Heart Surgery

Heart Surgery

A Story by Inkjinx

Lisa finds someone to care for her, even through her disease.


The children always looked forward to the gifts that were brought in. Sometimes it was a puppy for everyone to play with; other times certain kids were given vases of flowers. In one case, a woman had sewn around twenty quilts for the children. She didn’t even appear to give them out herself. She never asked for any recognition, just that the quilts be given to kids who needed something.

Everyone scrambled to touch or admire the scraps of cloth sewn together. They were like pieces of art designed to keep a body warm.

Even Lisa had to admire them, despite her bitterness to the world. She crept forward into a gap in the crowd as everyone surrounded the gifts that were brought. Her pale hand reached out to touch the quilt;  it was soft. They were simple, but pretty. It removed all of the misconceptions that people had about normal quilts-- it wasn’t dull squares sewn together. These had designs cut out and pieced together. One that she particularly liked had red and white teddy bears sewn ‘round and ‘round across the quilt.

“You like it, Lisa?” her nurse asked casually, nodding to the blanket. Most of the other children had cleared out, letting her see what was left. The girl didn’t say anything. She never did. With a silent nod, she turned and walked away, wrapping her arms around herself.

The nurse drew similarly quiet and wrapped the quilt around Lisa before she could completely get away. “Take it, then. I’m sure the lady that made these would love for you to have it.” Lisa looked over her shoulder at the nurse. The woman was kind and took good care of her. As much as she hated the outside world, she couldn’t help but appreciate it. The woman’s face crinkled into a smile and she put her arm around the girl’s shoulders. She wouldn’t accept her nurse’s touch, though, and shrugged her off. Alone, she left for the room that she took residence in.

Lisa curled up on the bed, all of the rest of the blankets torn off of it. She was a small girl in size, so it wasn’t hard to fit beneath just that quilt. It was sizeable enough, and definitely warm. With all of the hospital blankets and sheets cast aside, she sat on the bed with just her quilt and a couple of pillows. That was how she wanted it, and that’s how it would remain.

That day, a little Jack Russell terrier puppy ran in and disrupted her thoughts. He trampled through the blankets that Lisa had thrown to the floor and began to get comfortable in them. Lisa crawled to the edge of her bed and looked down at the little dog. He wiggled his rear end and woofed with his head tilted up to look at her.

Carefully, Lisa crawled off the bed, still clutching the blanket to her chest. She peered out the doorway to check and see if anyone was coming to get the puppy. No one came. Her hand pressed against the door and the other wrapped around the doorknob, trying to be as quiet as possible as she closed it No one would catch her with the puppy if she was quiet and careful enough. She scooped the puppy up and the little thing in her arms nipped at her clothes playfully.

Lisa looked down at the puppy while she crawled back into place on the bed, comfortably wrapping the blanket around both her and her newfound pet. A crack of a smile showed at her lips as she looked down at the puppy in her arms. An unspoken name christened the dog and she dubbed him her own.

It was almost a half an hour later when she heard wailing from another room. A child was crying and screaming and battering their fists against anything within reach. It was probably the loss of the puppy, Lisa guessed, but wouldn’t give up her only friend. She silently slid the quilt over his head and laid hers comfortably against the pillows that she was propped up on.

Lisa could hear running outside of her door, and whoever it was skidded to a halt outside of her room. It was probably due to the closed door. Most of the time, people just left her alone. This time they noticed and wanted to know why it was closed.

A man poked his head in through the crack in the door to see Lisa sitting up in bed. Something squirmed and sniffed around beneath her quilt, and it was obvious to both of them. Lisa said nothing as the man walked over and pulled the quilt down carefully. “What is this, young lady?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “You’re stashing a puppy? That’s not nice. He’s not yours, you know. Another little girl misses him very much.”

Lisa looked up at him for a moment with a blank expression, the same look she ever gave anyone, then back down at the puppy. It was obvious that she didn’t want to give him up. She slid her arms around the puppy and tucked the quilt closer around both of them. He looked between Lisa and the man, then snuggled closer to the girl that held him. It was equally obvious that he wanted to stay with her.

“You… you can’t keep the dog,” the man tried to explain. Lisa didn’t even look at him. “Some other girl needs him. There’s a little girl who broken her legs and can’t walk anymore. She needs someone to make her happy. You understand, don’t you? You have such a pretty quilt that you must already have comfort. She doesn’t have a pretty quilt like you do.” Lisa still wouldn’t listen.

The man finally gave up. He sighed in resignation, then left the room. The door was left open. She stepped out of bed long enough to pull it closed. It made a soft click, but this time she didn’t care to be secretive. Word would spread that she had the dog, and there was nothing to stop it. She clambered back into her nest of quilt and companion.

Just a little while later, someone sent in another person to retrieve the dog. It was a boy about her age, a freckle faced preteen like her. Similar to her, he wore a glum look as he slunk into the room. He stuffed his hands into his oversized pockets and frowned at her. “I was sent here to take the dog,” he said, now leaning against the wall. Lisa remained silent and stared at him. “I don’t want to. I don’t see the point. He came to you, so he’s your dog.” He gave her a lazy shrug. Lisa kept looking at him, though now she was more curious than hostile. He seemed to have more sense than anyone else she spoke with. “Gonna say anything?” The boy ruffled his own hair and looked around. Lisa kept staring. “I’ll go tell ‘em that he‘s your dog,” he informed her, then left the room.

Lisa spent the following day wondering about the mysterious boy. Why would he stick his neck out for her like that? She huffed at his behavior and thought him a stupid boy. No one should lend a hand to those that they don’t even know, let alone when there’s nothing in return. She snuggled closer to her dog and petted his head.

When dinner came that night, she shared it with the dog. It’s not like hospital food was ever very good anyway. She handed him her roll and a small piece of steak that they foolishly thought she would eat.

The next day, the boy returned. He didn’t really look at her much. There was something in his hand this time. He shoved a vase onto the nightstand and dropped a flower into it. “Your room is dull,” he told her. “It’s no wonder you’re not getting any better. You never will if you’re in such a bad mood all the time.” Once he had left the flower next to her, he glanced at her briefly, then left.

Lisa looked over at the flower. It was a pretty white rose. She reached out and touched it, then drew it nearer to inhale the scent. It really was pretty. The puppy yapped and reached for it, but Lisa quickly pulled him away. It looked up at her, then shook his head quickly. A floppy ear covered his eye, an attempt to be cute. She ruffled his fur, kissed his head, then returned to sniffing the rose.

Every day since then, the boy came in to add another flower, replace the vase water, or bring the puppy something to actually eat rather than table scraps. Sometimes he tried to get her to speak, but he finally gave up, realizing that it was useless. She wasn’t going to.

One day, she looked over at the vase and had to marvel. It was filled with an assortment of flowers. She had found the daffodil to be pretty, and the baby’s breath was a nice touch to go with the poppies, but the roses that he brought were always her favorite, particularly white ones. Whenever he walked in, she would hold onto the white rose that he had first given her.

He tried taking it out of the vase to throw away one day. It was dead and the petals were falling off. Lisa gave him a harsh glare. No words were exchanged, but he got the message loud and clear. She wanted to keep it. He shrugged and replaced the other old flowers with another new one. Just one a day, one per visit.

The puppy now ran to him whenever he opened the door. The boy grinned at him, a happy boyish look that Lisa came to want to see day after day. After he left one time, she looked over at the table and noticed something beneath the vase. A little note to her.

“If you won’t talk to me, will you at least write?” it read. His handwriting was a little sloppy, but she appreciated it. It was signed, “Calvin.”

“Lisa,” she wrote beneath his name on the note. Her handwriting wasn’t much better than his, nor was it loopy and flowery like most girls’, but at least it was there. She looked over at the dog and a thought crept into her mind.

With just a pat on her leg, the puppy came to her, curious and eager. She took his paw and placed it on the paper. It was a hospital, so there wasn’t much dirt, but if anyone can accumulate dirt, it would be a dog. A smudge from his paw was left on the paper, and she wrote beneath it, “Charlie.” Once this was done, she tucked the note neatly beneath the vase and slid out of bed.

The quilt was still wrapped around her body and the dog was encased in her arms as she left the room, silently and hoping to not be caught. She looked around the hall, then ventured forward. Across the hall was her personal nurse’s office. She leaned forward and pressed her ear to the door. There were no sounds. Silently, she flipped the light switch and looked around. There had to be something to do here. They left her there, day after day, with nothing to do. It was time to take her entertainment into her own hands.

After a little bit of searching, she spotted a book on the nurse’s desk. She snatched it without thought and left the room as dark and untouched as she found it.

No one caught her or noticed the book that she was reading. She once heard of the nurse searching for the book that she had mysteriously lost off of her desk, but Lisa never heard anything to her face. Every time someone came in, she hid it beneath her quilt. If they insisted on changing the sheets, she would slide it beneath the mattress itself to keep her secret hidden.

Calvin caught her one day. “Hey, that’s the book your nurse is looking for, isn’t it?” he asked, peering in through the doorway. Lisa’s face paled and she quickly hid the book beneath her quilt. “Don’t worry.” He walked over and dropped a freesia flower into the vase. “I won’t tell.” He could see the relief visible on her face, but it would last long. He grinned. “As long as you ask me not to.”

Lisa turned on him with a glare and clutched the book to her chest. Charlie yipped at him and crawled into his lap, then pawed at his hands. Absently, Calvin stroked his fur. “Well? Got anything to say to me, Lisa?”

The girl took a deep breath. She looked down at her book. Reading it gave her hope that nothing else had ever offered. There was no way she would give up the book, and if Calvin leaked the truth, she would be scolded and there would be no more chances to read it.

Calvin took her silence and hesitations as though she was refusing. Lisa continued to stare down at her knees, discrete hills beneath her quilt. He turned his back and began to walk toward the door. In her desperation, the girl called after him.

“Please!” she whispered harshly. It had been so long since she had spoken that she nearly forgot how. Calvin looked over in surprise. It was plain on his usually gruff features. “Please don’t tell.” This time her voice was more audible. It was just above a whisper, just so that they could both hear her voice. She made a face and rubbed her throat.

“Well, well.” Calvin walked back over with a smile. He slid up onto her bed. “Why didn’t you ever talk before?”

Lisa shrugged indignantly. “I never wanted to,” she replied. “There was no reason to. No one worth speaking to. No good reason.”

Calvin grinned and swung his legs back and forth over the edge of the bed, watching her look slightly uncomfortable. “Talk to me from now on and I’ll keep your secret.”

Lisa shot him a look of frustration, then sighed and folded her arms. Charlie yipped and licked her cheek. She reached over and held him, then nodded.

“What was that? I can’t hear you,” the boy teased.

“Fine!” Lisa nearly yelled. He laughed and pulled his legs up to sit cross legged on the bed.

“This is great. You’re finally talking.”

Calvin spent the remainder of his visit chatting with her. He got a few trivial answers out of her, like her favorite color. When he asked her what her favorite flower was, Lisa reached over and picked up the white rose. She held it close and sniffed it. “It’s dead!” he exclaimed, looking at her like she was crazy. “I don’t understand girls.”

“It still smells nice,” Lisa replied, her voice firm and definite. “And it was the first flower I ever got.”

“I’m sure your Ma and Dad bring you flowers sometimes,” Calvin suggested, leaning back on a hand braced against the bed. Lisa just sniffed the flower, then set it aside. “Don’t they?”

Lisa shrugged. “Don’t have parents.”

“What do you mean? Everyone’s got to have parents! You wouldn’t be born otherwise,” Calvin retorted with a snort.

Lisa shook her head. “Why d’you think I don’t go home or have people visit me? I’ve got nobody to love me. No family, no friends, no nothing.”

Calvin frowned and folded his arms. “Who am I, then? Just some stranger? You think I don’t love you? Come on, Lisa!” Charlie crawled from Lisa’s arms and walked over to Calvin. He nudged the boys arm with his nose and Calvin shrugged him off.

“Calvin.” Lisa looked over at him, now looking vulnerable and nervous for the first time. “No one ever cared to be my friend. Nobody cared to love an orphan kid with a disease.”

“Lisa, I’ll be your friend. I’ll stick around and care to love you. Do you think I bring flowers for everyone?” Without warning, Calvin grabbed Charlie and hugged him, looking defensive.

A small smile came to Lisa’s lips. “Are you my friend?”

“Only if you agree to be mine.” Calvin broke out into a grin to match hers.

Calvin usually brought her white flowers from that point forward; a white rose one day to remember the first time he brought her a flower, white heather the next because she liked small things. Lisa smiled every day for him, but only him. She also spoke only for him. In return, he smiled at her and continued to bring Charlie things to eat and kept her secret. It worked; even the nurse gave up on trying to take the dog, and she never found out about the books that Lisa periodically stole and read.

There was one book that she read that was particularly inspiring. She slid over and closed the door every time she read it, then wrapped the quilt around her body. The book in one hand and the blanket held securely around her with the other, Lisa paced around the room while she read the book. It made her too antsy to just sit down while she read about a runner’s life.

No one caught her doing this, except for Calvin of course. He quickly shut the door behind him when he noticed that she was up and about. “Whatcha doing?” he asked, looking at her funny.

“Reading,” she replied simply.

“Why’re you up? Aren’t you always in bed?”


There was no use in trying to get information from her, he realized, and sat down on her bed. Charlie crawled into his lap. Calvin slipped a large white daisy into her vase, then petted the puppy while he watched Lisa.

Everything went well until her quilt slipped underfoot. It slid from beneath her bare feet and she went crashing forward. Calvin was up the moment he saw her falling and ended up catching her, then tumbling to the ground with her in his arms. He looked at her, terrified. Lisa burst out laughing. He had never seen her laugh, but the two of them ended up laughing there on the floor, Lisa and her quilt in his embrace.

Lisa’s nurse ran in when she heard noises. The sight was definitely not one she had ever seen; the girl was smiling and laughing, not to mention sitting in the boy’s arms. “Lisa! What’s… what’s going on?” No response. “Well… you need to get back into bed, missy.” Lisa had sobered up the instant the nurse had walked in. Her book clutched to her heart and the quilt still wrapped around her body as though the teddy bears that danced across it all hugged her fondly. Calvin stood and dusted himself off, looking a bit flustered by being caught in such a position. The nurse looked even more so. “Boy, get back to work. Lisa, rest up,” she mumbled, then left, unsure of what to say or do.

Lisa looked over at Calvin, who was smiling a little. “Are you alright?” he asked her, walking over and sitting on the edge of her bed.

“Yeah, I’m okay.” Lisa returned the gesture with a small smile. “Are you?”

“Of course.” Calvin waved it off. They sat there for a while, but the silence wasn’t uncomfortable. Charlie walked between the two of them, licking their hands or begging to be petted. It wasn’t too long, though, before Calvin decided that it was time for him to go. Lisa looked up when he stood, then wondered if he was going to go or not. He lingered, looking hesitant to leave. “Just take care, ‘kay?” he asked, leaning forward slightly. Lisa gave him a strange look, but nodded. A disappointed look on his face, Calvin shoved his hands into his pockets and strode out, shaking his head.

Lisa pondered the odd behavior for a little while before shaking it off. She slid out of bed, this time leaving her quilt behind, neatly folded, and began pacing with the book again. It made her feel stronger, even if her illness made her feel weaker. After just a few minutes of her pacing and reading she felt fatigued and in need of rest. She climbed into bed and pulled the blanket up around her body. Charlie crawled up into her lap and nuzzled her shoulder. Lisa closed her eyes and waited for the dizziness to subside. It didn’t before she drifted off into a nap that lasted into the night.

The next day, Calvin slid a sprig of lilacs into the vase. “Morning, Lisa,” he greeted, then turned to the girl. “You look tired. Up late?”

“I woke up around ten at night,” she replied wearily. “Because I slept during the day.”

“Well, of course you didn’t sleep well, then!” Calvin shook his head and sat cross legged on the side of her bed. She always scooted over a little and laid on her side to make room. “Why’d you sleep in the day?”

“I sleep when I’m bored,” Lisa lied, looking around, then up to the flower that he brought her. “Pretty.”

“I thought you might like the color,” Calvin replied with a grin. “Say, how’s the book going?”

“Good,” Lisa replied, sliding the book out from beneath the quilt to show him.

They chatted a little while, holding a lighthearted conversation. They smiled and sometimes Calvin laughed, but that was the extent of their noise making that day. It was better to keep things low key, lest the nurse hear them again.

They lost track of time, and Calvin left quickly when the nurse came in bearing food. “You better shoo,” she told the boy and swatted at him while he scurried off. Lisa immediately fell silent when she was within the nurse’s earshot. “Why do you never talk to me?” the nurse asked her, looking almost offended. “You’re always off chatting with that boy… he’s nothing but trouble if you ask me.” The woman shook her head, then sat and looked at her. “You just feed the meat to that mutt of yours, don’t you?” Lisa nodded silently. As if on cue, Charlie barked at the woman, standing behind her. “Oh, dear Lord!” the woman cried and jumped. She covered her heart with her hand and sighed. “Keep an eye on that dog of yours,” she breathed, then headed out of the room.

Lisa sighed and picked at her food for a little while. She never had much of an appetite. After shoveling just a couple of fork’s worth of food into her mouth, it just wasn’t worth it to her anymore. She set the plate aside and took up her book.

She paced in the enclosed room for longer this time, refusing to sit. The chapter that she was in spoke of working through fatigue and pain, so she was determined to do just that. Even Charlie realized the mistake here. He danced around her feet and yipped at her. Lisa glared at the puppy and continued with what she was doing. She wanted to get stronger. Maybe if her body was tougher, she could beat her illness and get out of the hospital.

Her fatigue got to her within an hour, though, and she collapsed. Sweat drenched her loose gown and hair, her face was flushed, and her skin was feverishly hot. On her tumble to the ground, her head bounced off of her night stand, then cracked against the hard tiled floor.

Charlie was all over her within moments, barking and howling. He scrambled to the door, but it was closed. There was no way for him to open it, no matter how much he scratched at the door, barked, or whined. He ran between the door and trying to get attention, to Lisa and trying to revive her.

News began rushing through the hospital of an upset dog somewhere. It was Calvin who heard the news and ran to Lisa’s room. He tore the door open and ran to her side. “Lisa!” he cried, afraid to touch her. From the fall, she had cracked a split in her head, starting from the side of her forehead to some place amidst the tangles of her hair. Blood had began to pool beneath her and her face was pale, despite how hot it felt to his touch. “Someone help!” he screamed. A few doctors and her nurse came running at his cry.

Lisa was placed quickly on her bed and stitched up. The nurse took Calvin aside and demanded to know what happened. “What did you do to her?” she asked, sounding furious. He could see her shake, though. She was as nervous about the situation as he was.

“I didn’t do nothing!” he defended, folding his arms. “You weren’t watching her well enough.” Calvin nodded to the room. “You don’t know what she was doing, but I think I do. You don’t even talk to her.”

“I talk to her,” the nurse defended. “She just doesn’t talk back. Stubborn little girl.” She pointed to the kitchens. “Go on, get back to work.” Calvin refused to move. “I’ll tell you when she’s lucid,” the woman sighed and shook her head. Reluctantly, the boy left to go do his work.

A few days later, Lisa was awake long enough to talk. Her eyes first went to her nightstand where a new vase was started. All of the old ones had died, but this time it wasn’t just one or two flowers. There was a whole bouquet of heather and hyacinth in the vase, sending a slightly sweet aroma through the room.

“Lisa?” She looked over next at her nurse who sat by her side and now spoke her name. “Oh, Lisa, are you alright?” The girl wouldn’t say. “I know you only talk to that boy, but the doctor said that there might be brain damage. Please just say something, just this once to let me know that you’re okay.” Lisa just stared at her. “Please, Lisa!” Despite the desperation in the woman’s voice, she said nothing. A tear slid down the old woman’s cheek and she left the room.

Calvin entered next. He walked in and sat on the edge of her bed instead of the guest chair. It was more familiar that way. Lisa tried shifting to make more room, but noticed tubes sticking out of her wrist. The needle that was taped into her skin made her uncomfortable and she tried scratching at it. Calvin caught her hand. “You can’t do that, you know,” he told her. “The doctors are doing that to help you. What happened to you, anyway?”

“I was walking,” she replied. “And I fell.”

“You fell again? How did that happen? Why couldn’t you catch yourself? Why did you do it alone?” She saw his frustration.

“I kept walking, even though I was tired,” she replied.

“Dang it, Lisa, why? You’re sick, you can’t just walk around and think it’ll be okay.”

Lisa looked away. “I’m trapped in here for eternity, Calvin,” she whispered. “There’s nothing else to do here. I was hoping that maybe… maybe if I got stronger, then I could walk more. If I could walk more, they wouldn’t think I was so sick. Then maybe I’d be able to find a real family.” She looked over at Calvin and saw the pain in his eyes.

“You’d be leaving me,” he reminded her, sounding lonely.

“Calvin, you’re my only friend. I wouldn’t want to leave you… but what do you do all day, anyway? You’re obviously not stuck in a bed like me.”

“I work around here. My ma is a doctor here, so I clean and tidy up where ever I can.” Calvin frowned and pushed Lisa’s hair out of her face. “You’re not trapped here. You’ll get better. You’re just sick. They fix things like that.” His voice was sounding more desperate and sorrowful than she’d ever heard it.

“My ma had AIDS when she had me,” Lisa told him softly. “My dad left her before I was born, and my ma died in the process. She passed her disease along to me. Not only am I the b*****d child with no parents, but I’d the kid with AIDS.” Calvin had never seen her cry before that moment. “No one talks to the b*****d child with AIDS.” The boy leaned down and hugged her tight.

“I want to talk to the b*****d child with AIDS,” he told her. “I don’t care what disease you have, or who your parents are.”

Lisa hugged him back. It wasn’t like she’d ever have any other sort of physical affection from anyone. Her nurse walked in on them again and cleared her throat. Calvin looked up and sighed, then pulled away. He grabbed her quilt from the foot of the bed and wrapped it around her. “They took it away and gave you regular bedding,” he told her apologetically.

“You better get back to work, boy. She’ll be fine,” the nurse told him, a little more gently than he expected. Calvin looked between the two females before quickly kissing Lisa’s head, then dashing out the door. It was the first time the nurse had ever seen Lisa smile.

© 2009 Inkjinx

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Author's Note

I know it needs an ending; I plan to turn it into a longer piece at some point.

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Oh, the lovely Lisa, how well you treated her. There was no clue as to her age so I'm guessing she was six or so? Do you have an ability to write? certainly and without doubt. I think you could write anything. Well done, excellent detailing of a situation and it probably doesn't need an ending....I see it as a complete write, a slice of a story. A competent treatment of a subject if you like.

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Hey, this was a great story. I've never read something so touching in my entire life. You really tugged at my heartstrings with this one. I'm really impressed with your ability to bring your characters to life. I have to agree with Thewill though, it doesn't need an ending. I would leave it the way it is, keep it a mystery and let the readers decide what happens on their own. It's your story though, either way it's really awesome. Five stars, two thumbs up, 10/10. d^-^b

Posted 11 Years Ago

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Oh, the lovely Lisa, how well you treated her. There was no clue as to her age so I'm guessing she was six or so? Do you have an ability to write? certainly and without doubt. I think you could write anything. Well done, excellent detailing of a situation and it probably doesn't need an ending....I see it as a complete write, a slice of a story. A competent treatment of a subject if you like.

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I think the ending is going to be something utterly touching. The entire piece on its own was a very charming story.
I really like your style of writing. Its something different on its own. I mean I can tell you write from your heart. You give it your all.
Loved it. Tell me when you update the ending.


Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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4 Reviews
Shelved in 2 Libraries
Added on December 4, 2009
Last Updated on December 10, 2009



Keizer, OR

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