here was a pig farm North of the creek where the tract housing now sits. Hob, my friend, bragged about it all the time. He heard about it from stories like the rest of us. We would go down to a small stream, trickling through Knowlton and Fishman's yards. He showed me small pieces of bone imbedded in silt.
-- Pig's bones, he would say. -- The bones of real pigs.
He collected the bones he found in a cigar box his grandfather from Naples, Florida gave him. His grandfather smoked cigars from Haiti. The cover on the lid depicted a mermaid swimming with dolphins. They suckled upon her nipples.
--Someday I'm going to have enough bones to build me an entire pig, like they do with dinosaurs.
Hob always told stories about the pig farm. He told all the kids in the development that his father was a pig strangler when he was younger.
-- There was this war, not the one were fighting now but a bigger older war, he would say, so the killing of the pigs was important because the soldiers needed hotdogs. They couldn't waste bullets. They tried killing the pigs with bats and knives, but the job was just too messy. So they hired my dad. My dad had the strongest arms in the whole state. He was a champion wrestler. He couldn't fight in the war on account of him missing three toes from a hunting accident. So they hired him to strangle the pigs. One after the other he strangled the pigs.
Hob gesticulated and improvised with his hands the act of pig strangling with Shakespearean perfection.
-- Snap! Twist! Snap! Squeal! Snap!
One day, we were in the basement and watching his brother oil and prepare rabbit
traps, the same brother who would die at the city of Danang, Vietnam during a mortar attack a year later. Hob's father came bounding down the stairs. His head redder than an apple.
--Hob, you son of bitch! His turkey jowls throbbing as the words sputtered from his mouth. ñ What's this about me working at a pig farm and strangling pigs!
His eyes were about to pop.
-- Nothing, Hob said, before there was something to regret.
After that Hob never talked about the pig strangling. But as for the pigs that was another matter.
-- Can't you hear them singing, he would say, as we walked past the stream.
-- Thousands of them, underneath us, singing, slobbering, squealing!
I always listened but could only hear the sound of lawnmowers. I always felt guilty about that.
First published: February 14, 1999