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  Table of contents Issue Twenty-six HOW TO STEAL A MAN'S HEART



tep 1: Go on a date.

When you rifle through your closet, don’t do it for him. He won’t notice the necklace you wore or your lace socks that roll down halfway, just enough to expose the curve of your ankle. Choose one item that you love. The string of pearls that sounds like river pebbles, the suede skirt that still fits from when you were still in high school. Your rhinestone-studded barrette cools the back of your neck, sharp and mean.

You found him online or you didn’t. You found him in a library, or you found him swiveling back and forth on a barstool. You found him, and now he’s sitting across from you at Angelo’s Bistro. Touch your face. His gaze will follow your fingers if you do it right. Bring the tips of your middle and index fingers to the edge of your lips and let them rest for three seconds. Avoid playing with your hair, but allow your tight curls to bounce with every exclamation you make as he winds down to the punchline of his story about his one black friend in high school or the time he almost got into a fight over a woman who looked a lot like you. He looks at your exposed thigh. Don’t cross your legs. He’ll tell you about his wife. He calls her his ex-wife, but when his phone lights up, and the screen flashes “Jane,” he silences the buzz and tucks the phone between his legs.

Make sure his skin is well moisturized, and his suit fits him well. He spends a lot of money on his hair and his nails. He’s not quite beautiful, but, as your mother always said, it’s what’s inside that counts.

He leans so closely that you can see that he missed a streak of shaving cream behind one ear. His hand is on your wrist, and he’s pulling you towards him because he wants to whisper something debonair. Specks of chicken grease dot his lips and mustache.

“You’re so beautiful,” he says, voice thick with his third middle-shelf whiskey on the rocks. “I’m so attracted to exotic women.”

Disappointment hits, familiar, like the swift zing of sour candy. It’s like the feeling you get when, after the boy you’re dating finishes eating you out, the cowboy walks to the bathroom, and you hear him rap along to some guy he never listens to in front of you. You hear him mutter “a classy hoe, a red-boned hoe” before he swigs and spits, washing you out of his mouth.

Step Two: Take him home.

Invite him back to your house or your studio apartment. There, tell him to make himself comfortable. He immediately does so by kicking off his dress shoes on your Persian carpet. He thanks you and ask how you could possibly live alone. He asks if you’re ever afraid. His eyes dart back and forth between your face and a small door at the end of the hall, which he probably assumes is your bedroom. Ask him if he wants a tour.

The syringe full of lidocaine is in your make-up bag. He’s gobbling in the decor, and he says that he truly appreciates the soft earthen tones of your Pippin print. He tells you that he loves art. His house is full of it. Don’t let him know that you’ve been in his house and you’ve seen his kid’s refrigerator doodles and you don’t think they are quite comparable to your collection, but don’t allow your smile to slip or your posture to sag. He strides towards you, each calculated step a little heavier than his usual swagger. He wastes no time before grabbing your waist and pulling you against his chest. Take one second to appreciate the way his heart beats against yours.

Loop your arms around his neck and plunge the needle deep.

Upon initiation, be prepared for at least one of three inevitabilities:

1. He is stronger than you. You take taekwondo. You can bench press 100 pounds on a good day. Nothing changes the fact that someone is going to surprise you. He’s going to lurch from your headlock like an eel and electrify you.

2. He is resilient. The injection doesn’t take immediate effect. The process takes the better part of five minutes. He’s like an inmate who has been tased so many times; he just keeps getting back up and Frankenstein-ing across your Persian carpet.

3. He is charming. He grins. You have him, breathless in your arms, and he looks at you with grey or green or brown eyes. The one color you can’t resist. His teeth are white, or at least free of spinach. Even though he ate the garlic chicken for dinner, his breath is the kind of sweet you could drink.

For all of these cases, the solution is tucked between your pants and back. You inherited the semi-automatic from your father or stole it from your mother. It’s a last resort kind of thing. Remember, keep the heart beating. Avoid chest injuries, if possible.

Or, everything’s gone right. He swats at his neck and his claymation legs wilt without his permission. They tangle like a pretzel, and he crumples to the floor. His eyes droop until you see a slit of shiny sclera between heavy lids. He’s drooling on your Persian carpet and his spit leaves a slug’s trail as you drag him to the small door.

Step Three: Now he’s yours! How to keep him forever.

Your workshop should be an enclosed space with plenty of ventilation but no windows, which is why you prefer the basement. The last distraction you need is the flitting shadow of a squirrel across the glass pane.

The table should be waist-high. Your arms rest comfortably on his pecs, and you watch your hands rise and fall atop his raw pastry chest. The skin of his neck is thin, and you see a pinprick pulse, surging in and out. Your fingers tap along with the heartbeat. You turn on the radio, and you’re happy to hear the sharp lilts of Beethoven’s D Minor.

Remember, if you’ve chosen correctly, his skin is well moisturized. Check his pant and jacket pockets for cologne. Boiled down, his pudding thighs will make excellent lotion you can give to Mrs. Daniels, upstairs. She’ll wear his scent, and her stupid, yappy dog will growl, confused at the new, invisible presence of Man in his house.

Secure him. Without restricting circulation, bind his wrists against your coroner’s table with EroticTape. Sex store purchases aren’t a red flag on credit card statements; the latex leaves little residue and EroticTape is recyclable. He probably won’t wake up, but make sure the restraints are tight enough to restrict any form of movement if he does.

You bought the miniature fire pit at a convenience store. The box explicitly states never to use it indoors, but you turn on the ignition and allow the flames to bloom slowly and lick the synthetic logs. Any metal will do, but you pick a thick, iron fire poker and stick the tip in the fire. Once it begins to glow, carefully touch it against the hollow of his neck. You think the pen is truly mightier than the sword. His skin sizzles and smells like barbecue. Don’t allow the stick to linger for too long. Slide it down the middle of his chest and to his belly button. Draw a circle around his heart. If it blisters, you pressed too hard.

The incision should be swift. Hesitation marks are indicative of more than guilt. They mean you didn’t want it, or they mean that you wanted it very much. Once the flaps of his chest are appropriately sectioned into a symmetrical ‘Y,’ peel away the first layer of jellyfish tissue. Watch his neatly packaged organs glisten beneath the cage of his ribs. If you’re disappointed that his liver is darker than you thought, or it turns out he’s already had his appendix removed, don’t let it affect your work. No one’s perfect. He’s not a smoker (thank heavens) and his lungs balloon-like slick, inflatable chicken thighs. The lethargic pumping deepens as you unpeel the final layer. Grab your garden shears. Crack him open him like a walnut.

There’s more fat than you originally thought, so you grab a plastic-lined paint bucket for the excess. Spread his rib cage and focus on the way it fans out, like a grim peacock. The glossy digestive tract shimmers beneath the LED light panel. Your hands slide up his chest. His heart skips a beat.

Slide your fingers beneath the filmy lining and wrap them around the hot sack of ventricles. Your lips taste like metal. You press your thighs against the edge of the table. Shift your pelvis as you do in Miss Bella Love’s yoga class. Arch your back. Your breath leaves your body in hot, short bursts.

Remove his heart. Put it with the others.




Claire Holahan is a proud Philadelphia resident when she’s not at the beach. She has a master of fine arts from Temple University. She primarily dabbles in short fiction, and her work has been published in The Earl. Claire’s short story How to Steal a Man’s Heart appears in the February 2019 issue of HelloHorror.

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