An Ordinary Broken Heart by Jules Archer
February 9, 2012 § 5 Comments
Friends, I have the formidable and brilliant Jules Archer as a guest today. If you aren’t familiar with her work I have two things to say. 1) You absolutely should be and 2) you inevitably will be (she’s kind of a big deal). She initially contacted me to write a post for her. I swooned. We then decided to both write a bit of flash fiction for Valentines Day with the following prompts – hospital, regret, beef jerky, and candy hearts. I’ll cut the fanfare and let her writing speak for itself.
An Ordinary Broken Heart
It’s always the same thing this time of year.
That ol’ ache in my chest. I rub the tightening. Ask the nurse to refill my prescription but she tells me to wait for the doctor.
So I sit on a hard plastic chair, under fluorescent lights. I smell the familiar antiseptic and watch the scenery.
It’s a busy night at the hospital. Token injuries like a broken leg or third degree burns pass me by on stretchers. Things get interesting when a man’s wheeled in, frowning girlfriend at his side. The nurses’ conversation at the front desk tells me he choked on a candy heart, just one of the many inconveniences of “Be Mine” Valentine’s.
Eventually, the room fills up. I stretch my legs, nearly tripping a doctor, and pick up a newspaper. I scan headlines. Riots in San Francisco, Outbreak of Chinese food poisoning downtown, state budget passed…
The nurse calls my name and I look up.
I approach the desk. “Busy night.”
She bristles. “Yes, it is.” I lean against the counter. Gives me the stink eye over the rims of her spectacles. “I remember you from last year.”
“I had better luck then.”
“Two—maybe three years back even…” Eyes narrow. “Tell me again…what’re you here for?”
I press a hand against my chest. “Broken heart of course.”
“Get out of here,” she snaps, handing me the pile of documents. “Sit down and fill these out. It’s against policy to loiter in the hallways.”
I go, stopping by the vending machine on my way back. I drop a few coins in the slot and punch random numbers to see what I get. Vending machine roulette.
I mosey back. Survey my night.
There’s a brunette sitting in the corner, knees pressed together, head in her hands. She came in, holding the hand of a guy with third degree burns. The tears in her eyes tell me not a chance.
Slumping into the nearest chair, I peel the plastic away from my meal and take a wolfish bite. The nub of meat is rubbery in my mouth as I chew.
It’s a contemplative chew. But not for long. Feeling eyes on me, I glance up. “Want a bite?” I wave the jerky stick.
The Candy Heart girl laughs. It’s coarse, telling me she smokes and drinks too much. She’s lounging across three chairs like Cleopatra, chin propped in her elbow, cigarette pack out, resting on her thigh.
Candy Heart shakes her head. “It’s all yours, man.” Sighing, she rolls her eyes. “What a way to spend Saturday night.” Regret lingers in her voice. “Hope you’re here for something better.”
I shrug. “Just filling a prescription.” I finish the beef jerky, wad up the plastic wrap and leave it underneath my chair. Gauge the situation.
“You know, I’m kind of in the mood for dessert. You have any of those…oh I don’t know…candy hearts on you?”
“Oh, go to hell,” Candy Heart says, but she laughs and holds up her middle finger. Chipped black nail polish greets me. But her smile tells me all I need to know.
“Say, I have an idea…” I stand, walk over to the girl and extend my hand. “You wanna blow this popsicle stand?”
“But what about your prescription?”
“Don’t think I’ll be needing it tonight.”
Candy Heart looks up, looks down the hall to her boyfriend’s room. Barely hesitates before taking my hand.
I smile at the scowling nurse as we wait for the elevator.
Jules’s work has appeared in Metazen, Monkeybicycle, Negative Suck, >kill author, PANK, and Northville Review. She’s currently editing a zombie novella and received a sweet ride for Christmas.
I heart Jules and all her work so hard. Please visit her website and check it out. She also does the twitter at @julesjustwrite. You can read my Valentines post with the same prompts here – A Contender Lost.