Pigs

Emily Brown McKay Click to read more...

emckay-243Emily McKay is an MLitt student of Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, where she has lived for the past five years.   One of her nonfictional stories has recently been accepted for publication at Glimmer Train, and she is currently writing a memoir about her search for bipolar medication from within a radical Pentecostal family in Arizona.

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none.
And this little piggy went
‘Wee, wee, wee!’ all the way home.

The first pig went to market today but it was in pieces by then, which is a mercy, because of the way pigs always scream, it’s unforgettable, when they’re being loaded into the pickup – it’s not that they know what’s coming or anything but they don’t know what’s happening when you lift them, and as soon as their feet leave the ground they think they’re going to die then and there.  I’m telling you, pigs are never going to fly.  I used to hear that sound outside my bedroom window early in the morning and I couldn’t help but hold it against my dad.  What are you doing to them?  He figured you can get more money for a live pig at the market because people want to take it home live and get it fatter, they always think they can get it fatter.  But the way the pig thrashes and screams and curdles the blood of the whole town when you load it – I suppose if people carried around ramps for the pigs to walk up to the back of the truck – but nobody does that.  Anyway it’s such a hassle to move them that when you’re at the market and you’re hungry, you just buy a ham or ribs or whatever.  So it’s actually more lucrative, and easier, to butcher before market. Or that’s what Dad says now, anyway.

The second pig was born with only its two hind legs, so Mr. Baca appeased his three daughters and let them keep it.   He figured this would fill his daughters with admiration for his mercy and generosity, but he also suspected that the pig would die within a few weeks, would be sickly and ostracized by the sow in the meantime, and a two-legged piglet wouldn’t make for much meat even if it did last a few months, so there was nothing to lose.  Surely they only wanted a piglet anyway, not a full-blown hog, so this was perfect.  Win-win, he told Mrs. Baca in bed.  Mrs. Baca was privately distressed by her husband’s smugness, and when she looked up and caught him staring at her as she ate dinner or hung out the laundry, or when she could just make out the roundness of his open eyes in the moonlight long after she thought he’d fallen asleep, she imagined that he was estimating her own life span and calculating how to manipulate it.  So in secret, she advised her young daughters how care to for the piglet as if it were a baby, and told them a story she’d heard of a pig born with two legs in a neighboring town, which had grown to adulthood and even learned to walk like a person.   The sisters kept the pig in a blanketed basket on the porch, so that the sow wouldn’t trample it or crush it in her sleep, and while the piglet grew surprisingly plump, Mrs. Baca became increasingly proud.  Mr. Baca started to sleep on the couch.  And when one morning the basket was found empty, Mrs. Baca stopped sleeping in their bed too.  The youngest daughter never cried at all, but wandered into the kitchen several nights in a row, trying to fit frozen cuts of pork and beef back together.

The pigs are eating my son.  He was led quietly out of the pasture, butchered, and most of him sold, the rest roasted by the family, except the hooves, budding horns, tail and other unwanted things, which were given to the pigs.  I watch the pigs from my pasture and I see them rooting and snapping, snapping up a cricket, a slug, then a frog, a mouse.  One of them snapped off two toes of the middle daughter as she lay daydreaming in the grass, and was butchered soon after.  They sold the meat that grew off the meat of their child.  Meat is always mixing.  I will be mixed into it, sooner or later, sooner and later, in a kind of immortality, an everlasting death.

This piglet was, you could say, a purist.  It has had nothing to contaminate it.  Meat?  It has had none.  Vegetable matter?  None.  A suckling pig is just that, fed only from the mother’s teat.  Exquisitely tender, especially here at Dolora’s where we select them individually from trusted sources at the market, slaughter them humanely and hygienically, stick them, and rotate them very slowly in a clay oven at a low temperature.  A suckling pig takes an entire day to prepare, you will find.  And that is why it is the most expensive dish on the menu, to answer your question.  You will not be disappointed!

I ran.  They put me in a crate for an hour and covered me in grease and set me down in a dusty corral.  Then they released the children.  The children chased me through massive hoof prints and baking shit, snatched at me, scraped at me with their open-closing eagle hands, they pulled my tail, my legs, tripped me so I could barely twist away, and I screamed and the children screamed back louder, teeth shining.  A gate had been left slightly ajar and I slipped through it and I ran, ran out, ran away.  I ran all the way home and hid underneath my mother in the familiar hay, shaking until I fell asleep in her dark warmth.  Now I am back in the crate.

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