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A Pig Called Stripe

My uncle had a spotted pig, called Stripe. Which tells you a lot about my uncle. It started small but it got big, as pigs do. It was still small when my aunt left, sick of the smell of pig shit and the endless speculations on the weather. She packed her suitcases into her red car and drove down the track, bound for Lord knows where.

That’s what you get, Mum said, for marrying city folk.

After school, I’d cycle to my uncle’s farm. I’d pump my legs imagining I was a getaway driver for some notorious gang. The dust would billow behind me like tyre smoke. My uncle had a lot of pigs, not just Stripe. There was an old sow called Marilyn who would let me sit on her back and would prise her velvet nose into my pockets for sherbet lemons. I kept away from Stripe. He stared at me from the corner of his pen. He didn’t look at me like pigs did. He looked at me like he knew every greasy secret I’ve ever tried to hide.

My uncle fed Stripe. I saw him once, filling the trough with the things my aunt had left – flounced dresses, photos and lipstick stains. He’d eat them up, grinding them down until nothing was left but a dusting of glitter. It wasn’t typical pig feed but he grew fat on it nonetheless. My uncle said no one understood him like Stripe did. He was probably right.

Stripe grew so large that he busted right of his pen. One morning my uncle went down to feed him and he was gone, leaving a mangled knot of wire behind. Stripe ran loose around the countryside for weeks. He chased cars and killed sheep. They said there was nothing he wouldn’t eat: tractor tyres and hen coops were all devoured. At night we heard him roaring. We didn’t dare go outside. Our daddies formed an armed escort around our school bus and the door remained barricaded with broken desks during our lessons. He never killed a person, at least no one we knew. Although there were rumours about a drifter who disappeared. He did get Rambo, the Mcgregor’s dog, though. Tore him to shreds, poor thing. It wasn’t long after that that they got him. They shot him square between the eyes down by the bridge. They said he screamed when he fell. Afterwards, they strung him up in the main square, between the library and the war memorial. People posed for photos with the carcass and later we roasted him at the summer fête. The town smelt of bacon for weeks.

One night, months after, I heard Dad drunk with his friends talking about Stripe. They said that when they split his belly open it all fell out: the dresses, photos, and gold bangles. It had poisoned him, they thought.

That’s what love can do to you, Dad said. The men all nodded and finished their beers in silence.

Iona Rule used to want to have a couple pigs until she spent two weeks working on a pig farm. She still thinks Stripe would have been a good name. Her work has come second in the Bath Flash Fiction Award and been published or forthcoming in Atlas and Alice, Lost Balloon, and Ellipses Zine.

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