Beneath your tongue was hidden a special key whereby the entire puzzle might be solved. I traced my fingers across the contours of your face slowly and methodically, slipping middle and ring finger beneath your tongue in an instant unseen, at once claiming the key into the shadows of my hand. I held it on the inside of the two clasped fingers so the audience would not see, know of, or suspect it. And when the lights came up a notch, I lowered my hand to your neck, over the collarbone, hovering over the middle of your bare chest, at which point I slipped in the key and it opened your sternum like a wardrobe. I pulled the rib cage open wide so that your pale but bright heart was prominent, spotlighted from the amphitheater lamps. The audience cheered at the open nest of organs as blood trickled down between your legs. Our performance was rewarded with a full-house standing ovation as the curtains fell. I closed your chest back up, wiped away the blood trails with an alcohol napkin, and we made our way to the front of the stage through a slip in the curtains to gave a bow to the audience. We returned backstage so that we could be paid for our performance by the theater manager, who’d become sick sometime during the performance, forcing her to miss the end of it. "Heard you showed somebody’s heart," she said. "Mine," you said. "Really?" she asked. "Oh yes," I said. "It’s a magic trick." The manager paid us in full and we celebrated at a hotel off the interstate, with conjoined rooms and a pizza, and we watched television together until around midnight, then retired to our respective beds with a pact to get up before 8am for once so we could head on to the next town a bit earlier. There a museum there we’d been wanting to visit for a long, long time.
A photograph by Jaret Ferratusco.