The Life Saver

Short Short Story


The artist painted the sky and the trees and the water and somehow the breeze and the call of the birds.

The cynic jogged by, glancing at his watch that monitored his breaths and his pulse and the distance he’d run. He looked up and stopped.

“Tom?” said the jogger.

The artist looked up from his work.

“Tom Smith?” said the jogger.

“A lot of people named Tom Smith in this world,” said the artist. “That’s me, but is it who you’re thinking of?”

“Tom Smith,” the jogger repeated, but named a high school and a college.

“That would likely be me, Sam,” the artist smiled. “Yes, I knew who ye were.”

They talked a bit about the old days, and then:

“Tom, you were the brightest kid in our class,” Sam said. “The yearbook said you were Most Likely to Cure Cancer. The way you worked in the lab was a thing of awe.”

“I didn’t want to cure cancer,” the artist said. “I was meant to paint.”

“Think of the lives you’d have saved.”

“I did save lives.”


“A young woman came by the other day, stood where you are, and thanked me for the painting I’d done that struck her heart and convinced her to go on living.”

“One girl.”

“Happens all the time. Then there was the couple who stopped their bickering at one another when they happened by and looked at what I was painting. And you.”

The jogger looked at what the artist was painting. And then he looked at the scene around him and saw, for the first time, the sky and the trees and the water, and he felt and heard the breeze and the call of the gulls.

“My god, it’s beautiful.”

“Makes you want to live, doesn’t it?”

“It does.”

“I suppose I could have been a scientist toiling away at my research and making a difference that way,” said the artist. “And one day I hope to shake the hand of the woman who cures cancer. But I was meant to paint.”

“Maybe so.”

“Absolutely so. Some of us save lives working in a lab. Some of us save lives charging into a fight or a burning building where reason tells us to flee. Some of us save lives by adding to the beauty. That’s me.”

And Sam jogged away, the gentle breeze in his face and the gulls calling across the sky at one another.