The image for this week’s Monday Flash Fics prompt is… well. It’s this. Which is so over-the-top hilarious to me it made me think of Lightning Todd from my short story, “Struck,” and how over-the-top he was. So, I decided to have some poor soul on vacation bump into a vacationing Todd, and here’s the result.
No one else seemed to be laughing, so José managed to just stare, incredulously, at the lights. It was like there was an in-joke, and he wasn’t, well, in.
This whole Christmas, he thought, was a bad idea. He wanted a coffee.
Everyone around him wore pretty heavy coats. It made him, in his hoodie, feel like he stuck out in just one more way of many. Did they really think this was winter? When he’d climbed on the airplane in Ottawa, he’d had to wait for a deicing, and there’d been so much snow coming down he’d wondered if the whole flight might be canceled.
But now he was here. In the warm night air. Looking at palm trees covered in lights. Which really, really looked like–
“Well, the trees are having a way better time than I am,” came a voice to José’s left.
José turned. There was a trim, blond guy in shiny grey pants and a tight blue button-down shirt looking up at the lit palm trees. The blond frowned, and tilted his head. “They’re supposed to be cocks, right? What’s the light version of well hung? Well lit?”
José choked back a laugh, wondering who the guy might be talking to. No one was with him.
Then the guy looked up, and José had a brief moment of being surprised at how blue the guy’s eyes were before he pointed at him and said, loudly. “Oh, thank fuck. There you are.”
José looked around, but no, the guy was talking to him. “Excuse me?”
The guy walked over, and gave him an up-and-down look. “Huh. Normally you guys need more coiffing than this. Nicely done.”
“What?” José glanced around. Maybe this was a set-up after all.
“You look pretty nice,” the guy said. “I’m just used to there needing to be more work. Okay. Anyway. I’m trying to enjoy my redhead vacation and your vibes are getting all clumpy and orange and it’s messing with my good time. You need to stop that.”
Okay. This guy wasn’t joking, he was maybe just… unbalanced? “I’m sorry?”
“It’s okay, I’m feeling forgiving. I’m Lightning Todd,” the guy said, as though that cleared something up.
José shook his head.
“Right,” the guy–Lightning Todd–said. “We’re in the states. Duh. I’m kind of a big thing in Canada.”
“I’m Canadian, actually,” José said.
Lightning Todd pursed his lips. “You need to have the cookie ready. That should do it. And just… y’know… let the orange stuff go. Yes, it’s sad, but you knew more than you think you knew, I think.”
“I knew more…” José shook his head. “Cookie?”
“Right. Cookie. Letting go. You got it?” Lightning Todd wiped his palms together. “Great. Now, go fix that, and I’m gonna go find the redhead with the nice butt. He and I are going to have a great week.” He looked off into the air, in an unfocused way, then came back to himself, nodded, and turned. “You’ve been struck!” he said, aiming two finger guns at José, then pivoting and walking away.
José watched him go.
José shook off the odd encounter and got in line at the first coffee shop he could find. When he spotted a single gingerbread cookie left on the display, a Santa, he hesitated. Feeling stupid, he picked it up, and bought it along with his coffee.
He sipped the coffee while he walked in the warm (to him) air, and kept eyeing the brightly decorated palm trees. They totally looked like cocks. Lightning Todd–whoever he was–was right about that.
He sat on one of the benches, and decided to people watch. It was one of the many things that Nico had been unwilling to do, and the more José thought about how many of the things he enjoyed doing that Nico hadn’t done, the more he figured he should have seen the sudden Christmas breakup coming.
Yes, it’s sad, but you knew more than you think you knew, I think. José frowned. Huh. That was…something.
A handsome hipster dad carrying a little girl was strolling. The little girl was pointing at the lights, and her father was looking at the trees with an amused expression on his face. He had a really nicely trimmed beard and moustache. Nice jeans too. Snug.
The girl turned to point at one of the other trees, and something dropped from her other hand. The dad tried to catch it, but he just knocked it midair and it landed in a puddle.
“I’m sorry,” the girl said. “I’ll pick it up.”
“Oh, honey, no, you can’t eat that now. It went in the puddle.”
José glanced down. It was a gingerbread cookie. Huh.
He rose before he could stop himself. They were only a step or two away. “Here,” he said, pulling out the cookie. “It’s still wrapped. It was the last one.”
The dad eyed him, and smiled. Man. It was a good smile, too. “You may have just saved Christmas,” he said. Great voice. Also, his hazel eyes crinkled when he smiled. Man. All the hot ones were straight.
To avoid drooling too much, José knelt down and picked up the ruined cookie, tossing it into the bin beside the bench. By the time he’d done that, the little girl had unwrapped the cookie and was taking a bite.
“Thank you,” she said.
“You’re very welcome,” José said.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” the man said.
“Does it show?”
“Ah. I’m Canadian.”
“That explains the good deed. I hear Canadians are always polite.”
The little girl whispered in her dad’s ear. He listened, with a comic concentration face, then nodded to her seriously. “You think so?”
“My niece thinks you should join us for our walk.” The man was flushing just a little. “But you can say no if you’ve got plans. It is Christmas.”
“I have no plans. This was a last-minute thing,” José said, and then his brain caught up. Wait. Niece?
“You’ve got no plans for Christmas Day?” the man said. His eyebrows rose.
“Uh, it’s just… Home wasn’t really a good idea this year. I figured, maybe going somewhere warm would…” José squirmed. “Basically I ran away from having to answer breakup questions.”
The man regarded him for half a breath. José knew his face was burning.
“So some idiot man let you go?” the man said. “Right before Christmas?”
José managed a nod. So much for gender neutral camouflage.
The little girl whispered in her uncle’s ear again. He made the same concentration face, and nodded to her seriously again.
“You’re right. He’s very cute. And nice. I’ll ask.” He turned to José. “You’re welcome to join us for our dinner. Alicia’s parents are really good cooks, and I contribute by taking her out of the house while they work their magic. I am a terrible cook. But I love kids. And it turns out I also like polite Canadians with cookies.”
“I’m José,” José said, and he couldn’t help but think about how Nico didn’t like kids. “And dinner with Alicia sounds lovely.”
The little girl smiled at him, taking another big bite of the Santa cookie.
“I’m Clark,” the man said. “Nice to meet you, José.” He gestured. “This way.”
They started walking together. José took one last look behind him at the lit trees, and caught a glimpse of a trim blond man walking arm in arm with a redhead on the far side of the square. He also decided to leave all his thoughts of Nico right there with him.