by Elizabeth Archer

We sit, waiting for the cardiologist to come in with the results. Listening to shoes squeak on the fake wood floor. Waiting for them to stop at the door.

It’s been an hour, and there are 64 tiles in the ceiling. A dead gnat sticks to the window, in the otherwise spotless room.

When the door opens, something inside my chest shifts. Opens too, tries to squeeze past him, run down the hall.

The doctor is thin and fit and tan. He looks as if he has been running all morning, breathless and grinning with a smile that reaches his cheek.

“Everything’s okay,” Dr. Flynn says, white back to us, his hand flipping through notes and pictures of the insides of your arteries. “All clear.”

Hole in the Heart

Elton Harding via Creative Commons

I see images of holes. Pictures of your heart.

We breathe out then, both of us, as if we had been sucking a week’s worth of oxygen inside. Exhale fear, in the form of CO2.

“All good. See you in say, May?” he says.

I can hear your heart, beating like a distant drum, in the silence.

That’s what marriage is, after twenty years.

I can’t hear my own heart at all.


Elizabeth Archer writes flash, short stories and poetry. She lives in the Texas Hill country, and haunts Scribophile, a site for serious writers.