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The Roustabout

June 24, 2011

It was so cold—the ground was frostbitten, the air cold, the Roustabout’s hands numb and filthy and seeking the hog’s hot belly, the sun a thin blue disc of ice, distant, the girl—the oldest daughter distant—asleep, like the cold earth, in her bed, in her room, far off in the farm house, her limbs cold, but his breath—the Roustabout’s—warm as he looked on that window.

Someone swore and it hung in the frozen air.

The flat of a hatchet swung down and cracked against the skull of a hog, and the Roustabout looked at the window of the house where the girl slept. Above her window the weathervane creaked and someone stirred in the room, rustled the curtains, and the Roustabout turned to the farmhand named Pelekys who had white mange and yellow teeth and a red face and swore again and said, Roustabout! his face like an old lion.

A piglet flew through the air with a wisp of vapor, and the squeal rasped the Roustabout’s spine as he stretched out his filthy hands and caught it, screaming and wriggling with life, and the girl in her room shivered and saw the note sitting by her left hand, and she shuddered and looked out the cold glass, where in the distance the piglet squealed, gone from its nook between the sow’s hot belly and the warmed earth.

The Roustabout placed the piglet between his thighs and the girl trembled and read the note, and the hogs squealed and barked and the Roustabout thrust his pliers into the piglet’s mouth and gripped and twisted and pulled first one tusk, then another, and a large boar bit at Peleky’s who smacked it between the ears with the back of his hatchet and tried to fix its mouth with a tether,  and the girl ran barefoot through her room, dashed to the closet with her hair streaking cold behind her, wide-eyed like a painted marionette, and the piglet was again flying through the air, bloody-snouted, and was caught and placed in the pen, and the girl gathered clothes, her mother’s necklace, her father’s watch, and in the kitchen meat, and she went into a field that led to a road that led to a new country, and the Roustabout watched her trot along from afar, his breathe pluming, and he saw how he would follow her, how they would never survive, how her father would find them chill and dead in that pale blue country, snuffed out by the frost, and the piglet in the pen did not squeal but ran quietly, wide-eyed for its dam.

The hogs breathed heavily, the vapor dense, it was so cold.

 

© Trent R. Leinenbach, Ashen Apples, 2011

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