Brother Heart by Elaine Chiew

Elaine P. Chiew currently lives in Hong Kong. Her short stories have won the Bridport Prize (2008) and been selected by Dzanc Books' Best of the Web (2008), Wigleaf's Top 50 Microfiction (2008), Storysouth's Million Writer's Award (Top Ten Winner, 2006) and the Per Contra Prize (Top Ten Winner, 2008). Her work has appeared in various literary journals such as Front Porch, Pedestal, and Storyglossia, and most recently in Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story (ed. by Vanessa Gebbie) (Salt Publishing, London, 2009). She blogs at

My brother Ahmed was flown out, across the wire, to a hospital in Haifa. He'd wanted to look like a superhero that first day of Eid-al-Fitr. His best red T-shirt with a picture of Spiderman and his cleanest jeans. He'd wanted to go to Nasser's, the street vendor selling manaqoosheh for breakfast, topped with oregano, toasted sesame seeds, sumac and salt. He loved that shit. We shouldn't have taken the toy gun with us. Shouldn't have wandered into the semi-enclosed area of wasteland where buildings once stood. Shouldn't have joined the boys throwing fireworks in the street. Shouldn't have played army and Arabs with them. Shouldn't have seen my younger brother collapsed there in the square, shot by Israeli soldiers who shouldn't have been there on Eid Day. Shouldn't have seen that flower of darker red bloom on his shirt, spreading, soaking into the ground.


Aviv's grandmother has been watching him closely. The boy doesn't seem himself. He no longer imitates the sounds of livestock. He seems lost in dreamland a lot. He has forgotten his words.

The doctor doesn't think Aviv will live beyond age ten. Every year, Aviv marks the migration of storks, pelicans and cranes across the skies of Hula Valley with a penknife etched against a sliver of basalt rock. Every year is one year closer to the end of his life, and he wonders how much longer he will gaze at the wheatfields, help bring in the harvest, make hay with his kibbutzim.

Then, the new heart. He springs with life, like his namesake. The family gives special thanks during Shabbat. But what's wrong with him? What are these foreign words erupting from him? La? Fadlak? Muassalam? Is he speaking Arabic?

This is what comes from accepting a contaminated goyim heart, the father yells.

He is nine, next year he might be dead, his mother yells.

Aviv runs among the bales of hay, oh so carefree now, and his grandmother watches him closely. It is a different boy than before, she knows. This one is more solemn, leads an imaginary life. He leaps from the tops of the bales, oblivious to injury.


Someone named Ehud Olmert telephoned to thank Mama and Baba. He said Ahmed's heart now resided in a 9 year old Israeli boy who lived in Hula Valley. His liver was with a 57 year old Israeli woman, and his kidney was with a Bedouin boy 5 years old.

I cried. I thought of a brown-haired boy with dreadlocks running and jumping, and how his heart pumped with fresh blood, spurting life into his broken body. This boy was one of us now. Baba didn't know that I saw things, that I saw bridges, especially the Al Jeser cannon that Ahmed was playing on to cross into enemy territory that day. All the time, I saw children collapsing in the square, body parts spread all over the rubble and mounds of dirt. If I could write a message with their blood spilled, I would write Ahmed's name. Over and over, I would write, don't forget me. I am everywhere.

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