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.

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