BALLAD OF A HEART ATTACK
Looking. He lay there looking very much like he was dead. Like he’d found. The happiness he had always sought. A crowd gathered. Gathered around his unlucky feet. That pointed up toward the heaven. Not to say that was where he was headed.
Fu. The young man nicknamed Fu, whose real name was Alexander Dumas. Lay with his cheek on the cement. Stared from his parallel position. At the dead man. Was he really dead? One could always imagine. What it must be like. To be gone. Cold as a stone. Owning nothing. Except your last breath. That was headed toward Neptune. At full speed. Fu smiled. One of those Zen moments. As he explained it later. Hard to describe. There it was. There. The moment.
Mrs. McGuire moved over to the wall where she could get a better view. Isn’t that the point of watching a drama. There it was like television. A reflection of the drug store front window. She took a seat. Thought to herself. I wonder if he could see it coming.
Mr. Martins moved through the crowd and asked everyone to move back.
“Give the fellow some air,” he pleaded.
“I think he’s used up his share,” Louie added. Then bent down. Put his ear to the chest of the man. On the ground. He looked up. And pleaded.
“Go and call a doctor.”
Paul, the stock boy. Growing an invisible moustache. Untried as a man. Sent out by his boss to clear the crowd from the front door. Rushed back into the store. Slid down one aisle. Caught his balance. Stuttered stepped. Into the doctor’s office. Catching his breath. The receptionist cried. Take a number. But the boy pushed passed her. Into the doctor’s office. Who was treating a middle-aged woman. For wearing shoes two sizes too small. Grabbed the doctor’s gown. Begged him to come quick.
“Someone has had a heart attack!”
The doctor turned to his middle-aged patient.
“I can smell heaven,” he sang.
Outside on the sidewalk stepped Luigi Manco. Owner of the Canadiana. Was reassuring himself. Inserting his feet into the crowd wondering. If the poor victim was a frequent flier. He didn’t recognize his dentures. Or the skin that was now grey. Looked like he was turning into cement. Then he noticed Mr. Martins’ concern.
“A friend of yours?” he asked.
Mr. Martins looked up. There was a tear in his eye. “Could have been.”
Mr. Martins’ secretary put her arm inside his. Like they were shipmates. Whispered something in his ear. The two of them melted from the crowd. In the drug store Mr. Martins took a call. From his ex-wife. Who was sitting in her Lexus. In the parking lot, weeping.
“Take me back,” she cried. God, how she cried. “I promise I won’t show you so little disrespect in the future. I’m having so much trouble balancing the books. Your creditors have threatened to take away the house. Where will the dog sleep?”
Looking. Mr. Martins nodded. Across the drug store the widow pushed her walker Through the aisles. Slipping small bottles of perfume into her purse. But it wasn’t the widow that caught his attention. It was the golden cat. Prancing. Like a ballet dancer across the top of the hair colour shelves. And there were ants crawling up the glass of the counter. Thousands of them. And moths flew out of the vents. Of the air-conditioners. And a mouse skittered across the shiny floor. Between the legs of the cosmetologist. Looked up. Saw something that looked like home.
The doctor and the stock boy rushed down the aisle. Followed by two small children. Screaming for their aunt. Lost in another aisle. In her thoughts. Thinking about the lyrics that bled out of the speakers. And the father that had disappeared Christmas eve. And the last moments of her mother’s breath. At Grace Hospital. Where her mother had grabbed her hand from her hospital bed. And she held on tightly as her mother was lowered down into death.
Lifting his ear from the corpse’s chest, Louie looked up.
“He isn’t dead! Is the doctor here yet?”
And the stock boy arrived guiding the doctor into the centre of everyone’s attention. And the doctor pushed everyone aside, listened to the corpse’s chest. What was it saying? Then turned and gave his new patient a kiss.