about the author

William Beeker is a writer from Michigan now living in Los Angeles. Formerly a contributing editor at VVV Magazine, he is a Columbia College of Chicago alumnus where he graduated with a BA in Screenwriting. His work has been featured in The Arrival Magazine and (mac)ro(mic); he was a finalist for the Nicholl’s Fellowship and reads scripts for the BlueCat Competition.

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Angina Pectoris  

William Beeker

She had a resting heart rate of 49 BPM. He looked at the chart: lower than average. She was a cross-country runner after all. He hesitated to pull his thumb and forefinger from her wrist. He could hear her unhurried heartbeats through his fingertips, each pulse making his eardrums tremble delicately. He noted her heart rate on the sheet and wrapped an aneroid sphygmomanometer around her bicep to take her blood pressure. He slid the cold stethoscope beneath the cuff and listened to hear working veins. He squeezed the pump, increasing pressure, causing her to sit up straighter and straighter, and released the pressure, letting it fall as he listened closely, noting the last beat. 102/74. He made another note. Low again. Her heart churned gently in her chest, like hands washing a cup in a sink. She sat patiently, professionally, as he brought his index and middle finger to the carotid artery protruding on the left side of her neck. She winced then smiled at the shock of his fingers on her. “Sorry,” she muttered and resumed her professional demeanor. “It’s okay,” he said. He became aware of the sounds of the classroom around him, the other students and their partners, and the watchful gaze of their teacher at the front of the room. He avoided her bright, hazel eyes and focused on that nook beneath her jawbone. He feared he was choking her but that she was too polite and professional to say so. He let up a bit. “I lost it,” he said. “That’s okay, you’ve got the wrist. It should be close to that,” she said, her eyes scanning the room and finding another boy in their class. He didn’t follow her eye-line but could see her cheeks relax into a smile as she turned her head away from him. He feared he would not find her pulse again. She picked up a turquoise pen and wrote ‘Lilly’ at the top of her worksheet, with a little heart as the dot over the ‘i.’ He studied the diagram of a human heart in their textbook and glanced at her chest. She self-consciously pulled up the neckline of her shirt. He blushed and stared back at the book. He couldn’t imagine this horrible, twisted organ seizing and pushing inside her, or him, this gnarled mess of red and white meat. But it did. It beat in her ribcage independently of everything, even her own mind. He copied answers from the textbook about blood flow and atriums and ventricles, about veins and arteries and capillaries, about oxygenation and hemoglobin. His heart cycled his blood through his body, through his brain, compelling him on this mission to understand. She didn’t bother. She simply looked across the room at a boy she had a crush on and let her cheeks flush with blood. Her partner strained in his attempt to understand this hidden muscle, exposed only when things have gone terribly wrong, and felt his own heart drop at the overwhelming mystery of this darkest organ, of its unknown self.

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