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by Corey Miller

I’m about to burst like a frozen pipe. I’m not cold though, I am burning with heat and sweating buckets. The gases inside me fuel the pilot light and keep the system functioning. My body is excruciating and wet; existing is dangerous. It’s never been this bad, not even the leukemia in middle school. I don’t know what’s wrong so I call a plumber.

My living room is a graveyard, still filled with boxes from the past that contain junk which didn’t make the cut. I thought I was ready for a house of my own, but when you kick cancer’s ass you have to be ready for a rematch.

On the phone, the plumber who repaired my new century home sounds different. He sounds urgent and foreign. He talks about upcycling rather than repairing. I think I may have dialed the wrong number, but before I can refuse he arrives.

Standing in my kitchen, he opens my stomach to inspect the problem. I’m embarrassed to see that I am leaking everywhere. He holds a flashlight in between his teeth while his hands search deep inside me. It sounds squishy and smells of rotten fruit and well water. The plumber seems to enjoy this. I can hear him tightening clamps and fittings with his wrench; I feel him opening and closing valves. He turns one and my bladder empties to the hardwood floor.

“Do you even know what you’re doing down there?”

He mumbles something past the flashlight that sounds like, “Fuckin’ old models,” and I want to tell him thirty-four isn’t that old, but my mind cannot get past the pain. The air has weight and it lays on my organs, sharp and pricking. I think he might be braiding my tubular veins like my sister did my hair when we were young and before my leukemia–maybe he’s playing cat’s cradle too. My brain sends signals of torture and tells me to go into sleep mode, but I want to be fixed. This body has been deteriorating faster than I’ve been decorating.

He yanks apart blue and purple cords; maroon splatters my lovely white walls and leaves his face with polka dots. His expression is blank as he pulls my heart out and holds it close to my eyes. It’s dry and full of small pieces of paper. I think he knew this would happen.

The house is empty and silent as he pulls my strings like a puppet, making me walk outside. I’m tossed into the back of the van and the bumpy ride delivers me to the appliance store. He wheels me in and I can feel the warehouse full of people staring at me. They sit on the shelves and gawk at my interior. Down the aisle, a young girl sleeps. Her skin is pale and beautiful; she reminds me of myself.

I take one of the small pieces of paper out of my heart.

You will find a purpose

Lucky Numbers: 14, 8, 29, 27, 3

Corey Miller lives in a tiny house in Cleveland, OH. When not writing, he is hiking or playing with the dogs.

Lead image“Why Do Tools Get a Bad Rap?” (via Flickr user Alan Levine)