by Warren Buchanan
They told me she didn’t have a heart, that she was just a statue. She’s French, I said. Of course she has a heart. It had been pretty hard to get into her head for awhile now, but no one thought to guard her heart, so it was easy to get in there and take it. Now, it’s in a shed in my backyard, in what was supposed to be a home gym, back when we had a home that we determined needed a gym. What’s that old saying about where the heart is? Probably not pushed up against a weight bench covered in cobwebs and unopened, freshly-packed boxes stained with water damage from a leak in the roof. But that’s where it is, all seven hundred pounds of it, thump-thumping away, driving me crazy.
God, that thumping. I wonder if anyone else can hear it. But even when that lawyer came over with paperwork for me to sign and he admired the house and the backyard and the view and he stood right there on the patio with those wicker chairs I’d never liked but Mary insisted we get for when we might be entertaining, he didn’t seem to hear it. Nice home you have here, he said, and I wondered if he might correct himself after the fact. He didn’t, though, and then he left, and he took his papers and said other people would be back another day to take the other things that the papers said needed to be taken (those boxes, for one) and he didn’t once notice the giant metal heart I was keeping in my shed. Which is good, because he probably would have taken that, too.
On top of the thumping, the heart glows at night. It’s a weird, dull, greenish glow. At least it is now. When I first brought it back, it had a copper tint to it like dirty blonde hair in the sunlight. Now, it’s this greenish gleam that pokes at the seams of the shed where the rain gets in, and I can’t sleep. I lie awake with my thoughts and I start to wonder why I even stole the damn thing in the first place. I think I had wanted to do it so that it would bring people back together again. Get people on both sides talking with one another, fighting for a common cause. Where’s the heart? Who would steal the heart? How do we get the heart back? and so on. But it didn’t work. Nobody was united. Things didn’t get better. All that effort for nothing.
I think the heart’s starting to wither. It looks smaller than before, like it’s shriveling up, disappearing. The thump-thumping’s gotten softer, and the glow at night is dimming. So much so that I can see the stars again. Mary and I used to admire them from the roof of her RV (the one we were going to take across the country to see the statue in the first place) while it sat parked in our driveway. We’d search for our favorite constellations. Hers was Ursa Major, mine was Orion. We always joked that those stars wouldn’t get along if they were together. Afterwards, we’d make love on the floor of the mobile home, steps away from our large bed in our house, and just lay there. I’d stroke her hair and she’d kiss my neck and we’d make animal noises and talk in funny voices until the dawn’s early light washed the stars away.
I’m planning on taking the heart back tomorrow. I’m going to use the RV, before I can’t anymore. I know the only thing I can do now is give the heart back. It was never mine to begin with, anyway, and the ole gal needs it more than I do. I’m going to take the old route back to the coast, the one that cuts through the middle of everything. Maybe things have always been split in two, right from the beginning, and nobody ever really knew how to fix it. I can see myself stopping along the way, somewhere in the heart of the country, far away from the city lights. I climb up the fiberglass ladder to sit on top of the RV. I lie there and listen to the soft, sad heartbeat below me as I stare at the banner of stars above me, hunting for the bear.