Gwendolyn Kiste's short stories have appeared in Strangely Funny II, History and Horror, Oh My!, and Whispers from the Past: Fright and Fear.

The Backyard Transplant

Gwendolyn Kiste


“I’m about to do surgery,” Francesca said, a daisy-adorned satchel of tools on her shoulder.

“That’s nice.” Her mother flopped a pork loin onto a cutting board.

The little girl swayed in the doorway. “Don’t you want to know what kind of surgery?” 

“What kind, darling?”

“A transplant.”

“That sounds rather sophisticated,” her mother said, removing a knife from the drawer. “Are you sure you’re ready for that?”

Francesca skipped across the room like oil in a skillet. “You bet! I’ve been practicing on my doll!”

At the counter, her mother peeled the white fat from the pink flesh and tossed the leavens in the trash where billows of mangy cotton lingered in the bottom. “Which doll, darling?”

Nose curled, Francesca scowled that her mother even needed to ask. “Mini Molly, of course.”

 “And how is Mini Molly doing now?”

“Good!” Francesca nodded once to confirm it. “Would you like to see her? She’s still in recovery.”

Her mother laughed. “Sure, honey. I’d love to see her.”

Bouncing all the way down the hall, Francesca sang a nursery rhyme, but the song was so out-of-tune her mother couldn’t figure out which one it was supposed to be. 

There was a quick scuffle in the bedroom as stuffed animals and comforters and playhouses were tossed aside in search of the patient. 

Francesca’s mother smiled and placed the pork chop in the pan. It sizzled and contorted in the heat. 

The little girl bounded back to the kitchen, swaddling clothes in hand. “Now be careful with Mini Molly, Mommy.”  

Peeling back the haggard baby blanket, Francesca’s mother gaped at the bright yellow yarn holding together the doll’s vivisected stomach. Tiny flecks of leftover stuffing poked out of the makeshift wound.  

“Did you do this all by yourself?”

“No,” Francesca conceded, “Michelle Jo from next door helped me.”

“I didn’t think you liked her very much.”

“I don’t, but sometimes she makes an okay attending nurse.”

Ear pressed to the stitched chest, Francesca’s mother shook the doll, and something rattled inside. “What’s in there?”

Francesca snatched the patient back into her arms. “It’s a clay heart,” she said. “Michelle Jo gave it to me, but then she wanted it back. And when I said no, she said she didn’t like being my nurse anymore.”

The burner on the stove ratcheted up to high.

“Well, I bet you can do surgery just as well without Michelle Jo.”

Francesca beamed. “You bet I can!”

“So how do you do a transplant?”

“First, the patient has to be anes—anesti—anesthet—” 


Francesca crinkled her nose. “Does that mean knocked out?”

“Yes, darling.” Her mother turned the pork in the pan. “And what did you use to knock her out?”

Francesca tucked her hands behind her back. “A mallet.”

“That’ll do it,” her mother said. “What’s next?”

“I use my safety scissors to cut open the chest, and then I throw away all the insides and put a new heart in there.”

The meat was finished, and her mother heaved it to a plate where the crimson juices ran in every direction. “You have quite the imagination, darling.”

Francesca fidgeted. “I have to go now,” she said and nudged the screen door. “My next patient is already prepped. She didn’t like the mallet, but too bad.”

“And what are you transplanting today?”

“Another heart.”

“And which doll is the lucky patient?”

“Oh, I’m done with dolls,” Francesca said, smiling. “Today I’m working on Michelle Jo.”