Painting above by Debbie Plowman

Sunday, July 17, 2011

EVERYTHING BUT THE OINK

by Keith P. Graham
art by Shasta Lawton




The pig was angry and not talking to anyone. One-Eyed Phil had called him Porky again and the pig wasn’t in any mood to put up with it. He sat away from the fire, and leaned against a tree. The half dozen hobos sitting around the fire all looked at the man-pig.

“C’mon man,” Big Jim said, trying to console the porker, “Phil didn’t mean anything by it. He was just joking around.”

“Hell,” said Willie, “You don’t think I like being called ‘Little’ Willie all the time? Do ya?”

“I don caw yo wiwwle Wiwwie.” The pig finally said, the words distorted by his porcine tongue and pallet.

“But you can, if you want to,” Willie argued, “We all have monikers. Nobody calls me William Fischer. There’s a Fat Willie and a Big Willie and I’m Little Willie. I don’t take offense. Ernesto DiMaiale is too much of a mouthful. Phil was just trying to give you a nickname.”

“But my name is Ernesto DiMaiale,” he said. The pig had his hands crossed over his chest. The short fingers had thick, hoof like nails and the thumbs were way up his wrists. He was looking out into the darkness at the edge of the forest.

“You are one of us, now,” Big Jim said, “We share and share alike. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black, white, or pig.”

“I am nah a pig!” squealed Ernesto DiMaiale.

“Sorry,” said Jim, “Sus Sapiens is what I meant. It don’t matter anyway. You are a genetically engineered man-pig hybrid and you’re as much a human as anyone here. That’s what I say.” There were cries of agreement from the men. The pig looked at the men and his eyes filled with tears.

“I’m sowwy,” Ernesto said, changing his tone, “I have a thin skin. You guys are the best fwiends that I’ve ever had.”

“One for all and all for one!” shouted Little Willie and held up a bottle of cheap port. They all joined in and the bottle passed around. Even Ernesto took a hit. The men shared the port until it was gone and then someone found a quart of Colt 45 and everyone pulled a slug from that. As the fire died down, the men and the man-pig hybrid grew silent. Big Ed and One-Eyed Phil started snoring in a rhythmic counterpoint. A few of the men walked back to the tree line to relieve themselves, but soon only Little Willie and Ernesto were left awake.

Little Willie sidled up to Ernesto. “So you think tonight’s the night?”

“I think so.” The pig took a piece of paper from the pocket of his L.L. Bean Relaxed Fit Jeans size 48 with the 24-inch inseam. Willie found that he could understand the pig’s speech much better after a few drinks. “This is a diagram of the complex.”

“How did you get a diagram of the place?”

“You forget that I was born there,” the man-pig said.

“Oh, yeah. But you escaped more than almost a year ago.”

“I don’t forget things like this.”

“Wait here,” Willie said and he went over to a small shelter made of oak skids and plastic sheeting. Willie turned and looked around and then reached up under the plastic and pulled out a small pistol. He checked the magazine and put it in his pocket. He returned and said to Ernesto, “I’ve got it.”

“You know,” said Ernesto, “you don’t have to come with me. The odds are that neither one of us will make it out alive.”

“I know the odds,” replied Willie, “but I can’t let you go in there alone.”

“Ok, let’s do it.”

Soon the fire was nothing but a few red embers quickly disappearing into ashes. The moon was low in the western sky and would set soon. Willie and Ernesto got up slowly and left the circle of sleeping hobos without a sound. Little Willie deserved his moniker but he still towered over Ernesto. The two of them followed the path back towards the town. When they came to the interstate, they crossed under it at the Elmer Road entrance ramp. They followed Elmer Road through the industrial park and then followed the old railroad tracks to the rear of the Orgo-Life complex.

Orgo-Life grew hearts, kidneys, livers, corneas, and other organs used in most of the country’s transplants. They grew genetically modified pigs, seeding them with portions of the human genome so that they would produce human parts in a disposable animal.

They passed under a chain link fence, pulling it up and bending the rusted wire back. There was a space where animals that raided the dumpsters for snacks dug out sandy soil. Willie and Ernesto had no trouble getting under and through the fence.
The doors to the loading dock were open, but there were no trucks parked there. It was a hot night and the doors were open for ventilation. Ernesto climbed up the steps next to the docks. He flattened himself against the wall and peered around the open doors into the processing plant. He beckoned to Willie who jumped onto the dock and crept up to the doors from the other side.

A wind of humid air flowed out the doors, flavored with the almost overpowering scent of pig shit.

Ernesto made an OK sign with his fingers, which was difficult for him, but Willie understood. They both crept into the processing plant, keeping to the shadows. Suddenly Ernesto pulled up hard against the wall and held his hand out in a motion that meant stay back. He looked at Willie and pointed up to a catwalk that ran about twenty feet above them. A naked man-pig was walking slowly along the walkway. He was carrying a large double-barreled shotgun.

“Watch out,” hissed Ernesto.

“But he’s like you.”

“Like hell he is! He’s a trustee. He trades the lives of his brothers for a few months of extra life.”

They waited while the trustee walked along the catwalk to the far side of the plant.

“Where is she?” asked Willie.

“If she is still alive, she will be in the female pens. It’s down to the left here and past the tanks.”

“They live in pens?”

“They call them pens, but it’s like a dormitory. If they called it anything but a pen, they might have to call those that live there humans.”

Dodging from shadow to shadow, hiding in doorways and behind equipment the two comrades worked their way to the female pens.

“This friend of yours, Sandra you called her, how do you know she’s still alive?” Willie asked as they crouched behind a forklift.

“They keep the females until they are 14 years old so they can harvest the breasts for cosmetic surgery. They have ten to twelve teats and they vary from size B up to double D. There’s big money in teats.”

They paused just outside the doors to the female pens. The door was unguarded, but they could hear voices. The two hid behind a large flat of Purina Hog Chow containers. Ernesto crept to the doors and cracked them open. He looked into the pens and then suddenly ran back to hide with Little Willie. “Shhh,” hissed Ernesto with a finger to his lips.

The doors opened and two humans wearing security guard uniforms walked out of the pens. They were laughing. “That Delilah is too much,” He was saying, “She can’t get enough of me.”

“Yeah and did you see Mimi?” the other said. “She was wearing that sexy outfit that Ronnie brought her. Too bad she’s going to the harvester next week.”

“It could be that she knows and she’s playing for more time. Whitlock likes her, so she might pull it off.”

The men laughed and joked as they walked along out of sight.

“Scum!” Ernesto squealed when they were gone.

“Take it easy,” Little Willie soothed the man-pig, “Let’s get Sandra out of here as quick as we can.”

The lights were out in the pens. There were rooms on either side of a long hallway with rows of bunk beds in each room. A murmur of voices rose as they passed each room. Faces with pig snouts appeared dimly through locked gates, and then disappeared as their owners fled back to the beds.

“It’s Ernesto, he’s back!” a voice cried softly as they passed one room.

“Where’s Sandra?” Ernesto whispered through a grate, but there was no response from the darkened room.

“Sandra?” Ernesto called into each room as they passed. There was movement and glimpses of naked bodies as the occupants went to their bunks and hid under the covers. “Sandra? Please, where is Sandra?”

A figure stood at the entrance to one of the rooms. She was wearing a lacy negligee, thong panties, and five brassieres in different colors and sizes.

“Sandra can’t see you,” The pig-woman said to them.

“Please, where is she? I just want to talk to her.”

“There’s nothing you can do. She’s scheduled for the harvester on Monday. They’ve got her in lockdown.”

“No, I have to talk to her!” Ernesto turned and started to run back the way they had come. Mimi, it could be no one else, smiled at Little Willie seductively and licked her painted lips. Like a bird hypnotized by a snake, Willie couldn’t take his eyes off all of those breasts. The spell was broken when he heard Ernesto call back: “Hurry Willie!” Willie turned and followed his porcine friend.

Ernesto knew where he was going. He ran without regard to guards or pigs on catwalks. Willie followed behind him but was soon lost in the maze of hallways, staging rooms and storage areas. No one saw them as they worked their way to the lockdown area.

Ernesto pulled at the padlock on a door. Willie could hear cries and oinks behind the door. Willie looked around for something to use as a lever to pry the door open, but he could see nothing.

“Sandra!” Ernesto called through the door. His call was answered with, “Ernie? Is that you?” from the other side of the door.

“Hold on Sandra, I’m coming!” He pulled at the lock.

Willie saw a fork lift down the hallway and ran for it. He pressed the starter and the propane engine caught. Willie spun the wheel around and aimed for the door.

“Get out of the way,” he called and gunned the engine.

The forks struck the steel door sending sparks flying and the door bowed in. The padlock held, though. Willie back up and rammed the door again. The doors buckled and the hasp pulled out from the metal door. As Willie pulled the forklift away from the door, Ernesto ran into the room calling “Sandra!”

Willie heard shouts of men and pig-men coming from the other direction.

“Ernesto!” he yelled, “It’s time to get the hell out of Dodge!” Willie pulled out his gun, ready to shoot his way out.

Ernesto ran out of the lockdown pulling a young thing after him. Man-pig hybrids ran from the room squealing. Some were more like pigs than men, running on all fours, but others were indistinguishable from humans except for a piggy nose and a curly tail. All of them knew their fate, and they were running for their lives.

Ernesto jumped on the back of the forklift and he pulled Sandra after him. “That way!” he pointed and Willie took off down the corridor. The trio chugged down the twisting paths of the complex directed by Ernesto. Sandra had her arms around Ernesto and she was sobbing. Willie noticed that she was indeed very beautiful, for a pig.

They turned corners with the forklift so fast that it tipped onto two wheels. Ernesto directed them, referring to his little map from time to time. The turned one way and then another and Willie was thoroughly lost.

They turned a corner and their way was blocked. Willie slammed on the brakes and the forklift skidded to a halt.

Three huge man-boar hybrids stood in the way. They each looked to weigh a quarter of a ton and even with their hulking postures were over six feet tall. They had tusks that grew curling out of their mouths and they had angry red pig eyes. They held baseball bats in their hands and walked slowly towards the three.

Willie drew out his pistol. It was a 32-caliber police special. He had liberated it from a neighboring farm. He wondered if it would even slow these monsters down.

“Here,” Willie said giving the gun to Ernesto, “I’m going to try and break through. You keep them busy with the gun.”

As Willie put his foot to the floor on the accelerator, Ernesto tried to shoot the gun, but his thick fingers couldn’t fit through the trigger guard. Sandra took the gun away from Ernesto. She jumped to a standing position on the forklift’s counter weight and braced herself against the roll bar.

Willie ducked down as the 32 barked out over his head. There were squeals of pain as the bullets found their mark. The giant porkers leapt back and the forklift barreled past them. Willie looked up at the heroic pig girl. She was fearlessly holding out the gun in front of her, ready to fight her way to freedom. Her twelve perfect nipples pointed the way.

Men with shotguns guarded the entrance to the loading docks. There were dead pig-men scattered over the floor. Sandra started shooting as soon as she saw them and the men jumped for cover. Willie yelled an Indian war whoop as he pressed the forklift forward at top speed. The men opened fire, but the escapees were a moving target in an age when boys had never been allowed to play with toy guns. The inexperienced men tried to shoot, but they shied away from the noise of their own blasts. Most of their shots went high.

The forklift practically flew through the loading dock doors into the truck bay. Willie slammed on the brakes and the vehicle turned a full 180 as it stopped. Sandra fell forward from her perch and landed hard on the pavement. Ernesto jumped off the back of the forklift and dragged her up. The three fled the complex. Ernesto had to help Sandra. She was having trouble walking.

They ran across the grounds, crouching low. When they reached the other side of the fence, Sandra fell down and said, “You go on without me Ernesto. I can’t make it.”

“Sure you can, darling,” Ernesto said, but both men saw it at the same time. Sandra’s top left breast, the perfect B cup, was covered with blood. There was a jagged hole torn by the shotgun blast just below her collarbone. It was bleeding profusely.

“I’m a goner,” she said, “I can’t walk any more, I’m so tired. Go on without me. Leave me here.”

“Sandra, No,” Ernesto said, “I’ll never leave you.” He looked at Willie. “We’ll have to carry her.”

Sandra choked and then coughed up some blood. “Ernesto,” she said looking deeply into his eyes. “I always knew that someday you’d come for me. Thank you.”

“I had to come, Sandra. I love you. I couldn’t leave you there to die.”

“And now I’m free.” She coughed more blood and her body arched in pain.

“Sandra!”

“I’m free,” she whispered, “I’m finally free.” Her head turned to the side. Her eyes stayed open, the perfect shade of blue, staring at nothing at all. Her bodied shuddered and then was utterly motionless.

“Oh, Sandra!” the man-pig cried in great heaving sobs over her body.

There were alarms sounding all over the Orgo-Life complex. Pale naked figures raced by them in the dark as Sus Sapiens renegades fled from their doom. Ernesto didn’t move. He just cried over the body of the valiant Sandra. Willie heard sirens and he saw a fleet of police cars speed through the gates at the far end of the complex. Searchlights snapped on, sweeping the grounds with their beams.

Willie tugged at Ernesto. “Come on, man. We’ve got to get going. The heat is on. They’ll find us soon.”

“I can’t leave her—not like this.”

“Ok, we’ll carry her.” Willie took the gun that was still in Sandra’s hand and picked up Sandra’s body under the arms. Ernesto grabbed her feet. Willie wondered what they would do with the body once they got back to the hobo jungle. They would have to dispose of it quick or the cops would know that they’d been to the complex. The police and the goons from the Orgo-Life were not above breaking a few heads.

It was early dawn when they arrived back at the camp. Willie went to his flop and hid the gun. He slept most of the morning. When the police and the corporate goons tossed the hobo camp later that day, they didn’t find the gun and Ernesto was hiding in the low brush of the forest with some new friends. He didn’t return until after dark when it was suppertime. He brought a pig man and two pig women with him out of the forest. The hobos contributed some old clothes to dress the naked escapees and Willie, Ernesto and the rest of the group sat down with their new friends to enjoy freedom and a hot meal.

Ernesto was still so broken up that he could hardly speak. “She was so young, so innocent,” Ernesto cried. The pig-man could not stop the tears flowing down over his snout. Someone passed him the bottle of wine and he took a slug.

Willie put an arm around Ernesto’s shoulders and gave him a warm hug. “Hey man, don’t think about it. Sandra tried and that’s what counts. It’s better to die fighting for freedom than to live as a slave.”

Ernesto squealed a little as he sobbed and passed the wine to Willie. He sat up straight and looked up at the stars. “We’ll always have that moment of freedom together. That’s how I’ll remember her.”

“There will be other days, other quests, and even other women,” Willie said. He winked at the pig woman next to Ernesto. He sipped from the bottle of 99¢ wine, and then picked a string of meat from between his teeth. “They won’t be the same as she was, and you’ll never forget her, but I promise you that the hurt will fade as time goes by.”

“She was a sweet thing,” Ernesto seemed to get a grip on himself. Willie speared another hunk of meat from the stew and chewed it.

Big Jim brought a plate of the stew over to Ernesto. “Eat up brother. Waste not, want not.”

Ernesto took the plate and fork from Willy. He jabbed a small piece of meat, brought it up to his nose, and sniffed. He shrugged his shoulders and put the meat in his mouth. He chewed is slowly at first and then closed his mouth and swallowed.

“Yes, she was a fine sweet thing.” Ernesto said.

“And tender, too.” Little Willie answered, forking another piece of pork.





6 comments:

  1. I love the art.

    Thanks Shaun

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hauntingly wonderful. I couldn't tear my eyes away while I was reading it. I also love the artwork as well. The end was definitely good, but it broke my heart.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A dark vision, yet a good story, because it survives its constraints. With elegant simplicity, the story dramatizes the complement of philosphy, the love of wisdom, with the wisdom of love, which the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas proposes is the remedy to humanity's subordination of people to power: Sandra would have been glad that her freedom in death served life.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I appreciate the incredibly generous comments. Even the spam.

    Keith P. Graham

    ReplyDelete
  5. And we thank you!

    At first I was disturbed, especially by the picture, but as I kept reading I became more and more interested. Good job.

    ReplyDelete

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