|Publisher:||Red Hen Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The pigs ate everything. Kitchen scraps. Bitter lettuce from the garden. The stale and sticky contents of lunch boxes kids brought home from school. Toenail clippings. Hairballs pulled up from the drain. After the pigs were done, there weren’t even any teeth left over, not even any metal from cavities filled long ago.
They lived in a pen out back. The land was rocky but spacious, and the pen had been tucked in a corner out of sight for more years than any of the children could remember. It was made out of wood, gray, splintered boards nailed together in a haphazard way. Every five feet, the wood was anchored by posts. When you stood by the fence, the pigs lumbered over, grunting, and stuck their snouts out between the rickety slats. It wasn’t always that they expected food. Sometimes they just wanted their snouts scratched. Sometimes they just grunted happily and settled back down in the shade. There were six of them. They never fought. They seemed to smile when you approached. But you had to be quick. If you brought a bucket of slop for them and poured it out too slowly without moving your hand away, you never knew what could happen.
Luisa was missing a finger. Not an important one. Just her left-hand pinky, where she hadn’t moved away quickly enough one hot summer afternoon when she was feeding them shoes. It was summer every afternoon there. Soft and lazy and slow. The pinky came off in one clean bite before she even realized what was happening. She left with a feeling of shame, like it had been her fault the pig grabbed her finger. She wrapped her hand in her skirt and kept her mouth shut, and the stub didn’t start hurting until she lay down for the night.
From a distance, the island looked so small that ocean liners moving past described it to their passengers as nothing but an unnamed, uncharted outcropping of rock. Cruise directors announced over loudspeakers that some people said it was the island where the sirens tried to lure sailors to their death. Listen closely, they said, and you’ll hear something that sounds like a song. From time to time, a half-drunk divorcee jumped into the water and required rescue from irritated sailors. From time to time, passengers gathered on deck to sigh at the dark outline the island made against the orange setting sun. But nobody noticed the trails of refuse that formed a path over the water as the ship steamed on. It was official policy never to look back. It was official policy to believe the world stopped once it could no longer be seen.
The spotted pig woke up and heaved herself to standing. She shambled over, sleepy but ready for a snack. The shipment of nuclear waste had been harder to finish than expected, and the pigs had stayed up late eating the last of it. Her sides bulged out, and she had a peculiar glow about her as she shuffled through the brush. The rest of the pigs kept sleeping. It was just about midnight, and the moon sent shadows through the leaves onto her back. On the island in the dry heat of day, shadows were what the pigs had to stay cool instead of mud. But shadows gave them something else, too. They gave them the beauty of dappled light, of its patterns through the leaves. Some people say that humans are the only beasts moved by beauty, but the pigs proved them wrong on a daily basis. The pigs never failed to stop to appreciate the lacework of light through leaves. They appreciated the perfection of a beehive. The smooth gold of honey moved them just as much as the sweetness of its flavor. The pigs admired beauty as much as any of us do.