The Price You Had To Pay
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Ribbon"
Originally featured on 05-15-2007
As part of our series "Endings"

“Is that the right time?”

Although there are several clocks in the little store, Davis isn’t looking at any of them. Instead he is staring at a large painting that’s hanging crookedly on the back wall. It’s a portrait of Abraham Lincoln in the Oval Office and in the background, sitting on a brown desk, is a small clock. It’s a little out of focus but it clearly reads 8:15.

I start to say something but then gaze up at the big cuckoo clock above the front door. It is in fact 8:15.

“Uh, yeah, I guess it is,” I say.

“Okay, then I must be going. Why don’t we get together for lunch? That is if you’re not going to be too busy around here.” He said that last sentence a little sarcastically, glancing around the empty store. I pretend not to notice.

“Sure. The usually place?”

“Of course,” he says. After taking one last peek at the painting, he rushes past me, the tail of his gray overcoat flapping, and yanks open the door. The bells jingle as they knock against the glass and Davis steps out into the cool morning.

The usual place, of course, is Chuck E. Cheese. Neither of us can stand the loud, obnoxious children that race around the video games and lurk near the ball pit, but that was the price you had to pay for a great meal. Their seafood is exquisite; both Davis and I agree they have the best swordfish in the city.

Wonderful taste in food is not the only quality Davis and I share. We had met several years earlier in medical school, two idealistic neophytes, anxious to learn quickly and start healing the sick. I was in cardiology while he was in pediatrics.

During our third year in school we decided to get a place together. We found a nice two bedroom apartment and at first things were great. Oh, we’d get on each other’s nerves occasionally — me with my naked Tuba playing and he with his vast collection of everything ferret: calendars, posters, ferret-fur lampshades — but we made it work.

For his birthday that year I decided to surprise him with an actual ferret. The look on his face was priceless when I presented him with the large box, the air holes discreetly hidden. After the anticipated “you shouldn’t haves” and “you didn’t need tos,” he eagerly unfastened the big red ribbon and tore open the box.

His reaction was a bit of a surprise. “What the hell is that?!” he screamed when he glimpsed the small brown ferret wriggling his nose. I tried to explain but he just kept shouting “Get that damn rat out of here!!” and leapt onto the coffee table. After I promised to return the ferret to the pet store, Davis quickly regained his composure; and besides that lone blip, our friendship continued swimmingly.

However, things started to go bad right around finals.

I desperately needed a good grade on my last exam or was in danger of failing out. I studied constantly and even borrowed a human heart from the biology lab. Of course by then I was adept at knowing all the parts of the heart but I just liked having it around. It had an interesting aroma and plus it made a great paper weight.

When I came home one evening, weary from a rigorous tether-ball session, I went right for the refrigerator where I kept the heart. The test was the next day and I wanted to get close to it — touch it, rub it on my face — exactly what I had been doing every evening for the past two weeks. (I even sacrificed my Tuba playing much to the chagrin of my instructor, Lars).

When I opened the refrigerator I didn’t see it. I rummaged through the numerous pickle jars and spam sandwiches but it wasn’t there. I frantically looked around the little kitchen. I quickly opened each cabinet and pulled out every drawer but still couldn’t find it. I was just about to go into the living room when I glanced into the sink. There, sitting on a plate next to a fork, was something that looked suspiciously like a right ventricle.

I instantly knew what had happened. Davis, tired of pickles and spam, had eaten the heart. Perhaps I should have taken his threats of “You know, one of these days I’m going to get tired of these pickles and spam and eat that heart” more seriously. Nevertheless, I was crushed.

The rest of the tale is pretty much a clich

Read More By Tim Josephs

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