The sign on the door says they open at 8AM.

Five more minutes. Five more minutes. Five more minutes.

Been pacing out here for over an hour. I’m not alone.

We avert our eyes and press down on our hearts and toe the concrete sidewalk littered with flattened carcasses of gum and cigarettes. We do this without talking. Empty nips of Fireball blaze from under planters of white pansies, their red eyes still angry from the night before. An open Dumpster festers out back; the shrieks of gulls give it away. A breeze bends an Almond Joy wrapper around the base of a metal post in the parking lot. It flutters like the trapped wings of a blue morpho.

We pace. Pace. Pace.

Someone’s watch beeps. Rows of fluorescent lights crescendo on from the far corner of the store and the muted click clack of sturdy heels nears the automatic doors. The pharmacist turns the lock and backs away before they open.

I push my way in first. “Excuse me, can you . . . ”

She doesn’t let me finish. She answers this question every morning. “Aisle ten.” Her
finger points toward the right as she strides to the prescription window at the back. Phil Collins pleads I can’t see but I feel it . . . And it helps to keep me warm from the speakers overhead. His voice shreds the base of my skull like a carrot on a box grater.

I walk faster. The others are not far behind. Pain tunnels deeper into my chest.

The first half of aisle ten is stocked to heal minor calamities of the skin. Quick fixes to soothe a hangnail or cover a skinned knee. Gauze and bandages and cotton in white boxes with red crosses. Ointments and creams in extra strength. Limp ice bags and brown bottles of iodine.

Nothing to help me breathe.

Nothing to repair deep puncture wounds.

Then I see them: glossy black boxes with silver crosses, as big as the pistol safe bolted down in my bedroom where he told me.

I pull one off the shelf. It’s heavier than I expected.


Isopropyl alcohol (8 oz.)
Cotton gauze squares (15)
Oscillating saw (1)
Titanium micro instruments + forceps (1 set)
Suture kit (1)
Post-surgical dressings (10 – 5” x 9”)
Steroid inhaler (160 mcg/actuation – 25 actuations)
Pre-filled hypodermic needle/syringe (10 ml anesthesia, anti-venom, + disinfectant)


To repair and resuscitate a broken heart. To alleviate distressed breathing. To sterilize wounds from dirty claws, protracted lies, doublespeak, and omissions of truth. To sterilize the hippocampus and frontal/temporal cortexes. To minimize the pain of trust and regret.


Administer inhaler and pre-filled needle one hour before heart surgery. Continuous
interlocking suture recommended.


One lifetime use only. Will cause scars. Some reconciliation may occur.

The clerk puts my box in a bag and I see him enter the store. He doesn’t notice me.
I track his path to the pharmacist’s window, turning my head while the clerk counts
change into my hand. He leans over the counter and whispers something to her. She looks at her watch and shakes her head. “Typical. You people always come in later.” Slowly she crosses her arms and stares him at hard, lips pressed into a thin ruby line. “What you’re looking for is in aisle eleven.”

He walks over to the aisle and I glance at the sign hanging above: LIARS. The sound of balled fists on flesh and keys falling to the floor rises above the shelves. Metal grinds against bone.

And then he screams.

I run outside and tear open the box. Next to the pansies I mouth the inhaler while doubled over. The release comes quick and my lungs fill like a balloon. With my molars I bite the orange cap off the syringe and spit it on the ground next to the others. The jab of the needle in my chest burns rapture into my veins until I can no longer hear him.

Kristen M. Ploetz

Kristen M. Ploetz

Kristen M. Ploetz is a writer and former land use attorney living in Massachusetts. Her work has been published (or is forthcoming) with Sample Review, Atlas & Alice, Hypertext Magazine, Ellipsis Zine, Harpoon Review, Crack the Spine, (b)OINK, The Hopper, Gravel, Maudlin House, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a collection of essays and short stories.
Kristen M. Ploetz

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