Dedicated to Jar Bear

»Is that it?«

»Yes.«

»It is sort of shriveled and pathetic. I expected it to be . . . bigger?«

»It is almost a hundred years old. Technically, it’s almost 200 years old.«

»No, it is not. It is not really here.«

»It’s here in my god damn, fucking hands.«

»Our fornicating hands.«

»They are my fucking hands.«

»They are our fornicating hands.«

»They are my fucking hands!«

»They are our non-fucking hands most of the time.«

»True enough.«

»Hold it up so I can see it better . . . You can put it down. You don’t have to worry about it getting taken here . . . You know that we’re not really here and now at the moment.«

»Neither here or there?«

»Neither now or then.«

»How long do I have to stay not here, not now?«

»Not too much longer. She should be here soon.«

»When will she be not here, not now. I’ve been waiting quite a while«

»Now now. Good things come to those who wait. Ooh, when we get done, we could go gallivanting.«

»No, I’m not letting you take me out on another all nighter.«

»Please?«

»No.«

»You are a bitch.«

»Yep.«

»Stand up. She comes. «

»Are you going to give the report or shall I? «

»I start giving the report. You will fill in . . . «

»Yeah, yeah. I know the drill. «

»Welcome, Madame. As you see, we have recovered the jar.«

»I recovered the jar. You left, remember? «

»Would you like our report, Madame? «

»You know it would be nice, if she spoke so I could hear her. «

»Quiet. . . Madame, as you know on . . . on? «

»Friday. «

»On Friday morning. Lillian and I received the message informing us of the situation and requesting our attention to this matter. «

»Requesting your attention. Not mine. «

»Same thing.«

»Yes, now it is the same thing, unfortunately.«

»Requesting our attention to this matter.«

»Fuck it. I’m giving the report. Otherwise, we will be here all damn night.«

»As you wish.«

»Eten got the message. He did his hocus pocus act. We traced the jar to Tyler McRae.«

»Assistant Professor of Video Art«

»She doesn’t need to know that.«

»It becomes relevant later.«

»Not that relevant. Anyway, we were all set to grab the jar when the rattling of keys

»I think he dropped them, twice.«

»Let us know that Mr. Butterfingers was at the door. Eten uses some more magic wah wah to hide us. And we spend the next two hours listening to undergraduates whine about their grades.«

»They are too soft. They would not complain so much if they knew discipline.«

»Spare me the ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ shit. Will you shut up so I can finish the mother fucking report?«

»As you wish.«

»So two hours of moaning and groaning later, McRae ushers out the last student, grabs the damn jar, puts it in a crate, loads it into his car and drives off. We spent the rest of the day trailing him. He went home, unloaded the crate from his car and then put the jar like a fucking centerpiece on the middle of his goddamn table. He read some Badiou. Watched some online porn featuring gamine girls in black rimmed glasses.

»Uninspiring.«

»Then he wacked off in the shower.«

»Slightly inspiring.«

»Please! We both were quite inspired. He then got gussied up and met a graduate student for dinner,

»Which makes for a luscious on dit, but it is highly irregular.«

»At least she’s in another damn college. After highly suggestive flirtation and a bit too much booze, he wobbled down to give a little face time at a show put on by a couple of the graduate students in his department. He grabbed a few more drinks at the bar next door, went home, got completely blotto on some coconut flavored rum. Gross. And then called Andrea Champion.«

»Assistant Professor of English«

»He bitched at her for awhile, complaining about John Schmidt.«

»Assistant Professor of Agriculture.«

»And Maya Patel«

»Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering.«

»As you can see there is a pattern, Madame.«

»He confirmed that they all were meeting at 11:00 p.m. on Sunday night.«

»All Hallows Eve.«

»He hung up and went to bed. He woke up very late, very hung«

»Well hung«

»Over the next morning. He shuffled around his house for a while, ate some cold pizza while standing in front of his fridge with the door open, stared at the jar for a while. Futzed around on Facebook. Ignored frantic emails from colleagues. Then he spent the rest of the day boozing up and watching zombie movies.«

»Lillian was not at all happy.«

»I get nightmares, what can I say. They’ve gotten worse since you’ve come into my life.«

»To my profound regret.«

» You regret me screaming in the middle of the night, no doubt . . . So McRae went to bed around 10. Got up the next morning bleary but a bit more cheerful than the day before. He edited a video project for most of the rest of the day. He didn’t eat anything but did drink quite a bit of coffee.«

»And smoked one single cigarette.«

»Got to hold onto to that inner bad boy somehow.«

»It does tend to slip away as one settles down.«

»‘Settles for’ your mean. McRae took a very long, very hot shower.«

»Not as inspiring as the day before.«

»It seemed ritualistic. Before stepping into the bath, he did the whole four directions hokey pokey. And he had to burn some goddamn, nasty ass sage.«

»Lillian had an asthma attack.«

»I hate sage.«

»You could say that she is not sagacious.«

»Hardy har har. So he scrubbed down. Dressed all in black. Loaded the jar into the crate, the crate into the car and drove out to a muddy field in bum fuckville. Drs. Andrea Champion, John Schmidt and Maya Patel were already setting up. They had bunches of big buckets. McRae put the jar in the center of the clearing.«

»They did some more crap and then got down to some ritual business.«

»They did the ritual sky clad, Madame.«

»They got naked as Jay Birds.«

»English stepped to the South. Agriculture stepped to the North. Engineering to the West.«

»And Art closed the circle sliding into the East slot. They proceeded to intone magical gibberish.«

»Specialized jargon from their respective fields.«

»They dipped their hands into the buckets, pull out chunks of bloody meat and proceeded to have a mystical Meat Joy moment. While they were busy rolling around in raw meat, chanting ‘Tenure. Tenure. Tenure,’ I grabbed the jar and walked to the edge of the field. Eten popped over to lah lah land«

»She means no disrespect, Madame.«

»I mean all sorts of disrespect. Eten popped over to lah lah land, which left me in a muddy field of naked academics writhing in raw meat. Holding a jar with a goddamn heart in my hands. If they happened to look up from their anti-ablutions, I would have been fully visible to these despairing and desperate junior faculty,. You know that could be good Reality TV, »Desperate Academics.« Of course, I’m already watching that show everyday.«

»Now who is bringing in the irrelevant?«

»Irreverent. So the heart and I were in a pickle.«

»The heart literally so.«

»But they were so engrossed in their mystical meat movement«

»You had to alliterate.«

»I did. They were engrossed. I walked out of the field. A few minutes later, I heard them all screaming at each other. But I think they ended up convincing themselves that their offering to the Tenure God/dess had been accepted because the screaming soon stopped. Then I trudged miles and miles to get here and have spent the last hour waiting for Eten and then you to show up.«

»We know how difficult things are right now. We appreciate you coming so quickly.«

»So whose heart is it?«

»Thank you, Madame. Farewell.«

»Did she even say thank you?«

»It is not a matter of thanks. The heart belonged to Chopin.«

»My heart belongs to Daddy. So, George Sand’s ‘beloved little corpse?’«

»Yes.«

»How did it get here?«

»We are not sure. It was secreted away during World War II. We suspect that the Other Side stole it from its hiding place.«

»To play mystical mind games with the gullible?«

»Perhaps. That is their modus operandi. She will return the heart to its hiding spot. The Germans have lost. The church is being rebuilt.«

»The war ended 60 years ago.«

»Not there. Not then. The heart holders will never know that it has been missing.«

»We’re done then?«

»Yes.«

»Can you take me home?
»I will take us both home?«

»Home is where the heart is.«

»That was heartfelt.«
»Chopin my heart to bits.«

»The word play never ends, does it?«

»Never. Take me home.«

»As you wish.«

Author: Dictated to Sheila Bishop by Jacki Derrida, Gainesville, Florida, USA
The story was received trough the international short story competition for the project Secret Heart by KOLEKTIVA in 2010.

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