“Midnight at the Organporium,” a short story by Tara Campbell

Fiction: Tara Campbell

Midnight at the Organporium

I only did it for you, when I crept into the Organporium at the Southside Mall last night and broke the glass to the heart display and took what I thought you needed. I mean, how could I have known it wasn’t the right thing. I’d watched you and listened to you; I’d felt your hands on my shoulders pushing me away, what you called keeping a comfortable distance. I’d observed you from that uncomfortable distance, and I thought I knew exactly what was missing.

I was thinking of you when I crouched in the darkened Organporium and looked at all those hearts lined up in their clear plastic boxes. My own heart was beating so fast and loud, I was sure all the hearts in the refrigerated display case could hear it. I imagined them, stacked up as many as three high on each shelf, each one throbbing at the same manic speed as mine. I thought maybe I should grab two: one for you, plus a spare for my own abused original.

I figured a siren was already going off, a silent one, because all I heard was the blood in my ears as I crept up to the case (I was wearing my black ballet flats for stealth, along with black everything else) and cracked the display’s glass with my elbow. I tried to pad my elbow with my shirt, but it wasn’t big enough to cover and swing at the same time, which is odd, because you always say my shirts are too baggy, and I should try wearing a dress sometime. I had to take off my shirt to protect my elbow, which still wasn’t enough. I smashed the glass with a chair, then swiped the broken pieces out of the pane with my shirt over my hand; but there were too many shards stuck in the shirt to put it back on, which explains why I’m wearing a white Orioles T-shirt with a black bra showing through in that picture all the newspapers are using now.

I know you’re not an Orioles fan, but that’s all they had at the police station. I asked.

I knew I had to work fast. I knew your blood type, of course, so I reached straight for the AB shelf. Then I hesitated because I didn’t see any AB- hearts, only AB+, and I had to hurry up and look on my phone to see if you could even take that kind. And it wasn’t until then, with all the frigid air rushing over my bare arms and chest, that I thought about how all those other hearts would go to waste because they wouldn’t stay cold. Someone was going to come to the Organporium the next day and say, I need an AB+ heart please, and they wouldn’t be able to get one because the whole case of them would be as questionable as egg salad left out on the picnic table all afternoon.

I realize now I could have just grabbed an O- and taken a chance. See, I’m O-, so I happen to know that that’s the universal donor type. We O-s can give blood to anyone, and I plan to give everything to everyone when I’m gone. Take what you need and burn the rest, those are my final wishes.

Anyhow, I could have got out of there with an O- heart, but I couldn’t stand the thought of all those other hearts going bad. So I started looking for something to cover up the display. I went into the back and rummaged around until I found some industrial strength Saran Wrap underneath a pile of insulated Organporium cooler bags, and I ran back out front and started wrapping up the case. That’s when the police arrived. And I was so mad at them because the whole time they were questioning me, cold air was escaping and those hearts were getting warm, and it wasn’t until they led me out of the store that one of the officers found an insulated cover for the display case.

And now I’m calling you again, leaving you another message. They didn’t count the first two toward my one phone call. I guess they only count the number of times you actually connect. And maybe that’s where I went wrong. I thought I was building something with all my attempts to give myself to you, but none of that matters until someone actually takes your offering. That’s the connection. But the unfortunate thing is, even though I could give my love to anyone, I only ever wanted to give it to you.

Not that you’re counting, but this is actually call number four. My third call was to my friend Joe, who was standing ready just in case something went wrong and we had to go to Plan B. He got me out on bail, which wasn’t too steep since I didn’t hurt anyone and showed contrition by trying to wrap up all the merchandise. But you’d have known that, if you’d answered the phone.

Anyhow, doesn’t matter, now. I’m calling from Joe’s car at this very moment, and we’re just a few minutes away from your place. I’m wearing my whisper-soft black ballet flats; and when you hear us at the last minute in the darkness of your bedroom, you’ll barely even see me because I’m wearing a little black dress, just for you.

I wish I could be there to see you recover. My friend, he’s a doctor of sorts. He says he’ll take care of everything, and I trust him. I guess I’ll have to, since I won’t be around to make sure.

He didn’t want me to call you, but I knew you wouldn’t pick up, and that I’d just be leaving you a message. This is my last chance to tell you myself, tell you that I forgive you, and have never wanted anything but the best for you. And you may not be ready to hear it when you wake up from the procedure, but please know that everything that’s about to happen is all for you.

I’ve always been right about what you needed. And I’m a universal donor, which means I can give my heart to anybody. But I only want to give it to you.

Tara Campbell, taracampbell.com, is a Washington, D.C.-based writer, columnist for the Washington Independent Review of Books, Assistant Fiction Editor at Barrelhouse, and volunteer with children’s literacy organization 826DC. Prior publication credits include McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Establishment, Barrelhouse, Masters Review, Punchnel’s, and Queen Mob’s Teahouse, among others. Her debut novel, TreeVolution, was released in 2016, and her collection, Circe’s Bicycle, will be released in fall 2017.

Image: fineartamerica.com

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