John Anderson’s Two Hearts


John T. Anderson
42 Foliage Lane
Hapdorn 5A03F

10 Seventhmonth 4599

Dear Ken,

For a while there, I thought I was trapped in a grade-B science-fiction movie! It was the weirdest experience, and if it had been a movie, the title would have been: “The Man with Two Hearts!”

I was carrying a bag of groceries home from the store, when I noticed an old lady up ahead pulling a grocery cart behind her. She couldn’t see it, but something fell out. So I picked up my pace, retrieved the object and caught up with her.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” I said, completely out of breath, “But this fell out of your cart.”

She slowly looked around to examine the cart, verified that the object was indeed hers and thanked me with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you very much, young man!” she said. I blushed. I must be getting old, because I don’t mind being called ‘young man’ any more.

“Aren’t you the alien from outer space?” she asked in her tentative voice.

“Yes ma’am, I am,” I answered proudly. Then, anticipating her next question, I added, “I’m a Human from Earth.”

“I hope you don’t think I am rude to ask, but you are the only white person in the neighborhood,” she apologized. “My husband and I just watched a television special about some woman from your planet. Do you know her?”

The lady is getting old; that television show was broadcast months ago! “That would be Melissa. Yes, I met her here in Thorgelfayne for the very first time.”

“Imagine that!” the lady exclaimed, as we continued on our way. “Two people from the same planet have to travel twelve light-years to meet!” We laughed, and started to move along.

The lady continued to pull her cart, and I was afraid that something else might drop out, so I advised her to push it in front of her instead.

“Oh, that won’t do. It just weaves all over the sidewalk and I can’t steer it at all,” she said, gesturing with her hand. “Better to lose something along the way than to take all day to get home!” So I decided to accompany her home, to make sure she got their with her groceries intact. Then she thanked me again for my help, gave me another hug, and said: “Bless both of your little hearts!”

I wondered why she said that. I just dismissed it—two-headed Martians, Venusians with five hearts, creatures with slime and too many eyes—somehow low-grade science-fiction writers think that aliens have supernumerary organs. Actually, I think, the problem isn’t with aliens having too many organs, it’s with writers having too few brains.

But it kept happening to me! People kept blessing my twin hearts, or envying me for having a spare... it was a bit much.

It finally reached its climax one morning after a storm when Panu and I were picking up fallen branches from our front lawn. A little boy came pedaling a tricycle along the sidewalk. He was making the Thorgelfaynese equivalent of ‘vroom-vroom’ noises as he pretended that his trike had a motor. Then he looked up at me all of a sudden and came to a dead stop.

“Are you the alien?” he asked in a golly-gee-gosh tone of voice.

“Yes I am. My name is John. What’s yours?”

He ignored my question in awe, and just continued in a quizzical tone, “Are you from Zerpick?” I said no. “Are you from Horrmingel?” I corrected his pronunciation of ‘Horstmingle’ and said no. He ran out of planets. “Then where are you from?”

“Earth,” I said, picking up a branch, “I’m a Human.” I’ve gotten used to this sort of questioning. There certainly seems to be a lot of it going on recently, but I don’t mind.

“Would you let me,” the little boy said, looking at his fingers. “I mean, would you mind if...” then he blurted it out: “Can I listen to your two hearts?”

I was getting irritated with this ‘two hearts’ business, and it must have come out in my voice. I denied having two hearts. I only have one heart, like everybody else.

The boy began to cry and Panu came back from around the house. “What’s going on here?” he asked, pointing to the crying child. I explained.

“My daddy is a veterinarian and he says that Humans have two hearts,” the boy insisted defiantly.

“Well we’ll just have to go talk to him, won’t we?” Panu said, scooping the boy up in his arms. We crossed Foliage Street and walked down two or three houses to where the little boy lived. Panu carried the boy, and I carried his tricycle.

The boy’s house emanated delicious smells of dinner being prepared. His mother answered the screen door, greeted us heartily and invited us inside.

“I must apologize to you for being such a bad neighbor, but it seems that I have traumatized your child in some way,” I began.

“Nonsense!” she said, waving her hand at me. “A little bit of trauma is normal in a child. They can’t mature without it. Now what’s this about?”

I recounted the conversation, and the woman summoned her husband in from the kitchen.

“Of course I told the boy that Humans have two hearts! It’s true! As a veterinarian, I should know!” the man exclaimed.

Well, there he had me. I couldn’t buck his credentials, but Humans, however alien they may be, still only have one heart each. Maybe he was thinking of kidneys or lungs; but they come in pairs everywhere. I was quite frankly stymied. I looked over at Panu for help, but he just ignored my silent plea.

“Sir,” I began, trying to find some polite way to contradict the gentleman, but he wouldn’t let me finish.

“The boy is very young and misunderstood. Humans have two hearts: a physiological heart which pumps blood, and a metaphorical heart, which deals with emotions. This common Human convention of assigning emotions to the heart was discussed in a recent educational television program, but I am afraid it may have caused some misunderstanding.”

I was so relieved I burst out laughing! I guess I do have two hearts after all! If there were ever any social ice on Homeland, that would have broken it. They invited us to dinner, and we had a great time. I even let the little boy listen to my heart beat inside my chest!

We walked home to two very sad Hugmups who had attempted to cook us dinner and keep it warm all the while. Whew! What a mess.

You’ll be glad to hear that Melissa was released from the hospital and is resting at Lanni and Harna’s apartment. I saw Lanni at work and she told me all about what happened. How ghastly! But Harshan is due back from Fomin, Halakan in two days, so I’m sure she’ll be just fine. With five Hugmups, anybody would be fine!

And I don’t even miss Earth a bit. After all, why would I want to go and live with you savage aliens with two hearts?

Sincerely yours,
John Anderson