Hot Metal Bridge

Current Issue : Number Twenty-Five

Three Pigs

BY APRIL MONROE

All this long night I have dreamed of pigs. Two times I woke myself, disturbed, and went back to bed hoping for mundane dreams, or else none at all. Yet, when morning comes I have suffered through a trilogy of pig dreams.

First I dream of a miraculous hog – a pig who returned battle-weary and unexpectedly from what I was raised to refer to as “God-knows-what.” He had escaped or been abandoned as an undersized piglet and returned as a full-grown lean pig, with shiny white scars raking his pink skin. My children gather around the too-small-to-eat hog like he is a small-town hero. As they kneel in the dust I watch from above, perhaps floating or else dangling. My dreams are unclear on points of perspective and fault, but as I watch the feeling of repulsive shame builds and I become aware that I am floating because my guilt is the opposite magnet to their joy. As the children stroke the sweet hog and guess at his terrible adventures I become certain that it was I who walked the runt weanling into the cold woods and left it, thinking it would die in the night and spare us the terrible drawn-out displays of runt piglets failing to thrive, the grief of children bent on futile measures. My children name the pig Mercy, because there is already a chicken called Lucky. This is the final needed word to fortify the opposing magnetic field between us, and on the word Mercy I rocket upward.

I wake up, shake my head, look through the window to the summer moon, and once I am certain that I have returned completely to the waking world, I close my eyes.

In an instant the second pig dream begins. This time, an enormous sow lays in the hay. She is heaving, her hip bones jutting, contractions coming so fast they cause frantic tremors on the surface of her thick skin. I am exhausted. Already, a row of piglets lays beneath the solitary lamp beside the sow. Fluids of birthing have soaked through my clothes. The piglets must have come out one at a time, been rubbed clean, lain down. Perhaps one or two looked a bit grim, but that is always the way, and here they are all lively and well against their mother. But the last one out was born malformed and gray. There is nothing for it, it just happens sometimes. It lays weakly moving, still covered in bloody mucus, as I attend to the sow who is now waxing toward death and must be saved. The last piglet protrudes from the canal, its thick and twisted rear leg visible through the limp, sagging sac. The braided white and blue cord loops around the strange limb like a maypole. With two hands I wrench it out, the sow screams, and the final flood of blood and fluid is released. I lay the creature beside its dying twin, where they both make strange mews and the awkward jerks – fetal movements translated into cold open air. And like many a good farmer before me, I turn my back on the dying and attend to the pulsing warmth of sturdy life, there beneath the light. The light grows blindingly bright, then fades to black.

In the bedroom, I am dismayed, and exhausted. There is no relief in dreaming of pigs. I stagger from bed and go through a clumsy rotation of yoga poses. Downward dog, sun salutation, warrior, downward dog. I think of the instructors voice saying, “Rest here. Learn that the poses between the poses are just as important as the pose you are getting to.” I turn these words like a worry doll or blank stone in my mind. When I lay back, I am asleep and to the business of pig farming.

This time the sun shines brightly, and an enormous guinea hog basks on the grass, his black skin radiating heat as I approach him with a rifle. In this dream I remember the previous two vaguely and remark that he is the third pig. Does he live in a house of straw? Where is the wolf? But there is no such plot turn, just a hog and pasture. I consider his pose, which strikes me as unusually pet-like, as he lies with his head on his outstretched front legs. I know that this pose is just as important as the one that will come. I do not slaughter him, but pause to envision the process. The gunshot to the middle of the forehead, which country folk say bounces in the brain, kills, eliminates the possibility of pain. What comes next is just the impression of life, the involuntary movement of a vacant body. The pig will shudder, stagger, and in one fluid movement I will swoop astride him, slit his neck with a good knife. His blood will leave him. We will hoist him into a tree by his hind legs, and all that can drip away, will. The blood will seek the soil, and I will wonder if it makes our carrots a darker orange. Flesh will be cut and parceled, ground and seasoned, will feed my family through winter. So, I pull the trigger. The echo of the shot becomes the rhythmic tone of my alarm clock. It is morning.

I consider the meaning of dreams and arrive at nothing. I am tired and I must go to work. It is convention week and the classes are mandatory. Ethics, spheres of influence, the business of things. I will wear a brown dress that shows too much cleavage and middle-aged desperation. I will get drunk with people I do not know or enjoy, and we will network. And perhaps when I arrive home and try to sleep it off, I will dream of the dramatics of pig farming, and over my coffee I will wonder whether pigs may be a better profession.



April Monroe lives with her three children and husband in Fairbanks, Alaska, where she is completing her undergraduate degree in English at the University of Alaska. Her nonfiction has recently appeared in Brevity, and she is currently working on a memoir called Where We Live Now. She can be reached at april@aprilmonroe.com