This Little Piggy 

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“The trouble with these people is they take themselves too seriously. In fact, they take everything too seriously.”

She offered up a half-hearted grunt by way of reply, because she didn’t want to encourage him. If he thought he had her attention, he would keep going, on and on, about this, that and the other.

She looked towards the television to see what it was that was aggravating him this time.

Some kid was on the news. She could tell it was a kid by how slight their shoulders were, and something about the stance, defiant, but unsure for all that. They were wearing a balaclava to preserve their anonymity and something about this made her laugh.

How serious indeed.

“What’s their problem?” she asked.

Animal rights.”

“Oh. I see.”

Her indifference seemed to please him.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

But she could tell he was more riled about it than he let on, though why it should annoy him, was a mystery.
And now she’d given him leave to keep going.

“I mean, why do they bother with all this, do you reckon? Why would you stand there on the evening news, dressed in a balaclava – a balaclava! – and spout this nonsense?”

He reached for his tennis ball and began to squeeze it. This was apparently a white knuckle issue, and she stared at him as he squeezed the ball ever tighter, spluttering little puffs of exasperation as he clenched and released.

Behind him, on the television, the camera was panning out over a shed. It was full of pigs, all packed in tight.

Fat sows lay on their sides, while little pink piglets struggled to nurse at their ripe teats.

The piglets were behind a grill. She’d read about that. That it was for their protection. Sometimes the sows roll over and squash their nursing young.

She wondered what it was about the pigs that bothered the young kid enough from them to feel compelled to take a stance on the evening news.

But her head and her heart weren’t in it. She wasn’t in the mood to worry about pigs.

Or him, for that matter.

“Listen, I’m going down to the basement.”

He mumbled something and she wasn’t sure if he was talking to her or the television.

Downstairs, she left the light off and slumped in the battered armchair. Through the ground level windows she could see the light outside already fading, and for a long while she simply sat there watching it grow dark.

Above, the television blared. She heard the shuffle of his feet as he moved around the room, the thud as he collapsed back into his chair.

And it was as if she was waiting for something to begin. Like people during a war huddled together in a bunker, waiting for the bombs to fall.

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Jennifer is one of our judges at MASH. Her fiction has appeared in Carve Magazine and Stories For Homes anthology. Her radio drama won the 2001 European Regional Prize in the BBC World Service International Playwriting competition and a commendation in 2009. Her poetry has appeared in The Guardian as part of their poetry workshops series. Contact Jen via Twitter.

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