A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

Simple Acts
by D. J. Russell (Aug 2005)

            In a not so distant land, set apart by rivers and ocean, there lies a city.  This is a city unlike any other.  Grass and tree have been replaced by gardens of concrete and steel.

            On the streets of this metropolis there is a steady flow of traffic and people. This is such a constant process that it is easy to imagine that the inhabitants are the flow of blood coursing through the paved arteries of some man-made giant.

            In the midst of this teeming mass of life are two people - a man and a woman.  You might think this is a love story, and you’d be right, in a way.  It is a tale of great love and commitment.  The only problem is that our players do not know one another.

            The first time they meet is in front of the 42nd Street Deli.  Iris, an attractive young woman in her early twenties, exited the deli with a purse slung over one shoulder, a sandwich in one hand and a soft drink in the other.  She was speaking quickly into a cell phone that was lodged between her ear and her shoulder.  Stepping to the curb, she attempted to hail a passing taxi.  With her movement impaired by all she was carrying, she found the task to be all but impossible.

            Suddenly there was a man at her side  He was a tall man and, although it was difficult to tell by his old and tattered clothing, he was quite good looking.  Iris looked him over briefly before trying again to hail an approaching taxi.  While raising her sandwiched hand to get the cabby’s attention, her cell phone slipped from its precarious perch and nearly fell to the ground.  As she fumbled with her cell, she heard a loud whistle and a shout. 

            The taxi pulled to the curb in front of Iris and the tall man.  He briskly walked to the taxi and opened the rear door.  Iris fumed silently.  She would never get a cab at this rate.  She was not in the mood to ride the subway today.

            Once the door was open, the man made no move to get in.  Instead, he waved her forward, indicating that she should climb in.  Iris did not hesitate.  Assuming that he was intending to share the cab with her, Iris climbed into the cab and slid her body to the far side of the seat.

            Once she was seated however, the man shut the door and slapped his hand on the cab’s roof, telling the driver to head out.  As the cab pulled away, Iris turned in her seat and stared at the retreating figure.  He had immediately began walking away from the curb, making no effort to grab another taxi for himself, and soon disappeared around the corner.

            Two weeks later, on a night lighted by a beautifully romantic full moon, Iris was walking the final three blocks home in tears.  She had just been dumped by her boyfriend of eighteen months.  Great sobs wracked her body as she slowly climbed the small flight of stairs that led to the front door of her building.

            Once inside, she sat by her bedroom’s open window.  She sat in the still dark room and quietly wept alone.  After several hours, she got into bed and quickly drifted off into the sleep of the broken-hearted.

            The next morning greeted her with glorious sunshine and an intoxicatingly cool breeze.  The beauty of the day could not dispel the gloom of her mood.  She reluctantly got out of bed, showered and dressed.  She had just finished doing the final touch-up on her face when there was a knock on the door.

            Thinking it was her boyfriend with a change of heart, she rushed to her front door and flung it open.  There was no one there.  She glanced up and down the hall and almost turned back into her apartment when she saw a man at the end of the hall.  His back was to her, but she saw that he was a tall man with shabby clothing.  Iris was about to call to him, but he disappeared around the corner where the elevators were located.

            Iris had turned to step back into the apartment when her foot kicked something.  Looking down, she found a folded slip of paper and a single red rose.  She picked the items up and closed her door.  Sitting down at her kitchen table, she opened the slip of paper.  The handwritten note was short.


                        The pain you feel will pass.  Always remember that you are not alone

                        in this world.  Keep your heart open and God will temper your loss

                        with love.


            There was no signature on the note.  Iris picked up the rose and deeply breathed in its beautiful scent.  It was then that she thought about the image of the retreating figure she had just seen.  There had been something about him that was terribly familiar.

            Three days later, Iris exited the subway and began the short walk to her apartment.  Her body was on autopilot because her mind was elsewhere.  A new client had just presented her firm with a particularly tricky problem, and she was determined to have it solved by the time she went to work the next morning.

            The world was brought sharply back into focus by the blaring of a horn and a tug on her arm that nearly knocked her off her feet.  She was about to unload on whoever had grabbed her when she saw the delivery truck that had stopped only two feet from where she was standing.  Turning to thank her rescuer, her jaw dropped.

            It was him!  It was the mysterious man in need of a shopping spree and a good shave.

            “You!”  The single word was almost accusing.  “Who are you?  Are you following me?”

            “Nope.  I am just on my way home.”  He was not the least bit ruffled by the harshness of her words.

            “Do you live in my building?”  How else could he have known about her crying?

            “No, but I do live close by.”

            “Where do you live?”  She was not in the mood for vague answers.

            The man shifted his feet, suddenly uncomfortable at her insistence.

            “I live in the alley between the buildings.”

            “You are homeless?”  A flicker of embarrassment shone on the man’s face.  Iris immediately regretted the question.  “Have you been following me?”


            “Then how do you keep showing up just when I seem to need help?”

            He stared down at his feet, considering her question.  It was several seconds before he answered.

            “The first time we met I had just finished cleaning out the back of a nearby shoe store.  You looked like you were having a tough time getting a cab so I thought I would help.  The second time, the night you came home crying, I was sleeping on the grate below your window.  It broke my heart to hear someone in that much pain.  I had a couple of bucks on me, so I wrote the note and bought you the rose.”

            “So you are not stalking me?”


            “Then what do you want?  Why me?”

            “I don’t want anything from you.”

            Iris was getting frustrated.  She did not understand his answers.  There had to be some kind of motive for his actions.

            “If you don’t want anything from me, then why do you keep going out of your way to rescue me?”

            The stranger pulled up the collar of his coat as protection against the strong breeze that had just kicked up.  A big smile played across his face.

            “Because I can.”  Without another glance at her, he turned around and melted into a stream of passing pedestrians.


            Author’s Addendum: A commitment to service should not be a checklist that one marks off when each item is accomplished.  Rather than being a “to do” list, a commitment to service should be a series of captured moments or seized opportunities.

            Service should be an act of unconditional love for our fellow man, because of the God that made them and for the powerful spirits they have the potential of being.  It does not take momentous acts of kindness to be a servant of God.  It takes consideration and an attentiveness to the needs of those around you.  Even one simple act can change another’s life.

Site Map

HOME           ShortStories           Essays           Poems         Websites      

Meetings         Comments         ContactUs         Members

This is the website of the Red Dirt Writers Society.
Revised April 2007.