Wintersun Lemieux was awarded an Honorable Mention in Fiction in the 2022 Prison Writing Contest.

Every year, hundreds of imprisoned people from around the country submit poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and dramatic works to PEN America’s Prison Writing Contest, one of the few outlets of free expression for the country’s incarcerated population.

Once upon a time, there was a boy who was a wave in the ocean, he fell in love with a girl who was a rock on the shore. He thought of little else and longed to be with her. One day, he decided to go see her. He went as swiftly as he could and when he crashed into her, he felt a great pain in his chest. He rolled around on the beach in agony. He believed the girl had broken his heart, but the truth would always be that he had broken his heart against her. He looked to his beloved and asked, “how can you do this to me?” Then he looked into his heart, and asked, “how could you do this to me?”


So having no use for a broken heart he left it there and began his life as a homeless vagabond forced to roam the countryside. To wander without aim the fields and valleys, the deserts and mountains all the time believing he was destined to be alone.


Sometime later Hermit Crab Woman happened to come across the abandoned remains. She picked up a piece and twirled it about her fingers and thought, “this is a fine heart! I bet if I can find all the pieces it will make a good home.” She set to the task of gathering the remains of the boy’s heart. One by one she found them until she had all, or nearly enough to all, as it made no difference. She began the laborious process of piecing it all together.


She took one of her ribs and ground it all to a fine powder that she used to make a paste to glue the pieces into halves. She took some of her hair and she stitched the two halves together until the heart regained more or less its original shape. When she had finished, a good deal of time had passed, she was very tired. She crawled into the heart and she went to sleep.


Meanwhile, the boy was making his way through the world. He experienced many things, most of them unpleasant, but a few happy things. Unfortunately, you need a functioning heart to navigate the world and the boy quickly became lost in the land of in-between. The twilight place between day and night. There is no color in this place, everything is dull shades of gray. You can only see what’s in front of you and it’s very hard to find your way. Sadly, the boy could not find his way and he became trapped there, where he grew to become a man.


One day through divine providence or maybe just dumb luck, the man found himself on the very beach where his journey began. He looked around in equal parts joy and disbelief. To be back on his beach, to be home! In his haste, he tripped and fell, face first into the sand. Angrily, he searched for the cause of his fall, and was shocked to discover his own heart, with a woman living in it. He picked it up to examine it as the woman examined him. He noted the repairs and asked, “how is it that you have come to live here?” She replied simply, “this was always my home, it just took some time to fix the place up”


He knew then, that there was no way to safely separate the woman from his heart. So he placed it, woman and all, into the empty cavity of his chest. Where it immediately began to beat. It was alive! The gray cleared from his vision, he could see the wondrous colors of the world. He drew a mighty breath and let out a deep roar. He was whole once again!


Nobody knows what happened then or how the story ends. Some people say he went to live a long life with the woman who became his heart. Some people say she left him to find a new home- somewhere else. All that’s certain is, never again did the man have to go through life without a heart.

Purchase Variations on an Undisclosed Location: 2022 Prison Writing Awards Anthology here.