Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! I’m only a tiny bit Irish and don’t really do any special celebrating today, but I did want to share an excerpt from an interesting, amusing, odd little story that takes place in Ireland. I read it about a year ago, but Open Road media is sharing several excerpts in honor of the holiday. You can find the links to the others and a couple of videos on their blog.
from The Pig Did It by Joseph Caldwell
Aaron heard the taunt through the heavy glass windows of the bus. Two teenagers coming toward them on their bikes repeated the cry as they wheeled past the windows. “Pigs! Pigs!” Aaron didn’t doubt that this was some social commentary aimed at those who sat passively and were carted comfortably from one place to another in adjustable, upholstered seats. “Pigs!” The shout faded in the distance. Aaron twisted in his seat to catch some final glimpse of the insolent bikers, but they were gone. The only other movement among the passengers was a general straining not in the direction of the hostile youths but toward the front of the bus. A man in a heavy tweed suit snorted, the sound not unlike that of the animal just mentioned. A young woman closed her book and studied her fingernails. Those in the aisle seats leaned sideways for a clearer view ahead. A tall skinny man got up and went to the front of the bus. His hair, whitened with what seemed to be zinc oxide,rose in stiff spikes from his scalp. He was wearing a leather vest over a red silk shirt, his pants a pair of baggy blue sweats, and his shoes the obligatory untied Reeboks. The youth peered through the windshield, blocking the view of anyone else who might want to take a look up ahead.
The driver had slowed the bus and by the time they had rounded a curve, Aaron understood the bikers’ cry. There, crowding the road, were the pigs, a mob more than a herd, each squealing and screaming as if the destined slaughter were already under way.
A few pigs were now clambering up the rock walls that lined the roadway, others trotting up the hills, with about four of them sniffing the wheel of a truck stuck in a ditch. One of the front wheels was still spinning,as if the truck’s fortune, for better or worse, would be made manifest at any moment.
The bus stopped; the door opened. The spike-haired man was the first off, then the driver. With some pushing and shoving of their own—as if taking their example from the pigs—the passengers, Aaron included,emptied the bus. A frail elderly woman elbowed her way to the front with all the courtesy and consideration of a fullback.
The round-up of an escaped pig is not a spectator sport. Almost without exception the passengers were wading in among the pigs or running along the road, clapping their hands, calling out, “Suuee! Suuee! Suuee!” A young woman with a switch pulled from the nearby thicket was trying to herd the pigs together in the road and move them in the direction the bus and the truck had been going. She was, Aaron noted, a bit too self-consciously costumed as a swineherd in her baggy black woolen pants and thick woolen sweater, dark gray, spattered with the rust colors of earth, the green stains of crushed grass, and a few purple streaks of unknown origin.
And yet, to Aaron, she seemed more a dancer than a keeper of pigs.Her sneakered feet managed to escape being dainty, but only just. And their quick pivots and graceful turns allowed him to guess with fair accuracy the easy movements of a most feminine form that not even the outsize clothing could begin to conceal. Then, too, her auburn hair would be flung across her face, first one side, then the other, suggesting a happy abandon hardly consistent with her present predicament, revealing in intermittent flashes the eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks, chin, and neck of a woman of vital beauty and immediate allure.
She was laughing, clearly enjoying herself to the full, as if a ditched truck and a mob of confused pigs were one of life’s more surprising delights. With each flick of the switch she would let out a small cry of triumph, a point scored in a game that provided unending amusement. The pigs, in return, raised their snouts and screamed their indignation.
One of the passengers, an elderly woman, had made her way into the middle of the clamoring beasts and was slapping their snouts and spanking their hams, more intent on punishing their behavior than restoring order. The man in the tweed suit ran along the side of the herd, yelling, clapping his hands over the pigs’ heads, sending even more of the frightened animals off into the pastures that lined the road. The zinc-haired youth had placed himself a few yards down the slope of a hill and had made it his job to see that no pigs passed into the valley below. Stamping a foot, shouting, hunching forward in warning, he did his best to encourage a return to the road; but, to complicate his task, more than a few of the pigs seemed attracted to his performance, and the youth, to escape their charge, was forced to move farther and farther down the slope, the pigs in pursuit, eager for yet more sport.
The man in tweed was running alongside a pig as it raced up a hill, a contest to see who would make it first to the top. Two passengers—ample matrons of great dignity whom Aaron had heard conversing only in French —were standing to the side, nodding their disdain, speaking to each other like sportscasters commenting on the game in progress.
Some pigs stood next to the truck, content to wait for things to calm down. Others rooted in the grass with their snouts, searching out whatever tasty grubs might be found beneath the turf. One pig, pinker than the rest, began prodding its fellows with its snout, bumping, shoving, grunting, and snorting even louder than the piercing shrieks of those whose dignity was being offended. Only when, with a few discreet sideswipes, it tried to force the two Frenchwomen into the herd did the swineherd, the beauty with the switch, put an end to its presumptions by driving it deep into the middle of the pack.