them ready. Her mother’s final gift.

“Run” shouted Cara’s mother. “Don’t look back. I love you.”

Cara started towards her mother.

“NO Cara! Run! Now!” Her mother fixed her gaze on Cara for a second and Cara knew she had to run.

Cara ran. And as her mother continued her dance, Cara swore vengeance.

Author’s Note: I hoped you enjoyed this story. It was composed for Write Anything’s Fiction Friday challenge. This week’s prompt: Write about a misunderstanding between three people. Astute readers will notice that this story is slightly more than 1000 words. Please don’t hold it against Cara and her mother, they had a lot to say. Hopefully Cara and Gabe (see last week’s story) will be meeting up in the near future. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Last Day Of Work

Gabe rode into town on a red roan. It had been about a month since he had slept in a bed and he was looking forward to it. He studied the main street as he rode towards the livery. Nothing noteworthy. Some would take that as a good sign, welcoming and comforting.

Gabe knew it probably meant the town, or someone rich enough to own most of the town was hiding something. That meant two things to Gabe. One, his employer was probably justified in sending him here and two, if he was here it was because there was no one else with enough skill and experience to ride out of this snake pit alive.

Gabe reigned up at the livery and dismounted. Most people would not have noticed anything special about the way he got off his horse, the subtle way he kept his coat over his guns, how he faced away from his horse when he hit the ground and how he never took his eyes off the livery attendant.

“Two bucks a week includin’ grain and I’ll rub him down for ya,” said the young man outside the livery. Gabe handed him a dollar.

“I’m only staying till Wednesday.” He said. “Keep the saddle handy. I may need to ride out sooner.”

Gabe took his saddle bags and headed towards the saloon. Usually folks thought he was just a common sojourner looking for work or passing through on his way to the gold rush and that’s exactly how he wanted them to think. When Gabe got to work he needed whatever edge he could get. Coming across as a greenhorn had saved his hide many times. The problem was he was getting older. His every movement was practiced and polished and he now carried himself in a way that said he was not a person to be trifled with.

As Gabe entered the saloon one man took notice of him. He saw it happen. It was just a quick glint in the eye before the man glanced away. Even if someone else had noticed they would have discounted it as a regular response to a stranger entering the saloon. But Gabe hadn’t stayed alive all these years by ignoring the little details. Gabe worked in the time that existed between time. His workplace was the fractions of a second that others took for granted. Those fractions of time spelled life and death. Tick your alive, tock your dead.

The man’s attention was unnerving. For Gabe it meant it was time to quit. He had made up his mind on the ride in that this would be his last job and this man confirmed it. His employer would undoubtedly object, but he would deal with that when the time came.

Gabe scoped out the bar and strategically took a seat on the end and ordered a drink.

“I need a bed and a place to clean up. Do you have any vacancies?” He asked the bartender.

“Sure, fifty cents a night. Bath house is around back. I’ll heat up some water. It’ll be ready in about an hour.” Said the bartender

Gabe dropped a dollar on the table. “Thanks. I’ll take a steak too if you got any.”

The bartender smiled, picked up the money then went into the back to cook the food and heat the water.

Gabe discreetly fished in his pockets for a small vile containing a bluish liquid as the bartender served the steak. Gabe cut a small piece of the meat off and dropped it into the vile. The liquid stayed blue. The food was safe to eat. At least the bartender wasn’t trying to poison him. A good sign, it meant there were some people here that didn’t have to die. As Gabe ate his steak he noticed the man from before slip out. By the time Gabe finished his bath the big guns in town would know he was here. Figures, it always felt better to take a long, hot bath before attending to business and now it appeared that Gabe wouldn’t be able to soak too long.

Gabe dried and dressed. He buckled his rig around his waist. The weight of the double .45 colts was very familiar. He thonged the well oiled holsters to his thighs. Common practice for a gunfighter. He grasped each of the walnut grips reverently and pulled the guns out of the holsters a few inches. It was part of his ritual. He pushed his arms into the sleeves of his shirt then started to button it, careful to pull his cross outside his shirt. The cross was very old, given to him from his father and made of olive wood from trees grown in Bethlehem. Time to get to work. He put on his coat and hat, took a deep breath, and then opened the door.

Gabe stepped out and started toward the sheriff’s office. As he walked he became aware of several men paying him plenty of attention. The sheriff and about twelve others stepped out of the building. Gabe recognized one of them as the man from the bar.

“You picked the wrong town to ride into stranger,” said the sheriff. Several of the men behind him chuckled.

Gabe squared off and pulled his coat back to reveal his guns.

The sheriff and his posse laughed openly. The sheriff stopped laughing suddenly for effect before flipping out his fangs. “Them guns ain’t gonna do a damn thing,” said the sheriff. He smiled wickedly and began to advance on Gabe.

“God damn vampires.” Gabe said under his breath. He meant it literally. Gabe let go of the magic that kept his wings hidden. The sheriff and his posse, with smiles now totally erased from their faces stopped dead in their tracks. Gabe pulled his guns from their holsters and leveled them towards the vampric horde. His cross shone brilliantly.

“You’re wrong sheriff. Your time of reckoning has come. Prepare to meet thy Father.”

Author’s Note:I hoped you enjoyed this story. It was composed for Write Anything’s Fiction Friday challenge. This week’s prompt: Where your character is committed to a drastic or extreme change. Thank you for reading and commenting.