Dextrocardia - a condition that makes the heart move out of its original position
Judy lost her heart. Again.
She couldn’t remember if it was on the right swell of her chest or the left—and she probably could have been tricked into thinking it was in the greasy crook of her elbow. Do you feel that artery, Judy? Do you feel the way it’s beating like the rhythm of a soldier’s weary feet or humming like the church bells that rarely ring? No, she did not, and when the football game flickered onto her TV and a patriotic woman started belting the national anthem, she put her right hand on her left elbow. That was Judy.
Judy called her daughter after the game had begun.
“I think I’ve lost my heart,” she said carefully like she was trying not to choke on her own words.
Her daughter was silent on the other end, “I’ll call around and see if anyone has it.”
Judy nodded to herself and turned the television off. Without the roar of the fans and the announcers, she could close her eyes and hear the cars roll by. Sometimes she imagined their engines as waves from the ocean so she could pretend she actually left the city once in a while. She stood up, brushed herself off, and searched for her heart.
. . .
Judy’s heart was not in the shower. It was whole and red so it couldn’t have washed down the drain or disappeared into her cup of tea. It was not in the laundry hamper or tucked into her shawl pocket. She thought she’d find it amongst her living room pillows or stuffed underneath her couch, but nope. It was gone and Judy was starting to panic.
. . .
“Is this happening a lot, Mrs. Caldwell?”
“Ms. Caldwell,” Judy corrected.
The doctor nodded and jotted something down on his pad of paper. He leaned back into her couch cushions and bit his lip. “If it’s happening a lot, it’s not exactly dangerous yet, but we should make finding your heart our top priority.” He scribbled some more. Judy sipped her tea and stared at the cedarwood coffee table. “Ms. Caldwell? Can you hear me?”
She blinked a few times and set her tea down. “Doctor, I am all yours. Did you know I watched my first football game today?”
“Mmm,” the doctor answered.
“Yes it was quite exciting. Rather violent, and also disappointing, because I had no heart to pledge to in the anthem. Or was it the allegiance? I couldn’t possibly remember but I do remember that I had no heart and it made me feel empty.”
The doctor clicked a button on his fancy-hotel pen and a flashlight appeared off the back end like a yellow lightsaber. He scratched his balding head before placing his hand on Judy’s shoulder and shining the light into her eyes. She did not react well.
“Ow, ouch!” She turned away and rubbed her wrinkled eyelids.
“I am not your therapist, Ms. Caldwell,” the doctor reminded her, “I am merely here to figure out what happened to your heart. And your emptiness might be a side effect.”
Judy stroked her chin, “A side effect? You sound like a detective. Are you a detective?”
“No, Ms. Caldwell.”
. . .
Judy was getting restless. Was her lack of heart causing this? Was this another side effect? She needed to get out. Was the doctor underestimating her issue? What was he hiding from her? She slipped on her flats and tugged her shawl closer to her body.
Judy didn’t even lock the door on the way out. Was it because she forgot? Or because she had nothing valuable inside her little cottage? Perhaps this was another side effect, forgetting things, but Judy didn’t worry much about it. The only other explanation for her lost heart was that it had wandered off. Judy did not know where, but she thought she’d start by looking where the pigeons gathered in the square or where people held hands on the park benches. Judy knew her heart and so she knew it’d be staking out in a place where love was lingering in people’s breaths. Now it was just a matter of finding said place.
After peeking in all the obvious places and becoming quite wary, Judy needed a break. She needed tea. Or coffee. Or anything with caffeine. And probably a blueberry scone. Her home was a ways away, around a twenty minute walk that would take Judy’s old limbs forty minutes. Walking home was not an option. There was a small cafe just beyond the edge of the park, past the rows of identical trees. She decided to head there, purposefully ignoring the doctor’s warnings to rest and not be too active without her heart.
There weren’t many people out and about, although it was mid-afternoon. Judy assumed that not many others had lost their hearts and were out looking for it like a loyal owner to a feral cat.
Between two large trees, the cafe came into view. There were a few customers seated outside on tables that rocked and the neon “OPEN” sign glowed in the window. Judy pursed her lips, as she had never actually been to this cafe, but would be a big girl and figure it out on her own.
Before she went inside, she knew she should look around the perimeter of the cafe to see if her heart was gathering wisps of rubbish on the sidewalk. It was not, but one man sat with his ankles crossed on a little chair, his face buried into the newspaper. Judy tried to search under his chair, but she needed him to move his feet so she could feel for her heart under it.
“Mr.?” Judy touched him delicately on the shoulder. He didn’t move his head but his eyes stuck to hers. “Do you mind moving your feet so I can see if my heart is hiding under your chair?”
The man folded his newspaper onto his lap. “Your . . . heart?” His voice was deep and condescending with his eyes squinting ever so slightly.
Judy tapped her foot impatiently, “Yes, my heart. I’ve lost it and now I’m trying to find it because I’m getting these horrid side effects—”
“Ma’am,” the man interrupted, “are you okay?”
Judy frowned and felt the creases in her forehead. “I’m doing well, thank you. Except for the fact that I think my heart is under your chair.”
The man blinked. “Won’t you sit with me and have some tea or coffee?”
Judy sighed, exasperated, “No! I need my heart. Just move, please.”
“Okay, I hear you.” The man spread his hands out on the table and scooted his chair a bit to the side. Judy bent down, her heels peeling out of her flats, and stuck her arm under the chair. Empty.
She let out a strangled cry. “It’s not here! It’s not anywhere! I have no idea what to do.” Judy sank into the open chair next him, her hands reaching to cup her face.
The man took a sip of his drink from the paper cup. He set his hand on his chest and closed his eyes like he was memorizing a tune only he could hear. After a minute, he nodded and leaned forward to get Judy’s attention. Wordlessly, he placed his hand on the left side of her chest and she noticed how warm his hand was. It felt cozy and Judy was sure he was feeling something but she didn’t know what. Was that feeling in her chest like a rock band or more classical? Her lips bulged with questions but before she could ask any the man removed his hand.
“Ma’am, I know where your heart is.”
Judy stared at him. “You do?”
“Yep.” The man continued reading the paper. Under the table, he opened his phone. His fingers dashed across the screen, sending someone a quick message. A warning. A question. “If you come with me, I can help you look for it.”
Judy tipped eagerly in his direction. “Where is it?”
He licked his lips, cleaning the liquid off. “It’s in your chest. But it’s also on Howard Street.”
“It can be in two places at once? In my chest and on Howard Street? Wait, isn’t that where the police station is?”
The man stood and walked a few feet ahead. “Indeed it is. Aren’t you coming?” He left his newspaper and his drink on the table.
Judy needed her heart. Why did it run away in the first place? She felt her chest—was there something there? She couldn’t remember. She needed to remember. So she followed the man across the street.
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Wow, I literally wrote this in two hours and I actually really like it. Feel free to critique.
You're terrific, Scout.
You like it?
For sure. I'm impressed with your talent and excited to read more!
I loved how the man at the end was the only one phased by her saying she's lost her heart. Very cool take and I'd love to read more!
That's what I was trying to get across - thanks!
Hey Scout, I can't believe you wrote this in two hours. Gosh, and I take a long time! I really liked this one too, Scout, and I loved the character, Judy. I don't have any critique because I am not that good at critiquing. Thanks for sharing!
I bet you're great at critique! And how do you get here so fast I posted this like *checks watch* 9 hours ago. Thank you for reading!
Awesome beginning and conceit! It faded in energy a bit at the end. I liked the alliteration in 'love was lingering in people’s breaths'
Thank you, Marty!
This is great, Scout! I enjoyed so many moments in this I'll dispense with my normal quoting. But wow! So good! And two hours!!!
Wow. I love the perspective of this story. Judy's desperation and the others playing along until the man at the end finally understands her. I've worked with people like Judy and you totally nailed the character. Great job. I'm new around here and this is the best story I've read so far :) I look forward to reading more of your work.
Thank you so much, Jeannette! I can't wait to read some of yours as well.
Please do! I'm new to short story writing and would love feedback. I'm traditionally a playwright so this is quite the challenge and I'm loving it so far.
Everyone says my play-writing skills are terrible, so we all excel at different things.
I’m so intrigued by the ending of this story! I love some of the subtle details you include in your writing like saying that the cafe tables rocked and, “Judy bent down, her heels peeling out of her flats…”
Damn, I love that last line, too! My grandma always wore flats so when she bent down her heels peeled out... Glad you liked it and thanks!
Very interesting! I want to know what happens next lol.
Thank you . . . me too.