Tiny Red Heart
When it sings he sings with it, him and the bird. It sings in its metal cage, with its metal wings and small metal beak, and its heart, which is part of his heart, a tiny lump that he removed from his and placed inside the bird's metal ribcage. The tiny red heart beats inside the bird and he can see it, as he stands by the cage. And when the bird sings, it fills him with joy, his bird, with his heart, his creation. And when he thinks of the day that one of them will stop singing, one of the hearts, his or the tiny bird's heart, will stop, his chest is filled with tears, sticky hot tears, that burn through him. He puts his face to the metal cage and he tells the bird, his bird, of his love and his happiness. And as the bird, the little metal bird, sings to him, he looks out of the window and he knows that one day he will have to let it go.
I didn't know it was made out of butter. It looked like a dog, with that little black nose, those cute folded ears. But when I reached down to pet it I knew. I'm a dog person and that's no doggy scent; that's a spread-me-on-toast kind of smell.
I shoot upwards and stumble around the room touching everything. Turns out the sofa's sponge cake, the bookshelves are lasagna sheets and the lamp's a lollipop.
When the door (Granola? Chocolate bar?) opens and the old woman walks in, my head is spinning so, I can't speak.
"He never melts," she says, cocking her head to the puppy. "In case you were concerned."
"OK," I say, wondering if she's a collection of vegetables in a dress, a walking talking salad.
"Solid flesh," she says, answering before I ask. "Here, pinch my arm," and I do, because I'm on Planet Freaky and have lost all inhibitions.
She sits on the spongecake sofa, which doesn't crumble, and motions to the armchair. Gingerly I lower myself, but it seems to be normal, all it smells of is dust.
"Welcome," she says. "Generally we spend the first session getting to know one another. Why don't you take a few moments to get comfortable and I'll go first."
She tells me a bit about herself.
"I was once in the army," she says, but doesn't say for which country or who she fought.
"I served tea to queens and sultans," she tells me, but not where or in which century.
"I invented devices that mankind can't live without," she claims, but doesn't say if they were wheels or iPODs.
"How about you?" She stares at me. I stare back. I don't know how to top all that.
"I live on my own," I say, and it sounds so pathetic that I add, "but I once ran naked down the stairs..." her eyebrows dart upwards "... when my bath overflowed into the neighbours' flat." Her eyebrows plummet.
"I was brought up by my grandparents," I venture, and she leans forward.
"Your parents—killed in a tragic accident?" I shake my head. "Junkies hooked on heroin?" I shake again. It's all terribly mundane. I stare at the dog and am about to explain how Dad travelled for business and Mum wanted to go with him and they left me with Gran and Gramps so I'd have a stable home .... when I feel a spark rising inside me.
"They were spies," I begin, my fingers tingling, and the old woman nods as if to say, That's more like it. "Sent on secret missions all over the world," I continue, the lies pouring forth like a chocolate fountain. I am beginning to enjoy myself. I fix the old lady square in the eye and keep flowing about my fantasy family, while out of the corner of my vision, I swear I see the butter puppy wake up, scratch itself, wink at me, and settle down to sleep again.
Tania Hershman was born and grew up in London, and moved to Jerusalem, Israel, in 1994. She worked for 12 years as a science and technology journalist and studied for an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University College. She is a founding member of The Fiction Workhouse, and her first collection, The White Road and Other Stories, will be published by Salt Publishing in 2008. Tania is the editor of the recently-launched online publication The Short Review, which reviews short story collections and anthologies.
Back to the Top
story copyright by author 2007 all rights reserved