Bertha’s beady eyes were burning a hole in my confidence. Loving her until the end of time, or at least until dinner, was my greatest desire. Sadly, she seemed unimpressed with my declaration of love. When I promised to be eternally faithful, she snatched my bologna sandwich from my hand and swallowed it whole.
Foolishly trusting my misogynist father’s teachings, I decided to entice Bertha with my earthly possessions. Kneeling down, I whispered in her ear: “I know the mere promise of my undying love is not enough, sweet Bertha. You deserve all that this constipated universe holds, so I offer you my wealth as well as my devotion. In my closet there’s a shoebox containing my most cherished treasures. If you marry me, it’s yours. Everything. The best this world has to offer is now within your reach.
There’s a black 1970 Cadillac Coupe De Ville in that box. There’s also a malnourished Chihuahua, a creepy, anonymous phone call, a singing male seahorse, some overcooked Brussels sprouts, a purse made from a bear’s scrotum, a fully functional flea circus, Robert Johnson’s left eye, an earthworm named Steve who poops an olive when he hears the word martini, a tube of ointment against regret, a broken watch that cries apple juice every time it thinks it’s noon in Cupertino, trained flesh-eating worms, a gallon of fresh wolf urine, 27 conjoined palindromes, a pail filled to the brim with radioactive gnome vomit, a Chinese cockroach with Jumping Frenchman disorder, a tiny man who once spent an entire week inside an Andre Williams song, a braid made from three of Cthulhu’s tentacles, a bag of snake skins, and a drunk spinning top.”
I was so concentrated on trying to recall my treasures, I didn’t notice Bertha had fallen asleep. Her frantic breathing was so cute it was painful. I wanted her more than ever. If my heart was what it would take to get her, that was exactly what she’d get.
With trembling hands, I opened my shirt and caressed the hairs on my chest. A few seconds later, I found the hair I was looking for: the thick, long hair to which my heart was tied. I rubbed my skin and thought about moisturizing creams. My skin reacted immediately and the follicles dilated with excitement. I pulled. My deepest secrets, most powerful desires, favorite memories, and crippling fears slowly popped out, all of them tied to that hair.
Out came a rotting shark carcass, a pillowcase full of disappointments, the word clusterfuck written in a hitherto unknown font, a bearded lady with serious daddy issues, a sonnet bursting with transcendence but lacking a conclusion, my hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, an unpublished Jeremy Robert Johnson story written in virgin goat blood, a tape containing a recording of a Cyclops reading a Bukowski poem backwards (a true gem because the poem was in Esperanto and the Cyclops was doing his best James Earl Jones impression), a hummingbird addicted to the word conduit, a paraplegic amoeba the size of a dinner plate, and a tap dancing Neanderthal with a head full of cornrows. Lastly, with a pop loud enough to wake Bertha, my heart came out.
“Here you go, baby,” I told my beloved. She looked at the pulsating muscle in my hand, shook sleep out of her tiny eyes, and jumped. Her teeth dug into my heart so deep they found my love for her. She violently ripped chunks from the warm, red organ and swallowed them. The poison in her saliva penetrated my left ventricle and took away my ability to move. Looking down at Bertha’s bloody face, my love smeared all over her pointed snout, I couldn’t help but let a tear of joy run down my cheek.
As darkness took over, I remembered the advice an intellectual lamppost had once given me in exchange for a kiss: never give your heart to a Northern Short-tailed Shrew.
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. He reviews books for Verbicide, HorrorTalk, Word Riot, Buzzy Mag, The Lovecraft eZine, Black Heart Magazine, The Coffin Factory, ManArchy, and a few other places that let him do it. You can find him on Twitter @Gabino_Iglesias.
Lead image: “Heart strings” (via Flickr user amanda tipton)