Transplanting – Jo Ann Heydron
Okiedoke’s ginger carcass lay on the vet’s table, mangy and skeletal, mouth open, only the cancer on his neck pink and healthy.
“Are you relieved?” I asked my husband.
I would have put the cat down months before—everything in the new house had started to smell like rotting flesh—but as long as Okiedoke seemed comfortable, Nathan kept him going with pills and shots and soaks.
We went straight from the vet to the nursery, where we bought two apple trees, one for each side of the front walk, varieties that cross-pollinate, a pair.
I held the tree stake upright along my husband’s spine. “A head taller than you are,” I said. “Just right.” I ran my hand down the length of his arm. He pulled it away.
When the ashes were ready, Nathan picked them up at the vet’s and rolled the trees in their heavy pots across the lawn. He started digging.
“Which tree will you plant over him?” I asked. “The Honey Crisp or the Melrose?”
He stared at one tree, then the other.
“The Honey Crisp. It’s a sweeter apple.”
The day Okiedoke was born, all five of us and the kids from next door watched, on our hands and knees, shining a flashlight under our daughter’s bed. Miss Stripe, a little tabby cat, barely a year old herself, bit open the sack that held her first and only orange kitten. I’d been too busy with ear infections and strep throats that winter to get Miss Stripe spayed.
“Go inside,” said Nathan. “I’ll do this.”
“I want to be here. He was my cat, too.”
“Go inside. He was the kids’ cat. You gave up on him.”
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Jo Ann Heydron doesn’t talk much, but on the page she’s as long-winded as they come. At Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, where she received an MFA, Pete Fromm, Valerie Miner and others showed her the advantages of leaving stuff out, saying things once, ditching the digression, focusing, and choosing. She’s trying to do that in everything she writes, short or long. Jo Ann’s work has appeared in Puerto del Sol, So to Speak, Sojourners, and other publications. She and her husband, Warren Miller (not the ski film guy), moved from Palo Alto, California to Bellingham, Washington in 2007.