Friday Fiction: The Gift


The following work is flash fiction. That means there’s no editing involved, nor was their any research devoted to medical accuracy in this story. It’s just an exercise in writing off the top of my head. Hope you enjoy.

The saying goes that God won’t give you more than you can handle. If that were true, then Jennifer Stewart’s family must have been able to handle anything.

Jennifer’s parents had both destroyed their credit as young adults and had never been able to recover. Now in their early thirties, Rick and Diane were struggling to make ends meet, fighting to squeeze everything they could out of every check, and it was never quite enough. Then Jennifer came along, and things got financially worse.

Both Rick and Diane made enough to barely make ends meet with Jennifer as a part of their lives, but they made far too much to qualify for any sort of government assistance, and so they continued to struggle, turning any holiday into an afterthought.

At age three, Jennifer was diagnosed with a rare heart condition, and that landed her a spot on the transplant list.

Rick and Diane didn’t know what to do anymore. They tried fundraising sites, they tried neighborhood bake sales, but nothing could come close to matching the enormous medical bills Jennifer’s condition was racking up. Things were looking bad as the holidays arrived, only to be largely ignored once more.

Early in December, as Rick and Diane were tucking Jennifer into bed, she announced that she didn’t believe in Santa Claus, because if there was one, she wouldn’t be sick. Rick and Diane didn’t know what to say, so they reassured her the best they could and stumbled, crestfallen, to their own bedroom for a night of fitful slumber. After the life they were living, they couldn’t bring themselves to believe in Santa Claus either, though they desperately wanted to.

Christmas Eve came around with little fanfare, when the phone rang that night. A donor had been found, and it was time. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning. Rick and Diane only fleetingly thought of the expense they were about to undertake – their little girl was getting her life back, and on Christmas Day.

Jennifer was wheeled into the OR and the long wait began.

And went on. And on.

For 13 hours Jennifer was in there with no notification from the doctors or nurses of any sort of update.

Finally the surgeon, Dr. Peterson came to meet them, still in his scrubs.

The surgeon began, “Your daughter had some complications in surgery, but she’s fine. Once she stabilizes in recovery, you can come back and see her.” Rick and Diane started crying and profusely thanked Dr. Peterson before returning to their seats in the rear of the richly decorated waiting room. They were the only ones there, due to the holiday, except for the tree with the solid white lights.

While still wiping the tears from their eyes, a portly gentleman in a well-tailored navy business suit and a crimson tie approached them. “Mr. and Mrs. Stewart?”

Rick and Diane stood up and acknowledged their visitor, who introduced himself as a member of the hospital’s board of directors. He started to speak with little fanfare. “We know your situation is tight, so I wanted to make a point of visiting with you today and telling you that an anonymous benefactor has agreed to pay all of Jennifer’s medical bills from the beginning. It seemed an appropriate way to wish you merry Christmas.”

Rick and Diane were dumbfounded. They didn’t know what to say. This could give them their lives back. Without really thinking, Diane just hugged the man, who smiled a big smile and hugged her back.

As he departed to leave, the man handed each of them his card and said for them to call on him should they need anything else..

Instinctively, they both looked down at the card, which bore only two words: “Kris Kringle.”

Open-mouthed, they looked up to face the man. But he was nowhere to be seen. He’d not had time to walk across the waiting area and there was nothing blocking their view to any point in the room. He’d just vanished.

Beside them, the solid white lights on the Christmas tree started to twinkle as somewhere distantly in the hospital, they heard a jolly old laugh.


Friday Fiction: Feeding the Fire


I’m up late (early?) again, and found myself considering my entertainment options, so here I am.

This may or may not be the start of a new feature on this blog called Friday Fiction. The idea is for me to crank out at least one new short story a week, to hone my writing skills. I figure that if I make it a habit, it’ll be more effective. So here’s the first installment of Friday Fiction, alliteratively titled “Feeding the Fire.” Hope you enjoy it.

He sat in an easy chair, contemplating the universe as filtered through a glass of scotch on the rocks.

So many lost opportunities in my life, he thought to himself. I could have had a career in the military. I could have gone to school. I could have been somebody.

He knocked back the scotch, got up, refreshed his drink and sat back down in the spot he left by the fireplace. There were a few flickers of dancing orange flame, but the fire was burning down to embers. It was the only light in the dimming room.

The dying fire was a focal point for his frustrations with life. What could he have become? How much more grand could his life have been without the job struggles, the financial failures, the hesitant starts and stops in his journey.

He was wracked with guilt about what could have been and filled with fear about what was to come.

Would he still be sitting by the fire, in that chair, drinking the same single malt ten, twenty, thirty years in the future? Would he be in a home somewhere? Would he be homeless, struggling to eat while dealing with some ravaging disease that he couldn’t afford to treat or prevent?

It’s late, he thought to himself. I should get some sleep.

But how could he sleep with such questions occupying his thoughts?

So many times, he considered knocking back the scotch until he fell asleep in the chair, highball glass dropped on the floor and half a shot of liquor spilled among the melting ice cubes, snoring his troubles away. It would be so easy to drink to forget.

It seemed that in the middle of the night, his prospects and his future was dying with the speed of the fire on the hearth.

He entertained the thought of putting another log on and stoking the fire again, but what would that achieve? It’s a lost cause, he concluded, before taking another slow sip of the Glenfiddich. It was expensive, and he wouldn’t dare have purchased it for himself. It was a holiday gift, in thanks for a successful project at work.

He sat for a time, just staring into the flickering flames and feeling the chill start to enter the room. The fire had nearly burnt itself out.

Then he had an epiphany as he gazed into the dying light.

The fire was a metaphor for his passion. Left untended, it would quickly burn itself out using all available resources. It needed constant refueling, and so did his passions in life. With the proper replenishment, it could burn indefinitely.

He permitted himself a half-smile, finished the rest of the whisky, then got up from his lounger. He walked down the hall and opened the first door on the left. It was dimly lit by the twinkling stars projected on the ceiling. He very softly kissed his sleeping four-year-old daughter on her cheek, then silently crept out of the room before she could wake.

He entered the master bedroom further down the hall and repeated the process with his wife. She was a lighter sleeper, and she stirred enough to mumble a sweet nothing to her husband before slipping back into slumber. He went around to his side of the bed, picked up his messenger bag, then crept back to the living room.

He put another log on the fire and poked the embers so the new log would alight and start to burn. Presently it did so, filling the room with both warmth and light.

He refilled his drink and rolled a laptop desk to the easy chair pulling his Macbook out of the messenger bag. He booted it up and opened Pages before cracking his knuckles in anticipation.

Feed the fire, he thought to himself.

His fingers lightly touched the keyboard and he began to write.

“He sat in an easy chair, contemplating the universe as filtered through a glass of scotch on the rocks.”

The Warning


Today, in celebration of Monday (because no one celebrates Monday, it’s like the red-headed bastard stepchild of the week) I’m going to take a day off from blogging. See how well this is working out for me so far?

Seriously though, what I mean is that I’m not writing anything original today or, at least, not yet. This is a short story I wrote as a mental exercise a few weeks back. What you see here is almost completely unedited, which stands as a testament to my bravery in the face of Internet ridicule for daring to make public a spelling or grammatical error. (If you haven’t figured it out by now, my writing style is pretty stream-of-consciousness, and sometimes it doesn’t make much sense.) I’d be interested to hear your take on my writing, so comments are welcome, if you’re so inclined. Thank you in advance. Anyway, enough rambling from me on my day off. Enjoy the story.

It took him a year and a half of phone calls to finally see Representative Tarleton, and now was his big chance.

“Sir, I’ll be brief, but you have to believe me, the entire world is under threat of imminent attack. I’m one of an advance party of beings from another planet whose mission was to assimilate into Earth culture and society. I came, I did my duty, I reported back what I saw, and then I started having second thoughts. I’ve never seen a civilization so hellbent on destroying itself and yet so full of hope. There are others here like me, who came to do a job and saw what we were doing was wrong, that want to help humans not only overcome their own petty differences but band together to defeat a global threat. Please sir, I have to see the President right away.”

Tarleton was understandably skeptical of his constituent, but continued to humor his guest. “Suppose I buy into this. The President will want proof. What do you have, Mr. Smith?”

Smith hung his head, sighed heavily, then showed Tarleton his proof.

Suddenly before the Congressman stood a mottled gray amphibious looking humanoid with moist, glistening skin. All six arms outstretched to show no hostility was intended. Tarleton shrank back in horror, eyes flitting left and right to find an escape, before realizing that whatever it was that stood before him posed no threat, meant no harm. He nodded twice, and the alien called “Mr. Smith” began to reassume his human shape.

The human head of Mr. Smith asked “Now do you believe me?” before his extra appendages had had a chance to absorb back into his body. Tarleton paused for a brief moment, fascinated at the bizarre image before him, then picked up his office phone.

“Brenda, I need to see the President immediately. Matter of imminent national security. Hurry.”

~ ~ ~

On the way to the White House, Tarleton briefed Smith on protocol. “Let me do the talking. Add what you can when asked to do so, but don’t volunteer. Whatever you do, DO NOT … uh … change into your actual self. The President and the Secret Service would see that as an aggressive action and kill you before you could blink.” He paused. “Could they kill you, Mr. Smith?”

“No sir, not without reloading a few times.”

“All the more reason for you to keep to your human looking self, then. Alright, we’re here.” Tarleton unbuckled himself from the back seat of his limo, then hesitated. “Any last minute information I need to know?”

“I’m just the advance team, so they don’t tell me much about strategy. All I can tell you is that they’re still halfway across the galaxy at this point, but when they arrive, it will redefine shock and awe,” Smith said, earnestly looking into the Congressman’s eyes.

“Can we match them, firepower for firepower?” Tarleton inquired. Smith shook his head slowly.

“Not a chance in hell, sir.”

“Okay, I’m advising the President to get as many people underground as we can. If they can’t find us, they can’t kill us. Let’s go.”

~ ~ ~

Tarleton did his best to sell the President, but it was a losing battle almost immediately. Smith, despite his instructions, had had enough, and he interrupted the two public servants.

“Madame President, Congressman Tarleton is telling the truth. I’m trying to save the human race here. I don’t know how much time is left – could be months, could be years. The point is we need to move NOW or we’re all dead!” Smith’s voice was shrill, piercing, hysterical, and desperate, his arms were flailing uncontrollably. He was panicky, and he didn’t care who knew.

The President was having none of this. She turned to her Secret Service detail and yelled, “Get him the hell out of here! Tarleton, you stay. How DARE you bring someone with that kind of a cockamamie–”

Smith never heard the rest of her sentence. It only took one perfectly placed pistol whip to the soft crown of his alien skull to knock him out before he was cuffed and dragged from the Oval Office.

~ ~ ~

“–cockamamie story into my office? What the hell were you thinking? Jesus, I need a drink. What will you have, Tarleton?” The President, visibly shaken, went to the bar and poured herself a scotch on the rocks.

“Whisky, neat.” He paused, then said submissively, “He was just trying to warn you of the danger, Madame President.”

Behind Madame President’s back, as she poured the Congressman his drink, Tarleton’s hungry gray mouth opened wider than humanly possible to reveal several rows of razor sharp teeth. Outside the White House window, the sky over Washington went dark with incoming dropships.