Benjamin Chambers


The private detective’s heart is cheaply made, mass produced, misused: the school district’s clarinet, with a split reed and indifferent child attached. Through a stethoscope once he heard it skulking anxiously. Pocketa, pocketa, pocketa, it said. Its sentiment was not original, but typical: he was in a position to know. Under ultrasound surveillance he watched it step out of a darkened doorway, muttering as it tossed away the last of its cigar.

He is shadowing a woman. He has tapped the woman’s phones at home and the office, voice & fax, and steams open all of her mail. He records her least thought in a big spiral-bound notebook in his own, childish hand. (The reports are typed on his mother’s Olympia manual typewriter. There are flying capitals and holes where the keys struck the page too hard.)

There is one more piece of information he needs. He must know the sound of the woman’s heart. The detective finds the assignment pointless. Does not everyone’s heart go pocketa pocketa pocketa?

[In fact the woman’s heart is artificial, a blooded miracle of titanium, duct tape, and microcircuitry, lighter by half than the heart she was born with. (Science, it seems, can cure a heavy heart.) As the woman with the artificial heart walks down the street in the mornings, it sings to her, ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-ching! ]

The woman he is following sings in the shower:

     I tell you baby what I want you to do,
     I want you to give your heart to me

     I tell you baby what I want you to do,
     I want you to give your heart to me

     Yes and if I ever up and leave you, baby,
     I’ll just mail it on back to you

Outside the woman’s house sits a van from a pool repair company. There are no swimming pools in the neighborhood. Inside the van sits the detective, wearing nearly weightless headphones. He transcribes the shower song into his notebook dutifully. He shakes his head. Nutty.

He nibbles a watercress sandwich and watches the EKG screen, where the woman’s heartbeat bounds across a green, gridded plain. Startled, he spots a shadow behind it, two beats behind. Which is when it hits him.

Item: Three meals a day, plus expenses.

Item: No client but himself.

Item: He will never get to the bottom of this.

Date of Birth: 1965
Location: Portland, Oregon
Occupation: Juvenile Justice policy
Publications: Foreign Service Journal, Mississippi Review, MANOA, William & Mary Review, Madison Review, Willow Review, Portland Review, Widener Review, Cream City Review, Word Riot, etc.

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