Three Fat Pigs in the Middle of the Road

Living the good life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be


| March-April 2011


It was a time in my life filled with simple gifts: good teeth and lustrous skin, the smell of wood smoke and manure, wet flannel and courage. The kind of courage necessary to move to the country and live out my dreams. Days when loving was enough and all I needed was to hold her close and keep my pecker up and the wolf from the door.

It happens before we get married; when I’m head over heels and she can do no wrong. I don’t bat an eye when she reads Diet for a Small Planet and goes vegan and macrobiotic overnight. She’s young and beautiful and her skin is singing the first deep notes of pregnancy, so whatever she dishes up is fine with me. Millet casseroles, sorry guacamole, and adzuki bean patties. I lace them with mustard and ketchup, pretend they’re hamburgers, clean my plate, and go out to chop wood, roll a smoke, tend to the marijuana behind the outhouse. Buy myself a secondhand guitar and sing to the stars. Who’s to complain?

When the baby comes, everything changes. Sleep deprivation, nocturnal emissions, and a steady regime of raw garlic and borage. We haven’t made love for three months. She tapes soggy teabags to her nipples to toughen them up, and everything, including my carrot/carob and garbanzo bean birthday cake, comes dusted with brewer’s yeast. The engines of reproduction are still warm, maternal bliss rolling in like ground fog. My priorities are different. I’ve got mouths to feed, needs to sublimate.

With an eye to the future I go back to school, driving our decrepit station wagon 25 miles to the city. The heater is broken and, in winter, I wear a balaclava and stick my head out the window, which is terminally opaque with frost. I must look like a criminal, a madman searching for a knife he’s dropped. There’s something in my eyes: hunger, the ice-cold glint of deficiency. A steady diet of soybeans is not enough. I need meat.

I opt for pork, on the hoof. Three newly weaned piglets bought at your friendly neighborhood Hutterite colony. I do my best, push back my hat to scratch my head, saying yep and nope, but who am I kidding? I’m a backslid Jew from the city and my field is literature. Still, I play it close to the vest, trying to look confident and knowledgeable. It all comes undone when the pig-boss opens his mouth. The guy stutters like Porky Pig with a Low German lilt and elongated vowels. B-b-boy, Ahhm tehllin you dah b-b-behst ting to f-feyd dese c-c-critters iss Maple Leaf p-p-p-pig stahrter.

Maybe I should’ve taken my time, asked more questions, haggled over the price. Maybe I should’ve gotten straight and shopped around a bit, but I have to get out before I piss myself. I fork over the cash and stuff the porkers in the back seat, where they shit and squeal like there’s no tomorrow. As soon as I hit the gravel, I crank open the windows and dissolve into hysterics.