Susanne Shaphren with her entry, "The Key to My Heart", is the winner of Mother
Hen's Contest. Enjoy her tale.
The Key to My Heart
by Susanne Shaphren
"Happy Anniversary, Ethan."
"Is it February already? It seems we just got finished with Thanksgiving
"It does; doesn’t it?"
"Thea, forgive me. The old memory bank isn’t what it used to be. I
forgot to get you something."
"You are the most wonderful gift I ever received."
"That’s exactly what you said the day your father brought me home to
you. He said you’d never leave your beloved books long enough to find a soul mate on your own. This ancient relic hasn’t
"Of course you haven’t. I’ll bet you remember the day you gave
me this." The silver-haired woman lovingly fingered the gold necklace with dangling intertwined gold hearts."
"It was a Wednesday, cloudy and damp. Three weeks after Muffy ..."
"After Muffy went to heaven where she could romp in the meadow and chase
kitties instead of suffering."
"That was when I realized death wasn’t the worst thing that could happen.
I gave you the key the same day. You didn’t lose it; did you?"
"Of course not. I always keep it in my pocket. See."
Dorothea reached for the small silk purse, pulled out the intricately crafted
key with what must have been Ethan’s name spelled out in almost impossible to decipher script on the back. Just like
the Hebrew translation of his name, the key was strong and enduring. Just like Ethan had been for so many wonderful years.
Just like their love would be for eternity.
"It’s sunny and halfway decent out today. Would you like to go sit
in the garden?"
"No, I creak loud enough to wake the dead when I move these days."
"We could take you ..."
"NO! They always promise to make things better, but I’m never quite
the same when they finish with me. I’m not going back to that dreadful place. Not ever. All those people in their sterile
white uniforms treat you like you’re nothing more than a damn toaster oven!"
"Ethan, I didn’t know you could swear!"
"Neither did I. Did you make an appointment to have your pacemaker/defibrillator
"Not yet." Just a tiny white lie. She’d found a substitute for the
Wednesday bridge club, gone to the doctor instead. The expensive cigarette lighter sized device implanted just under her left
shoulder hadn’t helped one little bit. The pills she took every day, enough tablets and capsules to fill a drugstore, weren’t
working either. No reason to burden Ethan with the cardiologist’s grim prognosis. He’d held her puffy hands, hands
turning telltale purple from the lack of adequate circulation, and gently suggested Hospice care.
"Make the appointment today. It doesn’t seem to be working nearly as
well as the cardiologist promised."
"We probably expected too much."
"We expected what he promised ... that it would help your heart beat stronger
so it could pump out the excess fluid and let you breathe easier. He even said it would help you build up stamina and walk
greater distances without getting exhausted."
"We’re a fine pair; aren’t we? Two Model-T’s, too old to
run right, too ancient to be repaired."
"Have I remembered to tell you how much I love you?"
"Only a dozen times a day, just like twelve perfect red velvet roses."
"I just wish ..."
"I know, my love. I know exactly what you wish. Come. Let’s sit by
the window, watch the sunset."
Dorothea kissed him one last time, reached into her pocket.
Ethan leaned over to help her shaky hands unbutton his shirt and position
"Just turn it clockwise until you hear a click."
"Happy Valentine’s Day, my love. You’ve always had the key to
my heart." Dorothea gently removed the key and traced her fingers over the intricate script, suddenly realized it didn’t
spell Ethan after all. Enosh. She’d heard that name a long, long time ago. Too long ago to remember what it meant in
Dorothea reached into the drawer and retrieved the magnet, passed it over
her chest to deactivate the pacemaker/defibrillator, waited for the bottle of sleeping pills to stop her heart, prayed that
there would be a place in heaven for Ethan. The robot had truly been the most wonderful gift her father had ever given her.
As she closed her eyes for the last time, Dorothea remembered that Enosh
meant human being.