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“It is time, Uxía,” Papá says, “that you started doing some of things your mama would have done.” I say nothing. I know he is talking about killing you.
For weeks he has been muttering to Uncle Xoel about how our neighbours have been too kind to us for too long, how the village women are all busy with their own pigs and twelve is old enough, certainly. He doesn’t sound certain, though. He probably wanted Uncle Xoel to tell him he was right, but Uncle Xoel doesn’t say much and he doesn’t lie.
I step out into the street. The bench sits there, plain and mundane and wreathed in doom. The air is cold and bone-dry. I clutch at it, then try to keep it in my palm, then touch my face. Not a speck of moisture. It will not rain. If it rains when pigs are killed, our luck will be bad. So Papá wouldn’t do it, he would hold off for a few days. I could keep coming to see you that bit longer.
I head back in and then out the back door. The grass is getting long and scraggly. It will be beyond saving soon. I unbolt your little top-door-half; you are in a stable from who knows when. Papá has no memory of any horses here. Uncle Xoel says he remembers hooves, small ones, long ago. It would have to have been a small horse to fit his head through.
I call. You rise, heavy, steady, strong. I hear your snuffles. Then your head pops through, then your long ears are in the air, all twitchy with cold. Then I reach for them. “Hello, Rosa. I think it’s today.”
You don’t say anything. You just look at me and your eyes are deep and dark and sparkle and the garden smells of leaves and worms and autumn is here and the killing season is here and I can’t make it go away.
The neighbours all gather by the bench as you are held down. We are in front of the house and you are our pig and everyone knows we have a fine specimen, fat and bright. You look around. You are wary. Not yet afraid. I am here and you trust me. I have done you no wrong in all these months, in our summer of slops and of sobs and of secrets whispered into floppy ears.
“Take her head, Uxía,” Papá instructs. He is harried, marching around. He needs this to be perfect. We need the luck. I hold you as gently as I can. Our eyes click. The world blurs as I try to focus on you and you alone. My eyes aren’t great these days. We need pig money for glasses, Papá has been saying. I stroke behind your ears. This will be quick and you will not hurt for any longer than you have to.
Uncle Xoel touches my back. Stop talking to the pig. Or maybe Stop lying. I stop.
Papá steps forward with the knife. He takes the scruff of your neck. I feel the first tremors of panic rolling up from your belly. I rub your snout. I have to watch, I have to or I will lose my hand. The blade flashes in the sun. It is very very white. Then red. I move my hand. You jerk and slump.
The ladies run with buckets for the blood, which they will use to flavour pancakes and make sausage. There is so much. Like water, or milk from a smashed jar, spreading out and out… So much for one body. I finger your face, the rings around your eyes. You are still smiling at me. Your ears are pricked. It must have been the shock. By tonight they will be limp.
I remember snuggling into your big, warm form, your nose on my shoulder, your breath in my hair and the hay under me damp with red I didn’t understand. It just kept coming from me. I remember bringing you posies of flowers, hanging them on your door, singing to you about my day. That seems like a much younger me. It was only months ago.
Papá and Uncle Xoel are beginning on your innards, pulling out each jewel, each little thing that made you alive. I don’t want to see it. Without meaning to, I reach and grab at your nose, your soft, gentle nose. Then I lean down and kiss it. Then the rain comes.
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