Posted on: February 13th, 2011 The Excision

by Nicole M. Taylor

Sheila considered it an unexpected stroke of good luck. She had little reason, after all, to think that anyone would ever take an interest in her heart again.

“How ridiculous,” the magician told her, in response to this, “they aren’t exactly going begging, you know.” He said he was constantly amazed at how incompletely people understood the value of things. “Do you know what some would pay for baby teeth? And what to people do with them? Shut them up in drawers. Put them in scrapbooks!”

The magician worked at the Shop n’ Go in the bakery department, but that was just temporary. That’s where they met, in the bakery department. Sheila was staring into the plastic donut case, attempting to decide between an apple cruller and a lemon custard. She was clutching her shopping basket in her hands and her fingers were white and red from holding on so tightly and she realized that this was a terrible thing she was feeling. This awful urgency, as though some part of her world would fall away if she made the wrong choice.

“You look like a woman in need of some help,” the magician had said.

The operation was a simple one, as Sheila understood it. It was performed in his apartment (which was over the Save n’ Go) and she had to lie down in his bathtub, to ease clean-up afterwards. It was a little tight, her legs were smushed up into an inverted V in front of her. She had to unbutton her shirt, but the magician told her she could keep her bra on.

“Will it hurt?” she asked him as he drew on her chest with a black Sharpie. Little arrows and dashes, like a football play.

“Doesn’t it hurt now?” he said

There was no need for anesthesia. Sheila felt quite calm and clear headed and she watched the magician as he washed his hands, scrubbing carefully underneath his fingernails with a soft white scrub-brush.

“What was his name?” the magician asked as he knelt down beside her.

“Jackson,” Sheila answered.

It felt like going to the dentist. Sheila could feel pressure and industry moving through the bones and skin of her, but it was deadened. A thing she considered, rather than felt.

“It’s a pretty good heart,” the magician pronounced, holding it aloft. Little red droppets fell from it and pattered onto Sheila’s shirt. Distantly, she was annoyed. It was a white shirt. Those stains would not come out. “Look,” the magician said.

The heart was bigger than she had expected, and darker as well. Almost purple, rather than red. She could see the heavy black estuaries of veins that moved through it.

“It flutters,” the magician smiled as though he had never been so delighted by a thing.

“Yes,” Sheila said, “I remember that.”

The heart was slightly damaged. There was an aching fissure in one ventricle. The magician told her that it was slowly expanding and, eventually, her heart would have separated into its component parts, connected only by the toughest, most determined strands of tissue.

“But there are lots of people who’d pay for flaws like that,” the magician explained. “It’s like distressed jeans.”

Sheila wiped the blood off her chest with a ragged washcloth, but left the marker directions. She buttoned up her shirt and stared into the mirror to see how obvious her bloodstains were. They looked like polka dots.

The magician put the heart into a plastic bowl with a snap-on lid. He’d written something unreadable on one side with the Sharpie. He set it down in the refrigerator, in the crisper, which was otherwise empty.

The magician escorted her to the door. “How do you feel?”

Sheila thought about this for a moment. She looked down at her still, hollow chest and remembered a time when Jackson rested his head there. For the first time in so very long, she did not feel an immediate electric-shock spike of pain.

“A little cold,” she said. The magician nodded. He had told her that that was common. Just as well, Sheila liked sweaters anyway.

On the way home, she stopped by the market and bought an apple cruller. She ate it all as she walked and licked the gritty sugar from her fingers and palms in the cold sunshine.

Filed under: bad-ass, stories

3 Responses to “The Excision”

  1. On the Occasion of My First Publication… « nicolemtaylor Says:
    February 13th, 2011 at 12:00 pm

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    February 13th, 2011 at 1:43 pm

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    February 13th, 2011 at 1:43 pm

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