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art by Steven R. Stewart

Heart of Gold

James Valvis lives in Issaquah, Washington with his wife and daughter. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Arts & Letters, Atlanta Review, Beat to a Pulp, Blip, Concisely, Hanging Loose, LA Review, Linger Fiction, Night Train, Potomac Review, Rattle, River Styx, and many others. A poetry collection, How to Say Goodbye, is due out in 2011. His favorite SF writer is Robert Silverberg. He sometimes remembers to update this page: nyqpoets.net/poet/jamesvalvis.
He was born with a heart of gold. The doctors stared at X-rays, slack-jawed, not knowing how it could beat, let alone pump blood, so they scribbled notes and prescribed unnecessary medicine, just to seem important, and sent the boy home.
Soon the child fell ill. He recovered, but he remained fragile all his life.
The general consensus, even among family, was that a heart of gold was not all it should be. A man was better off with an iron lung, kidney stones, and even a set of brass balls would help him survive better in the world.
Still, despite being susceptible to anyone with a sob story, not to mention country-western music, the man did the best he could and made his way in the world... until the hour the man without a heart found him. And the heartless man cut him open, snatched the golden heart, and stuck it into his own chest.
For a moment, it beat like a chime, a song of bells composed by Beethoven, then the song faded and the heart began to rust, then crumble, then turn to dust, until the man without a heart was again heartless, screaming.
Meanwhile, the man with the heart of gold stood and brushed himself off, his chest healed, a new gold heart in place of the old one.
"How?" the man without a heart wanted to know.
But the man with the heart of gold only shrugged, then offered the other man a cup of tea, all the coins in his pocket, and whatever else was his to give.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, July 14th, 2011


"Heart of Gold" started by asking, Would a literal heart of gold be a good thing, a bad thing, or something in between? This story was my attempt at an answer.

- James Valvis

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