Scientist transforms spinach leaves into beating human heart tissue after coming up with the idea during lunch by Bonnie Meekums

In one corner of the laboratory/kitchen, my mother folds a story into her grandson’s heart. Their heads touch, chests moving in a synchronous, shared breath. My son, Egonia, adjusts his body to mould into hers.

On my kitchen work surface-cum-lab bench, I chop spinach. I’m soothed by the repetitive movement, the act of cutting. It could just be the rhythm, but it helps to know I’m dissecting something that until recently was living. Perhaps it still pulsates. I’d like to think so, though I keep that small detail to myself as I wax lyrical about how tender and green is the spinach my mother and son picked for me.

The difference in DNA between humans and spinach is surprisingly small.

As I work with my laptop open, I turn up the radio so Mama won’t hear me telling my heart to behave, keep quiet, don’t make a fuss, don’t allow yourself to be seen. I keep my mutterings on the down-low. I have to be careful; Egonia might pick up some of my Swedish words. Mama doesn’t understand the language my father taught me, never did. These days, she has no interest in going to places where it can be breath-stoppingly cold in winter, whereas I relish it. I can wear layer upon layer.

I’m calmer now. My shoulders release their grip on my breath. The spinach is almost puréed. My mother brings her narrative to a close, ruffling my son’s hair. In my corner of the laboratory-kitchen, I don’t want to stop this dance, this almost-rocking of knife carving into herbaceous flesh.

I’ve designed a new recipe. Next time I gather spinach I’ll make myself a tiny, beating heart. Small enough to fit into a petri dish. Small enough to keep under wraps.

Biography: Bonnie’s writing appears in several literary outlets, including Reflex Press, Ad Hoc Fiction, Briefly Zine, and Dribble Drabble Review. She shares a house in Greater Manchester with an unpredictable number of humans, grows disobedient vegetables, and travels alarming distances to hug people in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Website: Twitter: @bonniemeekums