To Supersede, To Sit Upon
Benjamin L. Hobson | Cait Maloney
A large pig pinned between locked knees, straddled, is given an injection in the neck. Alastair’s arms are straining as he inserts the needle. He didn’t think it would be so big. The pig’s head moves violently, squealing. He’s afraid that he’ll stick its eyes. No telling how the pig would react. Liable to buck him off completely, and gore his innards while he’s down. Sharp teeth, he remembers, as the plunger is pressed. Little blighters.
He’s afraid the owner will hear the squeals. There’s a house in the distance, with lights still on. As he draws the needle out, he watches the house, the windows, the porch.
The pig’s movements slow, then its breathing. Then its legs buckle. Alastair talks to it as it goes. “There, there,’ he says rhythmically. Like a drumbeat. Like an idling car.
As the pig dies he strokes its bristly hair, kneeling beside it in the mud. He locks eyes with it. Poor thing. It doesn’t understand what is happening to it. The squealing is softer. More terrified. Poor thing. Maybe it does understand.
Its breathing slows further. With every breath now there’s a heavy shudder. Alastair rests a hand on its chest. A deep, heavy quaking. As though its fibres are being torn apart. The integrity of the chest cavity slowly collapsing.
Soon, the shuddering stops. Its eyes are still open, staring. Cool, black. The torch light illuminates the pig as white, as spectre, as dead. Black, small bristles, and white, pasty skin.
Alastair quietly crawls over the fence, and walks away, back to his car. He brushes his pants as he walks, and feels a deep sense of relief.
At school the next day he visits the counsellor’s office to discuss his brother’s accidental death. Alice is on the phone as he enters and smiles too cheerfully and waves toward his chair, telling him to sit, be welcome. She is prompt in finishing her call. Then she says, ‘How are you Alastair?’
She’s always called him that. Alastair, not Al. He’s never corrected her.
‘You look tired.’
He makes no mention of his pig murder. Instead he says, ‘Studying. You know.’
‘Don’t give me that.’
‘You were up watching TV. Or on the computer. Right?’
‘Are you still struggling to sleep?’
He looks down.
‘So what’s on your mind nowadays? What’s the thing you think about the most?’
It’s a normal opening question.
‘Are you still thinking about Jay?’
Of course I bloody am, he wants to say.
‘No. I fixed that.’
He looks to the window, to the poster about bullying, at the fly circling her monitor.
‘I don’t know.’
‘You’re not still blaming yourself?’
Of course I bloody do.
‘I think you’re lying to me.’
‘I’m telling you Miss…’
‘I’m telling you I don’t. Really. I fixed it.’
‘You’re not still angry, then?’
She looks thoughtful, a pen in the corner of her mouth.
‘You do look calmer.’
‘So you’re sleeping?’
‘And you’re tired because you were studying?’
‘I was talking to Jess.’
They finish their conversation pleasantly. He finds Jess at recess, and holds her hand as they sit together. At home, that night, with his Mother glaring at him across the kitchen table, he smiles. In bed, he sleeps peacefully, the sound of the dying pig’s final breath alive in his mind, silencing the sound of his brother’s laughter, and the accidental cannon of the shotgun.