Accidental Hero

Funnily enough. this one started off as a conversation with Misky and Sanjeet. I hastily threw up an image as a suggestion for some flash fiction, then took a more considered view and realised that it really was writeable.

This is about 1,000 – 6 or 7 minutes.

Salvatore patted his stomach, satisfied with his treat. Since Giorgia’s death, he did not get out, so even a lunch excursion was welcome. He didn’t eat particularly well, either, these days. His doctor droned on at him, his daughter droned on… So, the fresh clams provided a nutritious retort to their wailing. The small pitcher of rosé was welcome, too, although he drank this in defiance.

Every Thursday, Salvatore enjoyed Alfredo’s Spaghetti alle Vongole. It had become ritual since he was seduced by the beguiling aroma from the bistro. Whatever herbs Alfredo used to steam the clams – even Giorgia’s had never been so good!

Picking €20 from his wallet, he drained his glass and forced his frame to its feet, placing his napkin gently onto the table. “Ciao, Maestro”, he called through to the kitchen, “See you next week.” But before he left, he visited the bathroom. These days, it was better to be safe. As he washed his hands, his reflection betrayed an unhealthy octogenarian. He’d aged so much since Giorgia, too. He was always so tired now. His white hair was becoming long again; he must visit Vincenzo soon for a trim. He’d seen this happen to others. One partner dies, the other loses interest. Yesterday, he hadn’t even changed out of his pyjamas. Most of all, the prospect of facing old age alone terrified him. As he left the restaurant, he thought he might take a siesta. There was nothing else.

Leisurely strolling across the Piazza Marroni, Salvatore reflected on the irony that age had granted him the lethargy to fully absorb his surroundings, yet had also stolen his once-perfect eyesight, preventing his full appreciation. He missed the pigeons. There were a few now, but not like the old days. He chuckled as he remembered the earnest young man who would dash for the Metro, completely missing the priceless baroque architecture which surrounded him. And, with a tinge of melancholy, Salvatore couldn’t help wondering where the pigeons lived now.

Across Marroni, he cut up the Via Mola. Here, imposing apartment buildings towered over him, promoting an air of claustrophobia. Their apartment – his, he had to remind himself – was up at the top of the shallow steps. They had lived there more than fifty years, since just before Sofia was born. This was his home.

Criss-crossed with narrow alleyways, the Old Town had everything he needed, and with the absence of traffic, these streets ensured a delicious oasis from the rest of the city.

But not today.   

He couldn’t see, but could hear the whining. An abnormally loud engine. But this passage was pedestrianized. It must be coming from one of the nearby roads. He shuffled on but the noise did not diminish.

He first realized something was wrong when he saw a woman in a pale blue raincoat topple into the gutter, and an instant later, the first of three mopeds appeared, as another woman, reacting more quickly than the first, scurried out of its path.

Salvatore was not so speedy. He was lucky, though. Walking close to the handrail, the first moped, followed closely by the second, sped past on the other side of the alley. In a flash they were gone. Salvatore barely had time, but recognise two twenty-something riders. Thick black hair waved in place of their helmets. As they passed by, their noise was deafening.

He had a good view of the last, however, who was approaching one-handed, seemingly clutching something inside a black bomber jacket. Far too fast, off-balance, he careerered the full width of the steps. When Salvatore saw the bike pointing straight at him, he froze. Time slowed. The high pitch of his engine just became blurred. There was even time to notice a wispy beard on the youth’s face, untidy, the mark of somebody too young to shave properly. And Salvatore caught the grimace on the boy’s face as he realized they were about to collide.

The glancing blow knocked Salvatore off balance. He felt himself falling. A moment later, something hard hit his head. Darkness.

The first sense to return was touch. Somebody’s hand was holding his. An angel? Sent to comfort his final journey? Was this heaven? But then, a voice he knew.

“Oh Papa, Papa.” Sofia fought the tears. Why was his daughter here? Was she the angel? Oh, to see her smile one last time. But strain as he might, his eyelids now felt incredibly heavy now.

“Papa! Nurse!” Sofia noticed the flicker and became suddenly animated. “He’s waking up!” Salvatore again tried to focus on his daughter, this time raising the lids a crack but wincing them closed again as bright lights struck his eye.

“Sofia! My darling girl! Is that you?” His voice returned, albeit half-heartedly, “Come closer”, he rasped, as much to blot out that light, but recognised his dark-blonde, fifty-something daughter, as she leant in.

“Oh, Papa, you’re awake! Nurse!”

By the time a nurse arrived, Sofia was helping prop her father up in a clinical hospital bed. Its plastic mattress felt terrible, but Salvatore didn’t care. His body ached.

“Mr. Poggi?”, an efficient North African nurse entered the room. “It’s good to have you back with us. How are you feeling?”, he asked as he started examining Salvatore’s head wound.

Dumb question. “Sore”, grumbled the old man, shooing the nurse away as he hit a tender spot. “What happened?”

Salvatore quickly tired of the steady procession of doctors, all wanting to prod at him. Sensing his irritation, Sofia took control, “Shall we see if there is anything on TV, Papa?” Apathetic, Salvatore didn’t care, but assuming command, Sofia grappled with the bedside controls.

“Look, dad, the News has just started.”

No interest.

Commencing his monologue, the newsreader announced gravely.

“And in downtown Napoli today, a have-a-go hero foiled three armed robbers. The thieves grabbed €250,000 of jewellery from the Vicone store in the city centre, using mopeds to escape into the city’s Old Town district. But they didn’t reckon on the passer by, who threw himself at the ringleader, leaving the man severely concussed as he rugby-tackled him from his bike.

“Police recovered the stolen jewellery, but are searching for two accomplices, who are still at large.”

Salvatore tutted and pressed the ‘Off’ button. “I want to get out of here. Let’s go home.”


  1. Delicious details. You make this place come alive. I liked the little twist on the end and how it reminds us that our actions can always be reinterpreted. A happy ending of sorts, but in a way of feels sad to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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