An Article from the November Issue of The Tri-County News by Luella Mason, as provided by Kathryn Yelinek
Art by America Jones
What do you do when you find a beating heart under your lilac bush?
This question confronted Emmeline Harris, 32, of Tomtetown, in April.
“I could tell it was alive,” Ms. Emmeline says, pushing aside her kitchen curtains to point out where she made her discovery. “It was shuffling around in the leaves, beating. And it had little legs on the bottom, like in a cartoon. I thought it was a toy at first, but it felt real. And it was shivering. Poor thing, all alone in the world.”
So what did she do with the heart under her lilac bush?
Ms. Emmeline laughs. “I tucked it in an old cardboard box with a blanket and a hot water bottle. Then I called my sister.”
Zora Harris, 34, Fayetteburgh, works at the Tri-County Animal Hospital and is a certified wildlife rehabilitator.
“I’d never gotten a call like that before.” She grins at her sister. “I thought Emmeline had sunstroke.”
Still, Ms. Zora drove to her sister’s house. “Made the trip four minutes faster than usual.”
The trip was worth it.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Ms. Zora says. “It was on the kitchen table, in a box next to the mail. A living, beating human heart.”
She quirks her mouth at the memory. “I had to pull a chair out real quick and sit.”
Nothing in her fifteen years of working with animals had prepared her for caring for a beating heart.
“I had to be real careful,” she says. “Hearts are delicate things.”
Luckily, she was able to use an eyedropper to give it saline through its aorta. That worked until she could buy some pig’s blood.
“It perked right up after that,” Ms. Emmeline says. “I don’t know which it craved more–the food or the attention. After each feeding, it would come over, snuggle up to you like a kitten. That was sweet.”
“And it loved country music,” Ms. Zora says with approval. “One of those songs came on, you know the ones where the guy loses his wife, his truck, and his dog? The heart just started swaying.”
Where did it come from? How did it learn to like country music?
“That was the big question,” Ms. Emmeline says. “I mean, it’s not like we could keep it, right? It wasn’t a stray cat that followed me home.”
So Ms. Zora picked up the phone. She called the police, who referred her to animal control. Animal control referred her to the police. The hospital sent her to the public library, who referred her to the library at the university. The staff there explained that their science librarian was away at a conference and suggested she contact the biology department. The secretary transferred her to a professor of genetics who happened to be in his office. He dropped the phone when she told him why she was calling.
Fascinating, he said after he retrieved his phone. May I see it?
By this time, the heart had gone home with Ms. Zora since Ms. Emmeline’s coonhound had shown too much interest in it.
So, on a warm evening in late April, Ms. Zora let Dr. Cletus Hollinger, 36, New Homesdale, into her living room to see her heart.
“It was gorgeous,” he gushes. “A perfect human heart, sentient and alive outside of the body. Whoever engineered that was a genius.”
And he thought he knew where it had come from.
“The gene hackers have gotten really good,” he explains, “and the laws haven’t caught up. There’s nothing illegal about having a homegrown human heart as a pet.”
“But who would do that?” Ms. Zora demands.
A very good question, and one Dr. Cletus can’t answer.
“People who grow or keep organs as pets tend to be cliquish,” he points out.
“But we had to try,” Ms. Zora says. “We made flyers and put ads in the paper and online. The heart was very cooperative and quite photogenic. But the whole thing was sad, you know? Who wants to put up flyers for a lost heart?”
“It was even sadder when no one answered,” Dr. Cletus says. “How would you feel if you were a heart that no one claimed?”
“But we wanted it,” Ms. Zora quickly adds. “We set up a nice place for it.”
In fact, they turned her spare bedroom into a heart playground. The walls are padded to prevent bruising, and there’s a wide variety of soft dog and cat toys for it to play with. There’s even a little radio that plays country music while Ms. Zora is at work.
“It seems happy,” she says, “now that it’s found where it belongs.”
With that, she takes Dr. Cletus’s hand. They share a tender smile.
They’ve set a date for June. In this case, one lost heart meant that two others were found.
Luella Mason’s family has lived in Tomtetown since 1689. She shares her two-hundred-year-old farmhouse with her husband, four cats, and a three-legged Pomeranian. After spending twenty-five years as an elementary school teacher, she began her new career as a writer for The Tri-County News.
Kathryn Yelinek lives in Pennsylvania, where she works as a librarian. She is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. Her fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, NewMyths.com, Metaphorosis, and Deep Magic, among others. Visit her online at kathrynyelinek.com.
AJ is an illustrator and comic artist with a passion for neon colors and queer culture. Catch them being antisocial on social media @thehauntedboy.
“Loney Heart” is © 2018 Kathryn Yelinek
Art accompanying story is © 2018 America Jones