“Ham of Destiny,” by Laura Garrison

Aug 20th, 2017 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

One warm spring night on a tiny farm in Whistle County, Tennessee, eleven piglets slipped from a sow like marbles from a silk purse, ten boys and one girl. The boys were fine, sturdy specimens, if perhaps a shade dull—more bacon than brains, as the saying goes—but the girl was a wonder, clever and strong and pink as a sunrise.

From an early age, she sensed there was a wide world beyond the borders of the farm and longed to be a part of it. One corner of the pig pen provided a view of the black-and-white television on the farmhouse kitchen counter, and while her brothers were snuffling slop and wallowing in mud hollows, the girl would study the glamorous actresses in the old movies the farmer’s wife liked to watch as she baked pies.

On clear days, the pig would gaze at her reflection in the water trough and practice batting her eyelashes. She longed for an exotic lover, someone with an artist’s soul and wiry angles to complement her plush curves. A musician, perhaps.

During the summer when the farmer’s daughter had a French tutor on Thursday evenings, the young pig would stand under the window and whisper the lessons along with her, je vole, tu voles, elle vole, dreaming of Paris fashions and fine chocolates while the fireflies flickered around her like flashbulbs.

When she sashayed out of the barn one afternoon wearing a wig of straw and lipstick made from blackberries crushed into a glob of shortening, her brothers squealed with laughter. Hot tears glimmered in her violet eyes, but she blinked them back, gave a ladylike snort, and charged.

Later, chastened and limping, her brothers apologized, laying bouquets of wildflowers at her hoofs and praising her superior intelligence, strength, and good looks. She forgave them, for although she had a quick temper, she was easily mollified with compliments, and it was not in her nature to hold grudges.

Her brothers built a stage for her in the barn, with horse-blanket curtains and a pair of antique lanterns for footlights. After the farmer and his family went to bed, the young pig would belt out songs she had learned from the movies: “Moon River,” “Que Sera, Sera,” and her favorite, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The audience went wild, stamping and neighing and bellowing and flapping, but no one cheered louder than her ten dim but loyal brothers, who now believed with all their hearts she was going to be famous someday.

Time passed, and the little pigs grew into large pigs. As harvest time drew near, a tall man with a long coat and bloodstained trouser cuffs swept into the barnyard and had a hushed conversation with the farmer, during which they both cast dark glances toward the pig pen. The farmer frowned and shook his head. Then the tall man said something else, and the farmer nodded grimly. With the air of having settled something, the two men shook hands, and the tall one went away.

That night, the boys were frantic, running in circles, trampling their dinner, bumping into the walls and each other. The girl watched them and sighed. Finally, just before dawn, she wiggled herself into position, and, with a huff and a puff, she kicked the gate down with her hind legs. Startled, her brothers stopped and gaped at her. She ushered them over the splintered wood and nudged them toward the forest beyond the edge of the vegetable garden. Things would be tough for them in the wild, she knew, but they had numbers in their favor, and an uncertain future was still better than a guaranteed trip to the slaughterhouse.

When the last curly tail had disappeared into the trees, she turned and walked out to the dirt road. She followed it for a mile or two, until she felt she was in the right place, then sat down in the grass on the shoulder and waited. Sure enough, an orange Volkswagen van came chugging along a few moments later and rolled to a stop. The driver, whose gentle smile was nestled in a full beard, leaned over to open the passenger-side door. Someone waved at her from the backseat—a bear in a polka-dot tie and a battered pork pie hat. Beside him sat a handsome frog with a banjo on his lap.

The driver patted the empty front seat. “Hop in, miss,” he said. “I’m going to make you a star.”


Laura Garrison is creeping slowly southward like a fungus that subsists on caffeine and gummy bears. She wrote a dissertation on spiders in American literature and is the online editor of Jersey Devil Press.

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