I was heading out the door for my annual check-up when I got a call from my old pal Biceps De Bruder. He’d taken off some time ago, on a pilgrimage around America, searching for hidden truths. I asked him what he’d found.
“I dunno,” he said. I told him I was going to the doctor, and asked if he’d like to tag along.
Dr. Robert had eyebrows like frostbitten caterpillars and a voice like sandpaper, oil and frog, but he had a bedside manner like Bettie Page.
“Spread ‘em, Sweet Cheeks,” he growled. I complied. He performed the usual tests.
“All good,” he said. “By the way, those x-rays we took of your knee after Kaufman’s goons popped it, those came back. The bad news is our aim was horribly off, and we x-rayed your chest instead of your knee. The good news is we caught what could have been a potential disaster.”
“What’s up, Doc?”
“Your heart, well… remember that surgery you had, after the Rombauch incident? With the doctor who was blind, drunk, and kept promising Hitler would return?” He sighed. “Well, it’s finally caught up with us.”
“Hitler’s returned?” I asked, leaning forward.
“It’s your heart, Dick,” Dr. Robert said. “It isn’t yours. You’ve had a transplant. He must not have understood when you said you wanted laser eye surgery.”
I suddenly felt like there was a desert in my chest.
“Spill it, Doc,” I said. “You mean to tell me I’ve been living with someone else’s heart, for…” I did the math. “…seven years?”
Dr. Robert slowly nodded. “I’m afraid so.”
I went to the waiting room. Biceps was reading a 12-year-old “Ranger Rick.” He stood as I entered.
“How’s it hanging?” he asked.
“I just found out there’s someone else’s heart in my chest,” I replied. “All these years I’ve been bitching about feeling dead inside, turns out I actually was. Some incompetent doc put a freshly deceased murderer’s pump under my ribs.”
“Freshly deceased?” Biceps frowned. “Well then how are you still moving?”
“It’s a plot hole,” I explained. “Right now, we need to take care of two things. One, I need a drink. This blood isn’t going to pump itself. Second, we’re gonna find my heart and put it back opposite my air sacks where it belongs.”
Dr. Robert had given me a name and an address. The name was a sad attempt at a pseudonym: Sherlock Houses. The typical freshly woken, balding landlord answered the door at the address and told me Mr. Houses had moved out with Ms. Apartments two weeks ago.
“Any idea where they might have gone? He has my heart.”
“Listen, mister,” the landlord said, leaning in. “That’s none of my business. And I wouldn’t go tellin’ Ms. Apartments that, either. She’s a nice girl.”
Biceps raised his right arm, transformed his hand into a fist, and flexed his bicep. It’s a move that, aside from earning him his name, also causes normally cool-tempered people to profusely sweat, and, mainly in Canada, to suddenly feel an insatiable urge to destroy all Celine Dion recordings. The landlord proved it.
“Okay,” he gasped. “Twilight Terrace. They’re livin’ out on Twilight Terrace!”
As we drove away, I saw the landlord throw the “Titanic” soundtrack out his window.
Biceps was quiet in the driver’s seat, looking out the window. After a while, he said, “I don’t like donuts.”
“Maybe someone stole your heart, too,” I suggested. I’d had time to collect my thoughts and was ready to talk.
“Do you realize what this means, Biceps?” I asked. “All these years I’ve spent sulking in the shadows, running through one lost dame after the next, burning through them like flames through my pants that time Keith Koch set me on a Bunsen burner in chemistry class—I thought it was me. I was one of society’s rejects. I couldn’t find my place alongside other people.”
“That’s true,” Biceps said. “You are a placeless reject who likes to stand in shadows.”
“Oh.” I sucked my lip like a flesh lollipop.
“But maybe you’ll be happier about it,” Biceps offered. “The most beautiful part of you’s been dead for some time, Dick. Maybe this’ll bring it back up.”
“I’ve been trying to get it back up for years,” I said.
“Maybe with this new heart, that beauty you lost—it’ll come,” Biceps said. “Hey, remember that poetry you used to write?”
I recited one of my classics, “Beauty’s Bald.”
“Oh, nothing shall ever die/With as much bliss as I feel, eating pie/Wouldst thou suffer to take a piece?/I meant of my pie, not of what lies beneath/If I t’were to pick up the phone and see Sinead O’Connor had called/I’d call her back, and tell her beauty’s bald.”
Biceps was in tears.
Biceps’s tears blurred his vision so completely that we crossed the border and found ourselves outside Montreal. The upside was this gave Biceps a chance to flex, thus ridding Canada of a Gold certification’s worth of Celine Dion records.
We arrived on Twilight Terrace long after dark. Biceps pulled over so I could get a look at the street sign. A particularly nauseating streetlight blew mucous light over the sign like some lunkhead blowing his nose.
“This is it,” I said. Biceps started to drive. I shouted for him to stop. He did so. I felt something in my chest, and it wasn’t the emptiness where my heart should be. It was the heavy chains of dread.
Directly beneath the sign robotically announcing Twilight Terrace, there was a ditch. In the ditch, there was a body. Biceps leaned over and saw it. His biceps expanded until his shirtsleeves ripped.
“Biceps,” I said, “there isn’t a fool in the world who thinks getting one’s heart back is easy. There’ll always be complications.”
I opened the door and stood beside the ditch, my head hanging like a mourner. The ditch looked like a grave. I guess it was one.
“The thing is,” I said, “most complications aren’t so deathly.” I waited for Biceps to join me.
“We better check the body,” I said.