HEARTLESS by Alex Sullivan

HEARTLESS by Alex Sullivan

I watched his whole life from the window across the street and the funny thing about him, about this kid, is that he was seven, maybe eight before anyone realized his heart was missing. He had this nasty cough like a piece of waterlogged machinery so the parents took him to the MinuteClinic on Upshur. The nurse went to check his vitals and well you can imagine her surprise. The parents thought the stethoscope was faulty but the lawsuit went nowhere and then they tried to rally the townspeople against the nurse like she was some witch. But the doctors confirmed it. No heart. 

There was a whole saga with the media for a while but that’s not so funny, in my opinion. The kid was away from home for a long time, went on Oprah and ran around doing jumping jacks to prove how alive he was and they were stunned, Oprah and the audience and the cameramen, they could hardly believe it. I think the parents ought to be ashamed of themselves because the kid missed all of third grade doing the late-night talk show circuit and performing all these silly stunts. But people lost interest because they lose interest in anything, they always do, even after the TIME Magazine article released all the X-rays from that first check-up back when he was a kid. That black chasm where the heart should be. I bet the radiologist who leaked those photos made a pretty penny, though. 

Now the kid’s not a kid anymore and I doubt anyone would pay much for those photos. He did an Instagram Live the other day and could barely get 1,000 viewers. I know because I watched the whole thing. 

It’s sad. 

Sometimes I’ll look over at him from the window and I feel bad because his hairline’s receding and he never leaves the house anymore. What they never considered for all those years when they were busy gawking at him is that he’s incapable of love. Of course he’s incapable, the kid’s got no heart. He respects his parents and he likes his labradoodle and there’s that girl from down on Redford, with the lazy eye, who stands at the lip of the driveway and waves to him before walking around the block, but that’s companionship at best. Not love. Never love. 

The kid’s in real trouble and nobody else seems to care because those twins out of St. Paul are doing some live podcast tour about living without lungs but that’s easy, the no lungs thing. It’s not half so interesting as the kid but I guess most people feel differently because they’re selling out those shows. 

I think I’ll go visit. I’ll knock on the door because nobody does that anymore and I don’t know, that could be a nice neighborly thing to do. I’m an old man but we’d have a lot to talk about, I think. I’ve got all my organs but this love thing is hard. It’s very hard. 

Alex Sullivan was born in western Massachusetts and now lives and works in Washington, DC, with his fiancée and always-sleepy rescue cat. He is a member of the Writer's Center and a graduate of the University of South Carolina and Northeastern University. "Heartless" is his first publication credit. His fiction is forthcoming in Eunoia Review.

Art by Bri Chapman