Heartbeat monster chased me between my grandma’s house and mine all through my childhood. As I worked my way toward sleep in a strange room at my grandma’s, the sound of my pulse against the pillow became the footsteps of a monster stomping toward me. Terrifying as that sounds, heartbeat monster, in the light of day, took on a teddy bear quality. I would imagine waving to heartbeat monster on our way home and it looking up and good-naturedly turning around. If heartbeat monster had caught up to me, I’m pretty sure it would have just given me a big hug.
Every once in a while, it occurred to me that we hadn’t been to grandma’s in a long time and that heartbeat monster should be really close. Then I imagined, when we finally went to grandma’s, we’d pass heartbeat monster just a few houses from ours and it would throw up its hairy arms in frustration and maybe bellow but then chuckle at the humor in it. I imagined heartbeat monster getting confused and showing up at my grandma’s when I wasn’t there. I imagined it ringing my grandma’s doorbell.
Heartbeat monster began as a manifestation of my anxiety of sleeping in a strange place, but became a comfort. During one of the last rewrites I did of Flowers on Concrete, I got to thinking about a portion where my main character, Trey, crashes on his new friend’s couch. There was nothing wrong with the portion but there was something missing. Trey would have felt that anxiety of sleeping in a strange place. I remembered heartbeat monster and wrote this bit that I love because it came so close to not being a part of the book and also because it’s an homage to a great childhood friend, heartbeat monster.
The distance from my apartment to Sean’s we’d covered in less than ten minutes in his car, but I imagined walking through the unfamiliar dark. The road would have been weighed down with those same heavy black bed sheets between streetlights, except I wouldn’t have anyone to follow. I’d trudge through the dark and straddle the ditch when a car came behind me. The car would be Sean and I crossing back between our two apartments, so I would turn around and trudge the other way. Just when I was almost there, Sean and I would pass me again, and I’d have to turn back around.
The portion in italics is taken from chapter 16, page 153, of Flowers on Concrete by Greg Metcalf, published by My Green Publisher and available in paperback and as an Ebook. Please have a look at the free sample available for download at amazon. If you have a reading friend, please invite them to do the same. And thank you for reading!