The Pig Comes to Dinner

The Pig Comes to Dinner by Joseph Caldwell

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Authors: Joseph Caldwell
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Brid’s descendant had favored with her torments. Kitty had one euro on—unavoidably—Pig-O’-My-Heart, twenty-to-one, the jockey in silks featuring huge pink polka dots on a field of pastel green, making the boy—the single chubby jockey in the entire pack—look like an anemic ladybug. Jackeen had yet to make the far turn, but Pig-O’-My-Heart was still in contention in third. Now the horse was making its move, challenging Fisherman’s Folly. Kitty crushed her fists into her cheeks. Kieran, ever the sport, called out, “Pig! Pig! Pig!”
    As the horses galloped toward the finish, Kitty prepared herself to scream, the sound already rising toward her glottis, when the chubby boy in the saddle slipped sideways, not falling, but hanging on as best he could, jerking the horse’s head up and giving the signal that the animal could ease its efforts, that the race was over. As for Kitty, as for Pig-O’-My-Heart, as for the chubby boy, it was over indeed. Who came in first was no longer of any interest. When Pig crossed the line, seventh but well ahead of Jackeen, the boy’s torso was parallel to the ground, his head held slightly higher, his right leg raised as if in rude salute to the grandstand spectators who responded with the wildest cheering of the day.
    Across the track, in the shadow of the grandstand, looking angrily down at the ticket in his hand, was Taddy. Not Taddy exactly, but nonetheless wearing mostly brown: brown corduroy pants, a brown sweater, and, in concession to the era in which he was living, white sneakers. The hair was only a bit shorter, but the shoulders, straight and broad, were readily recognizable, the torso tapering to the narrow waist. The hands had experienced no evolution. As they tore up the ticket and let the tatters sift onto the grass, Kitty could see that they were unwashed and calloused by some harsh task not different from those performed by his antecedent. When he looked up, his brown-eyed gaze went just beyond Kitty, to her left. Mournful he was and again there was the bewilderment. He, too, must have bet on Pig-O’-My-Heart, and if he didn’t know the origin of this prompting, Kitty did.
    Taddy at the castle had been chosen by the pig as a favored companion. And Taddy seemed to have accepted the honor. From the narrow turret window of her study she had seen more than several times the pig running, its snout down into the grass, hoping against hope that the ring with which it had been pierced would not prevent it from visiting the usual devastations upon Kerry’s green and pleasant land. Taddy, meanwhile, would stand aside and watch, his head bowed for the first few thrusts of the snout. Small jerky movements would he make, pausing, then swinging his head to another point on his one-hundred-and-eighty-degree range as if on guard against anyone who might ridicule the pig’s bootless efforts. When no one would appear, Taddy would bow his head again, reassured that no one was aware of the pig’s humiliation, that he, Taddy, every faithful, was on guard and would allow no amusement at the pig’s expense.
    Then, at other times, he and the pig would simply wander the field, Taddy ahead, the pig following, more a dog and master than pig and ghost. For these excursions Taddy walked slowly, not looking down, gazing off somewhere. An exile, he was having perhaps some vision of the world taken from him long, long ago. So needful was he in his bewilderment, so forlorn in his loss, yet innocent and manly in his every movement, that Kitty had experienced, over the days and weeks and months, first a sympathy, then a grieving of her own, and, finally, a yearning, a need to hold and to cherish, to comfort and to—
    Here she would invariably stop. She was indulging herself. There was work to be done. Maggie Tulliver still had not been successfully redirected along the plot lines that would correct Mary Ann’s ineptitude.

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