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The Famous Heart


by Peter Cherches


            "Lucidity, I'm home."

 

            These are familiar words, "Lucidity, I'm home." We have all heard these words many times before. Tonight will be no different. "Lucidity, I'm home." And Rickety is home.

 

            These are familiar people, Lucidity and Rickety. We have all seen these people many times before. Tonight will be no different. "Lucidity, I'm home." And Lucidity and Rickety are together again.

 

            "Together again"—these are familiar words.

 

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            Lucidity and Rickety are together again. Not that they've ever really been apart. They remain happily married, even if some of us do not. No, Lucidity and Rickety have not been apart; just separated for a bit.

 

            And what has Lucidity done today? Taken the baby for a stroll, bought an overpriced but oh-so-chic hat, seen the changing of the guard, stomped grapes at an Italian winery and traded juicy tales with Mrs. Trumbull and the milkman.

 

            And Rickety? Rehearsing, of course. He's been down at the club, the Chiquita Cabana, rehearsing his band, the Rickety Batista Orchestra, a group of seventeen Cuban industrialists who fled their homeland upon the ascension of Castro and learned valuable skills, like the trumpet, the saxophone, los timbales.

 

            "How were things at the club?" Lucidity asks.

 

            "Terrible," Rickety replies. "Remember that dancer I yust hire, Carlotta?"

 

            "Yeah."

 

            "Well, she died, yust keeled over when we were doin' the big production number, and now I'm left without a dancer and I dunt know what to do."

 

            And that great big light bulb atop Lucidity's head begins to glow.

 

            "I know what you're thinkin', and you can yust forget it," Rickety says.

 

            "But Rickety, I've been at the rehearsals and I know all the steps," says Lucidity.

 

            And Rickety takes an ax and chops off her left foot.

 

            "I dunt think it would be wise for you to dance in your condition," he says.

 

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            "I'll get even with that Cuban crumb," Lucidity vows as she applies a tourniquet to her gushing stump.

 

            What's going on in that redhead's head? What kind of harebrained scheme is she cooking up? Lucidity, as we all know, is a great schemer. She has made an art of revenge. But Lucidity's past triumphs were all chickenfeed, small potatoes, compared to what she's got up her sleeve this time.

 

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            Lucidity hops upstairs to visit her BFF, the perennially dumpy Lethe Merde.      

 

            "Lucidity, what happened to you?" asks Lethe.

 

            "Oh, Rickety didn't want me to dance in his show, so he cut my foot off."

 

            "Couldn't he just kick you in the groin, like he usually does?"

 

            "I guess he didn't want to take any chances."

 

            "Well, it sure looks like he got his way this time," Lethe says.

 

            "Don't count on it," says Lucidity.

 

            "Now, now, Lucidity, what's going on in that scheming red head of yours?"

 

            And Lucidity whispers something in Lethe's ear that you and I cannot hear.

 

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            "Hey Rickety," says Ferde Merde, husband of Lethe and the building's landlord. "That was a pretty rotten trick you played on Lucidity."

 

            "She had it comin' to her," says Rickety.

 

            "I guess you're right."

 

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            "Lucidity, what's for dinner?"

 

            "Your favorite: arroz con pollo and frijoles."

 

            Wait a minute—could this be what Lucidity had in mind? Does she intend to poison his food? Perhaps a little arsenic in the arroz con pollo? Strychnine in the beans? Watch out, Rickety, that redhead is out to get you!

 

            But no, that's not it—Rickety eats and nothing happens. "This is delicious, sweetheart," Rickety says.

 

            And as Rickety enjoys his dinner Lucidity experiences phantom pains where her left foot used to be.

 

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            Lucidity and Rickety are in bed. In beds—they do not sleep together; they have twin beds. This is not to say they do not fuck. I am by no means suggesting they do not fuck. They just don't sleep together. They fuck often enough. Always in Lucidity's bed. Rickety refuses to fuck in his own bed. Sometimes they fuck in other places besides Lucidity's bed, but never in Rickety's bed. At this very moment Rickety wants to fuck Lucidity and she knows it.

 

            "Not tonight," she says.

 

            "Why not?" he asks.

 

            "Because I have a footache," she replies.

 

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            So they go to sleep. Or at least they try to go to sleep. But how the hell can they sleep when the baby is making so much noise?

 

            Lucidity hobbles into the baby's room to see what's the matter. She picks up the baby and it stops crying. Oooh, aaahh, what a cute baby!

 

            The baby's name is Little Rickety-Lu and it is a hermaphrodite. It possesses the genitalia of both genders. When Little Rickety-Lu was born, Rickety wanted to kill it. He couldn't live with the idea of having sired such a freak. He was prepared to smother it, or drown it, or batter it to death. But a mother's love knows no deformities, and Lucidity protected the baby from the wrath of Rickety. Eventually Rickety grew to accept, and even love, the child. He started planning an itinerary for the child's upbringing: We'll play catch together, go to ball games; I'll take him huntin' and dipsy fishin', teach him how to play the congas and sing "Babalu," and when he's old enough I'll tell him all about the birds and the bees, and he can go out and get himself lotsa pussy and make his papa real proud.

 

            But Lucidity has other ideas. "Honey," she says to the baby, "when you grow up you're going to learn that you can't live with men and you can't live without them."

 

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            "Lucidity, what's for breakfast?"

 

            "Your favorite, huevos a la Cubana."

 

            Rickety tastes the eggs. "Delicioso!"

 

            I don't know why I cook for you after what you did to me," Lucidity says.

 

            "Dunt tell me you're still sore about your foot," Rickety says.

 

            "No," Lucidity replies, sarcastically, "I've always wondered what it would like to be a foot shorter."

 

            "Listen," he says, "I yust wanted to teach you a lesson."

 

            And Lucidity thinks, that's nothing compared to the lesson I'm going to teach him.

 

            "What have you got planned for today?" Rickety asks.

 

            "Oh, I don't know, a little shopping, maybe pay a visit to Carolyn Applebee."

 

            "All right," he says, "yust make sure you stay away from the club."

 

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            "Lethe, can you stay with the baby? I have to go out."

 

            "Sure, Lucidity, where are you going?"

 

            "Down to the club, to watch Rickety rehearse."

 

            "Didn't Rickety tell you that if he ever caught you at the club again he was going to cut your other foot off?"

 

            "Don't worry, he's not going to know I'm there."

 

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            "Okay, boys, let's take it from the top one more time."

 

            And the band plays "Babalu," Rickety's solitary hit, for the zillionth time.

 

            While they're playing, an old washerwoman with one foot comes in and takes a seat at one of the tables.

 

            "Okay, that was pretty good. Now let's try the dance number."

 

            The washerwoman is playing very close attention.

 

            "Maria, are you ready?" Rickety asks.

 

            "Yes, Mr. Batista," comes a voice from backstage.

 

            Rickety gives the cue and the band launches into the chart for the big production number, The Machete Dance. Maria, the dead dancer's replacement, dances out from the wings, wielding the machete. She starts slowly, gracefully, lightly waving the machete through the air. As the music gains intensity her dance becomes more urgent; she is quicker, executing fantastic leaps, swinging the machete with great determination. The music builds to a crescendo and the dancer reaches fever pitch, wildly flailing the machete. As the music winds down, she swings her arm upward, holding the machete like a banner. Then she bows.

 

            "Maria, you were wonderful," says Rickety. "You may make us all forget Carlotta after all."

 

            "Thank you, Mr. Batista," she says.

 

            "Okay boys, take ten."

 

            There is a devilish glint in the washerwoman's eyes.

 

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            "Lucidity, what's for dinner?"

 

            "Your favorite, ropa vieja and tostones."

 

            Lucidity brings the chow to the table and they dig in. "How did things go at rehearsal?" she asks.

 

            "Pretty good," he says. "That new dancer is yust marvelous."

 

            "That's nice," she mumbles as she masticates.

 

            "And how was your day?" Rickety asks.

 

            "Nothing special," she says. "I got together with Lethe for some girl talk."

 

            "Well, at least you stayed out of mischief. You're always getting into such mischief."

 

            "Yeah, well, I guess it's harder to get into mischief with one foot."

 

            "Now Lucidity, I dunt want to hear about that foot no more. I did what I had to do and I dunt regret it." He eats the last of the shredded beef and says, "Well, I hate to eat and run, but I've got to get down to the club. Tonight's the big night, you know."

 

            "I know," she says.

 

            On his way out, Rickety asks, "What have you got planned for tonight?"

 

            "I'll probably rinse my hair. My roots are starting to show."           

 

            "Good girl!"

 

            Rickety leaves and Lucidity smiles a smile that means trouble.

 

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            The Chiquita Cabana is packed. The beautiful people are all here to see their darling, the mucho macho Rickety Batista.

 

            The houselights dim and the musicians take their places on the bandstand. Then Rickety comes out, greeted by resounding applause. "Ladies and yentlemen," he says, "I'd like to welcome you to the Chiquita Cabana. We've got a wonderful show planned for tonight, and I'd like to begin with a number you're all familiar with." The band starts to play and Rickety sings "Babalu."

 

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            Maria, the dancer, is in her dressing room, getting ready for her big number. The door opens and in hops Lucidity. "Can I help you?" the dancer asks.

 

            "Maybe you can," Lucidity asks. "Are you the new dancer?"

 

            "Yes, but who are you, if you don't mind my asking?"

 

            "No, I don't mind. I don't mind at all. I'm Lucidity, Rickety's wife."

 

            "Oh," the dancer says, "I'm pleased to meet you. Your husband is such a nice man to work for."

 

            "Just be glad you don't have to live with him," Lucidity says.

 

            "Oh, I'm sure you're just joking."

 

            "That's right. I'm a great kidder. So, what's your name, honey?"

 

            "Maria."

 

            "Maria, that's a nice name. Sort of virginal."

 

            "Well, I don't know about that, but thank you."

 

            "Yeah, I'll bet Rickety thinks it's a nice name too."

           

            "Gee, I don't know."

 

            "I'll bet he likes other things about you too."

 

            "Huh?"

 

            "I'll bet he's got some ideas about what he'd like to do with you."

 

            "What do you mean?"

 

            "Rickety goes for pretty young things like you. You wouldn't be the first."

 

            "Oh no, Mrs. Batista, you've got it all wrong. It's nothing like that."

 

            "If you know what's good for you you'll be careful. I'll bet nobody around here talks about what happened to the last dancer—about how she died, I mean."

 

            "You're not saying—"

 

            There is a glazed look in Lucidity's eyes. "I'm doing this for your own good, honey," she says, then grabs the dancer by the scruff of her neck, pulls a chloroform-soaked handkerchief out of her purse and shoves it in Maria's face. Within a matter of seconds the dancer is out cold.

 

            Lucidity calls for Diego, the young band boy and Rickety's little plaything. "Yes, Señora, what can I do for jew?"

 

            "Diego, would you keep an eye on this pretty little girl here and make sure she doesn't go anywhere?"

 

            "Si, Señora Batista, this thing would give me much pleasure."

 

            "Thanks, Diego," Lucidity says as she slips him a C-note.

 

            "Muchas gracias!"

 

            After Lucidity leaves, Diego does many nasty things to the lithe and supple body of the unsuspecting dancer.

 

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            "Thank you, ladies and yentlemen. And now I have a special treat for all of you. This next number features our new dancer, Maria Cortez. She's an incredibly talented girl and I'm sure we're going to be seeing a lot more of her in the future." Rickety gives the cue and the band goes into the machete music.

 

            Out dances Lucidity, on one foot, waving the machete, all done up like Carmen Miranda.

 

            "Ai ai ai!" Rickety exclaims when he realizes what is going on, but he can't do anything about it—this is the real thing, there's an audience here, the worst thing he could do is disrupt the show. He has to carry on like everything's normal.

 

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            Lucidity isn't doing too bad, considering she's only got one foot. Her leaps are a little awkward, but she is keeping up with the band. They're into the fast section now and she's right on cue, swinging the machete just like she's supposed to. The music is quickly building up momentum. The lead trumpeter gets up to do his solo in double-time. The trumpeter, Ramon de Flores, was formerly owner of Cuba's largest sugar refinery. He plunges into his solo, a barrage of sixteenth and thirty-second notes. Lucidity takes another leap, lunges at de Flores, swings her machete and rips his pants at the crotch. She takes another swing and whoosh, Ramon's cojones go flying across the stage. Lucidity wastes no time; she goes through the entire brass section, hacking away, testicles flying in all directions. Then she takes care of the saxophones. And the rhythm section. The music comes to an abrupt halt. The Rickety Batista Orchestra is now a band of seventeen Cuban castrati.

 

            "Lucidity, what have you done?" Rickety gasps.

 

            "An eye for an eye, darling," she says. "Or should I say a bunch of balls for a foot. But I still haven't taken the greatest prize of all," she continues, her arm cocked, ready to make a eunuch of her husband.

 

            "Sweetheart, you're so beautiful when you get angry," he says, looking straight at her with his deep, dark eyes. And Lucidity melts under his gaze, just as she did those many years ago when it all began.

 

            And they go home, and Rickety fucks her in the ass like he's never done before.

 

            But we don't get to see that scene. All we see is the famous heart. And the credits.

           

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