Thursday, March 28, 2013

Heart In A Jar: A Short Story

            She must have been crazy to go along with it, let alone take the bet. However, Molly Anne Wilson lost the stake, fair and square with sprinkles on top. No money was exchanged, but the bet was whether or not the actress, Tracey Gold of the bland TV sitcom, “Growing Pains” played the pretty yet spoiled Princess Vespa from the Star Wars-inspired parody, “Spaceballs”, directed by, co-written by and co-starred Mel Brooks.
            Daphne Zuniga, who later acted on the primetime soap drama, “Melrose Place”, filled the role, and Cynthia gale, Molly Anne’s fellow teacher at Clarksdale High School and good friend, won the wager.
            Being the two most attractive female teachers is school, Molly Anne (English) and Cynthia (History) received catcalls, whistles and sexually profane love letters from male students who had yet to learn proper and polite courting. Dylan Townsend, one of the school’s gym teachers, was another wannabe paramour, flirting with both women equally. Neither Molly Anne nor Cynthia found him interesting, but neither of them wanted any sexual harassment mess to deal with. So, before summer break, the two friends watched “Spaceballs” on TV at Molly Anne’s house. Cynthia established the bet, since the film’s credits weren’t shown at the beginning, and whoever lost had to date Dylan. Molly Anne accepted the bet; she must have been to.
            Sunlight rays made two perfect squares on the carpet floor of Molly Anne’s room, via the twin windows. The young woman stood in front of her mirror, examining her looks. Her floral dress was long, creaseless and romantic. Her dark brown hair was wrapped in curls; some hair tendrils tickled her ears a bit but Molly Anne didn’t mind. Fullness were her cheeks, lips and bosoms. She sat down on a nearby chair, massaging her long legs, each wrapped with tan-colored espadrilles. Molly Anne was pretty, presentable but she felt ready to be executed.
            A car motor roared outside. Molly Anne felt her heart jumped, wanting liberation. She sighed. The sound of footsteps came marching towards her room’s door, which slowly opened.
            “He’s here,” Casey Wilson, a slim, dusty blonde, fifteen-year-old girl in a shirt and blue jeans, was eleven years younger than her sister, her guardian since their parents died in a car crash six years ago. Sometimes, Molly Anne wished she found the right man to settle down so Casey wouldn’t be so footloose. Responsible yet footloose. Casey had a mischievous smile.
            Molly Anne didn’t like it, “Are you going to behave yourself, Casey?”
             “Come on, Molly. It’s summer.”
            “But you’re going out with Dylan Townsend! He’s so yummy!”
            Molly Anne felt older than she was, “ Well, I give my sincerest apologizes to your fellow female classmates if I take him off their thoughts… though I don’t really want to.”
            Casey went to her sister, “Why not? He‘s hot!”
            “He’s…It’s just a date. That’s all.”
            “Uh-huh. Like it’s just innocent.”
            “What about Kevin Albrecht? Is that innocent?”
            “Must you turn the finger of inquisition towards me?” Casey pouted.
            Molly Anne grinned, “ I have to when my kid sister’s becoming a full woman and has thoughts of smashing her cherry. And…” She kissed her sibling on her left cheek, “… I’m glad you’ve gone through the dictionary with a fine-toothed comb.”
            “You’re glad I’m a geek.”
            “I’m glad you’re smart. Please keep out of trouble when I’m gone,” Molly Anne went to her dresser, picked up her purse, left the room and went down a flight of stairs.  She arrived on the ground floor, a few paces from the front door and paused. The young woman took a quick deep breath, walked to and opened the door.
            “Hi,” Dylan Townsend was tall and brawny. His lantern-jawed profile and dark brown crew cut hair made him a candidate for the hero role of a Saturday morning movie matinee serial. Veins popped and pulsated on the surface of his thick arms. The dark plaid shirt he wore did nothing to hide his impressive upper body. A pair of blue jeans and pair of beige workman boots Dylan also wore. His perfect, clean smile hinted mischievousness.
            “Hello,” Molly Anne replied, managing a grin with some hesitation.
            “You look good, Molly Anne. Really good.”
            “Thank you, Dylan.”
            Casey came down the stairs, “Please bring her before dark, Mr. Townsend.”
            Molly Anne turned to her sister, giving her a “knock-it-off” look. Casey shrugged.
Dylan smirked, “Just be glad this isn’t school.”
            “I’m glad when isn’t a moment of school,” Casey beamed.
            “See you later, wiseguy,” Molly Anne went outside, closing the door of her house?the house her parents once owned but left it to her, if they passed on?behind her. She and Dylan descended down the front steps, went across a shirt path and approached a parked dark blue pickup truck.. Dylan opened the truck, allowed his date to get inside first and closed her door, got in next, closed his door and started the ignition. The motor purred, quickly building up to a roar. Molly Anne gasped.
            “Don’t worry, baby,” Dylan said, “Just buckle up. I’ll keep you safe.”
            Molly Anne fastened her seat belt. Dylan drove the car from his date’s house like a bat out of hell.

            Screaming, which she did, was bad enough, but Molly Anne felt vomiting, which she also did, after riding on The Peak, the most popular ride of the Seven Stars Amusement Park in Clarksdale, was too much. She wanted to hide in and die in a hole somewhere as she finished losing her breakfast, a bowl of raisin-drenched oatmeal and a glass of orange juice, into a commode, kneeling in a stall. Her retching and coughing echoed in the park’s women’s lavatory, and shame flooded Molly Anne’s delicate soul.
            The young teacher stood up. She looked down at the vomit-filled toilet and quickly flushed it. No need for souvenirs. Molly Anne breathed heavily, holding her chest. No food inside her wanted to leave the wrong way. Molly Anne turned, left the toilet stall and went to the lavatory’s mirrors. Some women looked at her, but she ignored their stares. She had a lot of dignity. Her hair was a bit messy. With her hands, she lightly groomed her mane. Perfect with a sigh, Molly Anne turned right and left the lavatory.
            The sounds of screaming children, loud calliope music and booth barkers met Molly Anne when she went outside. Dylan also met her. He was holding a bottle of ginger ale in his right hand. Molly Anne gave him a dirty look.
            “Come on, baby,” Dylan said, “It was fun.”
            “I told I didn’t like going on fast rides.”
            “You only live once,” Dylan gave the bottle to Molly Anne. As his date drank some of the ale, Dylan took out a plastic wrapped, white-colored mint from one of his jeans’s pockets, “Here another token of my apology.”
            Molly Anne took, unwrapped and devoured the mint. A cool breeze oozed into her mouth. Dylan went to her, and he quickly hugged the teacher, kissing her on the lips. Molly Anne felt Dylan’s tongue; she hated it and him for being rough and serpentine. The young man felt his date pound her fists against his body. Dylan broke the embrace, “Hey, don’t get so--”
            Molly Anne quickly and lightly slapped him across his right cheek. Fierceness was in her eyes, “Don’t tell me how to be, Mr. Townsend! I’m not loose!”
            “Just be cool, sweetheart. I’ll be a gentleman. I promise,” Dylan offered an olive branch smile and his right hand to Molly Anne, who sighed. She took it, and the two educators left the lavatory area, immersing with the crowds of friends, lovers and families. The grinding of amusement rides’ gears, the screams of patrons and the mixing tunes of calliopes filled the air with the movement of a stampede.
            And, there were also the bellows of barkers. Dylan heard one and got hooked, “Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! Come and see ‘Oswald’s Oddities’!”
            Dylan took Molly Anne, and the two became part of a crowd that formed a semi-circle beneath a stage. On the stage, a man stood. He was a red-haired and mustachioed fellow with a barrel belly. He jacket and pants were a dull shade of brown; his white shirt was open a bit at the top. The man, whom Molly Anne guessed as being Oswald, moved back and forth, across the stage, feeling he owns the universe. Sweat glistened on his fat, reddish face. A plastic pail also stood on the stage.
            “Yes! I got them right here!” Oswald  roared, “Right here, you’ll bear witness! Yes! That’s right! You will witness nature’s mistakes and errors!”
            “Can we please go, Dylan?” Molly Anne knew she wasn’t going to like this sideshow, let alone it was  a sideshow to begin with.
            “Don’t be such a wet blanket, Mol,” Dylan’s smile was juvenile. Friendly but juvenile. Molly Anne sighed with a hint of frustration.
            Ozwald pulled a curtain rope, near his left, downward, “Ladies and gentlemen, behold!”
            The curtain behind Ozwald slowly pulled apart, revealing in booths, individuals whose physical appearances made the female members of the crowd gasped with fright. Dylan was one of the men who chuckled. One freak had a strong physique, yet his skin was dark green and scaled. He grinned at the crowd. The second attraction was two bow-haired, twin dwarfs, conjoined at their backs. They gave the audience angry scowls. But the last one was more shocking. He was unnaturally thin; his skin chalk white. Black and groomed was his mane. His frown looked permanent. He sat in a chair with a big jar in his lap. The jar contained a human heart, encased in human blood.
            Molly Anne looked at him, whose eyes were black, vacant but had tones of loneliness and helpless ness. She felt wonder, dread and pity.
            “Gaze at the Alligator Strong-Man. Marvel a the Groundhog Brothers. Be stunned at the Living Skeleton, whose heart is in a jar!” Ozwald bellowed, “Come on, people! I accept any decent donation to help these poop, misshapen souls have some semblance of a normal life!”
            Some patrons dump dollar bills and change into the pail. Ozwald reciprocated with gratitude and blessing from God. Dylan noticed a discarded bag of popcorn on the ground. He picked it up.
            “Hey, Skinny!” the gym teacher faced the Living Skeleton, “Have some food! You need something to eat!”
            Dylan quickly threw the bag at Living Skeleton. Corn kernels struck the oddity’s face and hair bangs. Dylan chuckled heartfully when his target didn’t respond. A statue with a sad disposition.
            “Why did you do that?” Molly Anne barked at her date.
            Dylan wasn’t empahtic, “Come on, Molly! I’m just having some fun--”
            Molly Anne threw the ginger ale bottle at Dylan’s face Glass exploded. Dylan whined as blood and ginger ale streams covered his cheeks and forehead. The crowd gasped.
            “How do you like that fun?” Molly Anne stormed away. The crowd, Ozwald, the Groundhog Brothers and the Alligator Strong-Man looked at an embarrassed, bleeding Dylan. Some of them muted their chuckles. As for the Living Skeleton, he looked at Molly Anne walked away.

            Molly Anne found herself alone in her classroom, sitting at her desk. A small, neatly arranged pile of paper was in front of her; she couldn’t read the prose. She then saw a figure-sized mirror at her left. Molly Anne slowly left her desk, approaching the mirror. The clothes she wore were a baby blue blouse, a long, gray skirt and a pair of black, open-toe, high heels. Her hair was formally done up in a bun, and the glasses she wore were clean and thin-rimmed. She looked pretty and proper.
            A knock came upon the room’s door. Molly Anne turned. A male silhouette appeared in the door’s window. The teacher slowly walked to the door as she heard a second knock. Before Molly Anne could open the door, it opened abruptly from the outside.         
Molly Anne paused, gasped and cringed. The Living Skeleton appeared in the doorway, naked and ghastly. He went towards the teacher, latching his hands onto her arms. Molly Anne wanted to scream, but no sound came from her mouth. Despite his appearance, the misfit’s grip was strong, relentless.
He picked up Molly Anne from the floor and slammed her down on the desk. She tried to fight back, but Molly Anne couldn’t move. The Living Skeleton, with an eerie grin and without any shame, tore Molly Anne’s clothes from her body. The young woman wanted nothing of this. Her feelings, thought, were muted as the freak leaned over and gave the young woman warm, wet kisses against her lips. She felt him invade her gently and frankly. Molly Anne couldn’t, didn’t resist.

A yelp left her. Molly Anne blinked her eyes. She looked around. She was in her bedroom, lying in her bed. A white nightgown was the article of clothing she wore. The night air wasn’t humid as the day’s air, but it was still sticky. Sweat dripped from the young lady’s forehead. She exhaled, hoping she was back in reality. She also noticed she was damp in her crotch area. Molly Anne couldn’t believe it.
Dressed in a white tank top and torn, short blue jeans, Casey came running into the bedroom. She went to her sister, comforting her, “Hey, sis! You okay?”
Molly Anne nodded.
“You really scared me. I was just getting some water from the kitchen and you--” Casey noticed some tears flowing from her sibling’s right eye, “Are you really okay, Molly Anne?”
“It--It was him.”
“Oh. That’s probably some stunt they pulled.”
“He--He looked so real to me.”
“This is the 21st century, Mol.”
Molly Anne said nothing.
“Do you want to talk about it again over some juice?”
Molly Anne chuckled, “Since when did you become older than me?”
“Since I had bad dreams when I was a tadpole, and you calm me down,” Casey left the room. Molly Anne sighed. She left her bed, went to her dresser and opened a drawer.

“Sorry, ma’am. Can’t see the freaks before 2:30,” the security guard at the “Ozwald’s Oddities” booth was a muscle-bound man. He was bald. A trimmed dark brown goatee and bushy eyebrows marked his face. A plaid shirt with ripped sleeves, dark blue jeans and pointed toed, black leather boots were the guard’s clothes. Two tattoos, a skull and crossbones and the message BORN 2 CRUSH, adorned each of his arms, which were folded against his chest. He was serious. By height, Molly Anne was a midget to him.
“Please. I just want to see one. The Living Skeleton,” Molly Anne said, “It’s important.”
“So’s pissing and shitting,” the guard snorted, “And there’s some good, old fashioned fucking.”
Molly Anne backed away when the guard unfolded his arms, putting his fists on his hips. A leer grew on his face.
“Ganz!” Ozwald came out from an alleyway near the booth, his voice freezing Molly Anne and the guard, “What the hell are you doing?!”
Ganz, embarrassed, moved away from Molly Anne as his employer walked between the two. The carnival barker looked up at the guard, “I’m not in any damn good mood to correct your screw-ups! This is the second time I caught you--”
“But, boss--”
“Get to work!”
Ganz walked, pathetically for a man of his size. Ozwald turned to Maolly Anne, “Now, miss, what’s your business here?”
Molly Anne explained her reason.
“But I’m sorry, miss. You have to--wait. Aren’t you the lady who hit a man who threw popcorn at Elmo yesterday?”
Ozwald blushed, “The Living Skeleton.”
“Oh. That was me.”

Elmo sat on a bed in his room, which also had two chairs, a dresser and a small refrigerator. The freak was clothed in green pin-striped pajamas. He turned around and saw Oswald and Molly Anne.
“Ms. Molly Anne Wilson would like to talk to you. I’ll be outside,” Ozwald left the room.
Molly Anne strolled slowly, timidly towards Elmo, “H--Hello.”
The freak stood and went to his visitor. His tone was faint, deep, “Hello.” Elmo offered his right hand. Molly Anne hesitated, “I don’t bite.”
With a muted gulp, the teacher reached out and the two people shook hands for a while. Molly Anne broke the exchange, nursing his right hand, “It’s cold.”
“That’s what they all say when people want to meet me and shake hands,” Elmo went to the chairs, picked them up, went back to Molly Anne and settled them down. Elmo sat in one chair, “Sit down.”
Molly Anne did. A few yards were between the two.
“Well?” Elmo said, “What do you want?”
Molly Anne felt silly for being an English teacher and had no words to use, until, “Um--A--Are you really--?”
“It’s not pretty,” Elmo slowly took off his shirt. The gasp his visitor made was a light feather when she saw the hole, the perfectly shaped hole of flesh on Elmo’s chest where his heart should be. Blood vessels and a few bone ribs were visible.
“Please--Please--put on your shirt--”
Elmo did as Molly Anne did her best not to vomit.
“Then you should have known better, Miss Wilson.”
Molly Anne was annoyed, “Maybe. Maybe I don’t? Maybe I’m curious about a person whom I helped defend against a bully? Maybe I like a ‘thank you‘?”
“Did you like him?”
“It was a stupid mistake out a stupid bet.”
“What kind of stupid bet?”
Molly Anne recounted the whole story and concluded it with a sigh.
“I wouldn’t know. Don’t watch TV, let alone go to a movie theater. Traveling and everything else keeps me from things like that.”
“What--What do you do when you’re not--”
“I read. A lot of books, I read. Shakespeare. Poe. Hawthorne. The classics, basically. Sometimes, I feel--like Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray.”
Molly Anne heard the dismay in Elmo’s tone and frowned, “You were born with your heart outside of your body.”
“It was too big. Doctors said it was physically impossible but there I was, born that way. I don’t know who my parents are. I went to from foster home to foster home. Didn’t get along with anyone. Then came Ozwald, when I turned eighteen, and here I am, after five years.”
“Forget it. Pity, I don’t want. An end of my loneliness, I do,” Elmo left his stool and went to the small refrigerator.
“What about the people who work with you?”
“Knowing other outcasts doesn’t help. Ganz’s a jerk and Ozwald’s my boss. That’s all.” Elmo opened the fridge, “You thirsty? I have apple juice and lemonade.”
“Apple, please,” Molly Anne said.
Elmo took an apple juice bottle out, closed the fridge’s door, went and gave the bottle to Molly Anne. She opened it and drank a little from the bottle.
“May I--May I see it?”
“The jar,” Molly Anne drank another amount of apple juice.
Elmo‘s tone was serious, “You sure about that because--”
Molly Anne nodded. Elmo sighed. He went back to the fridge and opened it. The freak took out a large jar and closed the fridge. Holding it in his hands, Elmo went to his visitor, who settled his bottle on the floor and looked at the jar. Inside, a human heart pulsated, swimming in deep, clear blood. Its tendrils seemed to wave hello.
“It’s lonely,” Elmo said.
Molly Anne got up. She went to Elmo and the jar. She slowly touched the jar’s surface. Then the heart grew quickly, like a balloon. Molly Anne, who backed away, and Elmo were surprised. The heart grew so big, the jar exploded. Blood and glass spilled to the floor as the muscle fell into Elmo’s hands. It them squirmed for a while, then leaped and attached itself to the Elmo’s chest. Molly Anne screamed. Elmo gasped, gargled and fell backwards to the floor, flopping about like he had a seizure. Molly Anne went to and knelt above him, holding his right hand. She had no idea what to do as the heart burrowed into Elmo’s chest.
Ozwald came into the room, “What the hell?!”
Molly Anne pleaded to the carnival barker as he came to her, “Help him! You have to help--”
The heart then disappeared, going inside Elmo. The freak stopped moving. Tears started to flow from Molly Anne’s eyes. Suddenly, Elmo changed. His muscle tone grew from sickly thin to healthy thick. His skin, from chalk white to healthy caucasian. Molly Anne and Ozwald were in awe. Then the change stooped. Elmo had the physique of a normal average human male. He then blinked and opened his eyes. The young man stood up, “What--What--”
“Oh, dear God,” Molly Anne’s whisper was audible.
“Mo--Molly Anne, what happened to me?”
Ozwald took out a small mirror from one of his pants’ pockets. Elmo saw his reflection and was surprised. He touched his cheeks, “Is that…me.”
Molly Anne hugged Elmo, “Yes! Yes! It is you!”
Ozwald grumbled, “Great. I’m one oddity short.”
Elmo and Molly Anne looked at each other. They giggled.


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