Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Tale of the Feral Hog

Student # 88563-01
English 101
Ms. Mandi Leskovac

Short Piece #3: Flash Fiction (Contemplation – Circle)

I was strolling down Walnut, a strawberry-banana smoothie in hand, dodging rich ladies and their leashed dustbunnies, laughing with my friend like we were the source of the Indian Summer, when I stopped dead in my tracks. My reflection in the glass showed an ill-shaven neck and face above a grey three piece suit standing otherwise vacant in the window. “My god,” said I, phlegmy pink ooze heavy on my tongue, “I could set my watch to that tailoring.”

“You don’t wear a watch." But even my friend, in all her neo-Dolly leanings, was inclined to agree: the suit was devastating. Within minutes I was stepping out of the fitting closet, adjusting the navy blue, burgundy and gold trimmed kerchief in the breast pocket, squeaking on the hardwood floor in leather penny loafers, admiring before the full length mirror how the Modern Fit cut ran the grey woolen tweed over my thighs and up my arms. The Silver Surfer, descended to Terra, poorly disguised as a mortal man. It was the suit I was born to wear, and with my friend Jeb’s wedding approaching, I knew I had to have it.

I couldn’t stop rubbing my eyes as I drove to my father’s house in rural Pennsylvania where the landscape looks like quilts Grandma made or calendars your bank gives away. Pol was just peeking over Mount Twenty-Two, wrapped in a heavy scarf of drab fog, as hesitant to rouse as I had been. Squinting and gripping the steering wheel, I stared hard at the serpentine road that appeared before me as blurry images shot from my headlights. Bright eyes appeared and shone from the wooded sides of the road. All around the world was violently stirred from peaceful slumbers by the roar of my muffler-less engine.

I was imagining the powers the grey suit might endow me - like the aegis - when, rounding a curve, I saw before me a shadowy object like something escaped from a nightmare. Rubbing my eyes even more, I could but faintly decipher what I was seeing. A bear? That big? No. A horse, possibly?

The thing was covered in brown fur, coarse and caked in red clay as if it had crawled from the bowels of the earth. Has to be a bear, I thought. It’s too big to be anything else. But when I slowed to a stop, only feet away, the thing turned to look me in the eyes, the top of its head standing several inches over the roof of the Buick. And, like when my dad described seeing The Amityville Horror at the drive-ins and nearly pissing himself when the glowing red pigeyes appeared outside the second story window, I looked into the behemoth’s placid eyes and realized I, too, was staring at a pig, nearly pissing myself.

Now, I would’ve taken a picture, but my phone’s memory was full of pictures of me in different silly hats, and before I could choose which to delete, the behemoth sauntered off the road, into the dark woods, with a rooster in tandem like some fucked-up Disney adventure movie.

“They’re called feral hogs,” Dolly explained over the phone. I had called Dolly from the roof of my dad's place after the first day. I sat smoking a joint and tried spitting all the way out to the yard. A chilly breeze, sweet with the smell of dead leaves, came off the mountains and carried my high all the way out, across the tracks and through the swamps. The moon was full and bright, hung in the sky like a poor, condemned soul. “Yeah, they’re livestock originally; pumped full of growth hormones and steroids and all kinds of other freaky shit.” Everyone else – my dad, my sister, my brother-in-law and all of the Wetzel boys who’d come over to work in exchange for beer – was highly incredulous and blamed fatigue. But Dolly believed me; started checking it out online as soon as I described it to her. “And they escape! They get so big no pen or fence can hold them.” I closed my eyes and saw the behemoth again, this time walking down Walnut. Its sauntering gait and swinging tail mostly ignored by passers-by, but occasionally an eye would be caught. A passer-by – say a tall, thin, heavily Botoxed, blond woman – would stop, or stagger just a bit, and lock eyes with the beast, enamored by its raw presence, or something. “In 2008, alone, they caused, like, 28 million dollars property damage in North America! Oh my god, you’re lucky it didn’t try to charge you!”

I got back to Pittsburgh and looked at the check my dad had written in exchange for my labor. It was insufficient to cover for the suit and the shoes and a wedding present, but it was more money than I deserved. And probably more money than my father could afford. So I bought Jeb a picture frame and saved the rest of the money for Christmas presents. As for my outfit, I wore an old suit, and I felt great; got drunk for free, danced my ass and talked to babes all night long. I told every one of them the Tale of the Feral Hog, and I ended the story like this: “I realized, - you know? - right then and there, I realized that life’s not really about new clothes, or a new car, or a new house; or a new career, or a new look, or a new partner, or whatever! Life’s about simply being present; and . . . and being open to wonder! It’s about waking up early to catch creation off-guard.”

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