Muriel Perkins stares at the trays of meat.
The young butcher, god-like but for acne, emerges from the cool room, shouldering a carcass. He slams it down on the block, whips out a thin-bladed knife and leers at her as he sharpens it. He slices deftly into the rib-cage, pops the knife back in its holster and brings down the cleaver, neatly stacking the chops to one side. He tosses a heart on the pile and rummages inside the subcutaneous fat for the kidneys. "Little beauties, eh?" He juggles them. "Anything else, love?"
"Mince," she says, faintly.
He picks up two great handfuls like heavy breasts and dumps them in a bag.
"There you go. Now don't do anything I wouldn't," he winks.
She floats out, her spirits soaring, only the carry bags weighing her down.
At home, she dumps the bags on the table, goes into her bedroom and changes into operating gear, paper mask and overshoes. She sees herself in the mirror. "Pity the gloves don't match."
She sits at the P.C. and wiggles her fingers. "Now the last chapter!"
"BE PATIENT, MY LOVE."
Dr. Helen Masterman knew what she had to do. All those years of training had prepared her for this moment as she stood at the operating table ready to perform the most difficult, most delicate, most dangerous surgery on the man she loved.
Of course, no one knew. Nothing had been said, no words had passed between them. Theirs was the love of souls, unstated, but for the eyes. Yet she knew Nurse Ashley Fulsome was the only man she could ever love.
When she had realised how ill he was, she almost refused to operate. "I can't! My heart is too full to perform a transplant on his." But she was the only surgeon available. All the others were at a conference, so Ashley's life lay in her hands.
"Scalpel!" she tried to stop the quaver in her voice and still the tremor in her hand. She pared away the flesh and cut through the manly little breast bone, exposing the chop-like rib-cage. "Oh, how sweet!" Then suddenly, before her, lay the red, pulsating heart.
"Throbbing with love." She sniffed back a tear as she popped in the donor's heart and prepared to sew up her beloved. She rejected blanket and satin stitch in favour of herring-bone. Then she stood back and admired the exquisite little stitches, feathered all over his chest.
An hour later, she was holding his hand in Recovery.
"Darling," he whispered. "I dreamt I was being caressed and that you took away all my pain."
"It was nothing, dearest."
"You know I love you?"
"Oh Ashley, yes!"
"Then as soon as I'm free of all these nasty drips and monitors, we shall be married, my darling."
Muriel types the title page:
CHANGE OF HEART
She puts an elastic band round the manuscript, pops it into an envelope and addresses it to her publisher.
"That may be it for a while. I feel a bad case of writer's block, coming on."
She goes into the kitchen and makes herself a sandwich. She washes up, makes the bed, brings in the washing and waters the potplants.
Next day, she drives to the Post Office.
"What's this one called, Miss Perkins?" asks the Post Mistress.
"CHANGE OF HEART. It's a medical romance."
"I'll look out for it. I've just read HIS HAND ON MY HEART and I must say I enjoyed HIS VELVET SURPRISE ."
"So glad," Muriel smiles as she feels a popular author should.
The Post Office is crowded and as she leaves, a man bumps into her. She observes that he is dark and exotic.
She is opening her car door, when she hears a voice behind her.
It is the man from the Post Office. "You are beautiful," he says in a strange, throaty accent.
It is then she notices that he is exposing himself. Well, at least, a nasty thing like a pork fillet is sticking out of his trousers.
She hears herself saying, "Well, really!" and she climbs into her car, and checks her make-up in the rear-vision mirror.
Muriel drives home and goes straight to her bedroom. She opens the wardrobe. "Heiress," she mutters and takes out two hangers. The pink safari suit with pith helmet and chiffon scarf? Or floaty blue silk with the cartwheel hat? She chooses silk, adding stockings and high heels.
"My writers' block seems to have gone."
She sits in front of the P.C.
"THE JEWEL IS TAKEN."
Sapphire Blade, blue-eyed and beautiful, stepped off the plane and approached the clerk. "Ca-n't you do somethin' about that ha-tch. Mah luggage'll be ru-ined."
"But it's droppin' down so hard, everything'll be broken." She tossed her masses of blonde hair and stamped her little foot.
Suddenly, someone pressed up close against her and a breathless voice whispered, "Perhaps I can help?"
She turned to see a man, whose long flowing robes could not conceal his bulging biceps. He was rich too, for a jewelled dagger studded with diamonds, rubies and emeralds, hung tantalisingly from his waist.
"Say! Are you one of them she-ikhs?"
"I am from the desert. I have come for you."
"But what about mah luggage?"
"Leave it, you will not need any." He stared at her opulent breasts and inhaled. His gaze wandered boldly up her long silky legs.
"Well, I don't know. Momma always said never to take candy from strange men." Yet she knew he promised her more than candy. "I just hope I don't come to a sticky end," she murmured, as she following him to his limousine. It was unbearably hot, and already she was melting at the knees.
Muriel Perkins sits back. "Another book! Now to wash the dog and clean out the bird-cage."
© Vashti Farrer