The Magic Pig – Chris Morgan
July 23, 2021
The Magic Pig Remembers
I remember I used to grow birds’ wings and fly around for you. I would swirl from your bedroom floor to the ceiling where I would go around and around and squeal. I remember how much you liked it when I flew and squealed. It made you laugh.
Sometimes I would have no wings, but I could still defy gravity. I could walk up the walls, stand on the ceiling, tilt my head back and squeal some more and you would laugh more. The same end, with different means.
I didn’t do these things on my own. I did them because you told me to. You called on me when you were down. Like when you were having a tough time at school or when your parents were fighting or being unfair. I was the thing that made your sadness go away for a while. Your joy was my sole concern; bringing you joy brought me joy as well.
In the summer I would go on walks with you. You’d take me to the stream near your house and you’d watch me hop on the edge of the water and chase fish and tadpoles. In the winter you and I would roll balls of snow and make a snowman together. You would make up stories about him and give him a life, kind of like what you did with me, but then he would melt and you’d never mention him again.
Sometimes I wasn’t sure if you knew what you wanted. I remember you gave me the hind legs of a goat and the front claws of a scorpion. Then you gave me an extra set of eyes on my hams, and my tail kept hitting them. Then you would have me wear a monocle and top hot and trot on my hind legs with a cane. Another time you made my belly expand so much that it touched the floor and raised my hooves and I couldn’t move. I didn’t really understand it; but I squealed and you laughed. You laughed so much your face turned red and you choked. But that was all that mattered.
At night you would invite me to sleep, and I would do so. I could only sleep when you told me to sleep. I don’t know how much that comforted you when I did that.
No one asks if things made out of dreams could have dreams themselves. If someone did ask me, I would tell them “No.”
The Magic Pig Acquires a Skill
Sometimes you went to sleep without telling me, leaving me awake for the whole night. This became more frequent the more you grew.
I trusted your judgment and did not question how you used it. But I always wondered if you were aware of what happened to me during that time.
One night, around Christmas, you again went to sleep without telling me. But this time you left a wrapped flat square box on your desk chair, where I was within my powers to reach it. I knocked it onto the floor and looked at the label. “FROM: Tommy,” that’s you. “TO: My best friend Cyril.” Cyril was something new; but sure, that sounded alright. I loosened the blue ribbon and removed the wrapping paper, which I don’t think you tied or wrapped on your own, and lifted the top of the box. Inside was a quill and a bottle of ink.
I didn’t know what to say to this. You were asleep for one thing, but also I’d never held something like this before. I’d never held anything without your explicit direction. But when I picked up the quill on my own with my right hoof it set almost perfectly in my grip.
You forgot paper, so I practiced writing my apparent name on your wall. I can’t tell if you didn’t like it, didn’t notice, or didn’t care, but not long after, a notebook appeared beside the quill and ink. After mastering my name, more or less, I thought I’d write to you.
The Magic Pig Does Some Studying
The problem with this new skill was that I didn’t know what to write to you about. So as you continuously kept me awake, I used that time to educate myself. I figured that we spent so much time playing make-believe that some reality was worth looking into. Fortunately you had a set of encyclopedias in your basement.
Until dawn I would flip through the pages of each alphabetical volume, looking at each item and writing down things that caught my interest and things that might interest you. You never told me much about what you were learning in school, or what you liked and what you didn’t. And I felt a little ashamed that I’d never asked. So I thought we could start from scratch, and have our own things to talk about.
Things I found interesting: bumblebees, Etruscans, hydrogen bombs, kites, Mount Rushmore, Saint Peter, regression analysis. Things I thought you’d find interesting: amphibians, Grover Cleveland, cricket (the sport), psychoanalysis, Mary Shelly, totalitarianism.
I also made a point to look up pigs. I always wondered why you thought a pig should be your friend out of all the animals in the world.
I regretted looking that up. I shouldn’t judge pigs very harshly. Unlike me, they don’t serve someone else’s fancy. They’re just there. People use them or they don’t. But if I’m being honest, I found them dumb-seeming and filthy. Pinkish creatures lumbering around in mud and whatever else slops up in it. I saw a picture of a sow (a female pig) and felt nothing toward her. I decided then and there that your reasons for my form will always be a mystery to me.
The Magic Pig Remembers Something Else
I know you know what sows are. Because I remembered also when you gave me breasts. Large ones, too. And when you squeezed them, they emitted strawberry milkshake sometimes and just chocolate syrup other times.
I didn’t hate this per se, but in this one instance I wish you’d have asked me to do this beforehand. So I’d be, you know, ready for it.
The Magic Pig Doesn’t Collaborate
There were other animals, of course. But I don’t think they were as effective as I was. I know I’m sounding very biased here, but just as an example: David the Duck. Remember that thing? I do. I remember how you foisted him on me out of nowhere, like we would just get along.
I got the impression that I instantly knew how to handle David, who didn’t seem to do anything but quack and hop in place. I remember how you’d make it glow, which was nice, I guess, all those colors. Always one at a time, though, never many at once. David was mean, though. He would shock me at random. I never told you that until now.
Also: David the Duck? Were you being serious? That didn’t sound a little too familiar and hackneyed? As much as I wished only to see you happy, this was a misstep on your part that I determined would hinder your happiness in the long run. So I took it upon myself to deal with David the Duck.
I remember you asking me, “Where did David go?” And me saying, “We came to an understanding.” Nothing more was spoken of it. I think this was a high point of our relationship.
I guess I have one thing in common with real pigs: being an omnivore.
It’s weird how I remember that duck’s name and not my own.
The Magic Pig Takes a Hint
Pretty soon it got to the point where you weren’t having me do anything. You had grown much more by that point, and your character and interests had changed in accordance. Toys were out; posters of cars or musicians or women were in.
Real people who were not capable of magic were more central to you. You weren’t much interested in magic when you were by yourself, either. Not any magic I could provide, anyway.
But I was still here. And because I hadn’t gone away, I waited thinking you’d give me something to do like old times.
I take partial responsibility for what transpired on that day. I was desperate. I forced you to acknowledge me. “I’ll do anything,” I said. “I’ll fly. It feels like there’s less space in here, but I’ll fly.” This was as much for me as it was meant for you. Maybe you noticed as much and that’s why you agreed. But you had to mean it. That is the clinch. You can’t conjure magic if you don’t mean it.
I sprouted wings as you commanded: ugly, mangled-looking, asymmetrical. I spiraled upwards, barely in control. I was flailing in midair, struggling to get in the circle pattern. Instead I just hit a wall and fell to the floor.
I was squealing a different squeal. You were laughing a different laugh.
The Magic Pig Wishes a Gnome Ill
I took my quill, ink, paper, and monocle and I left. I didn’t think I even had the power to strike out on my own but I suspect you granted it to me as a final gesture.
I remember you were not looking out the window as I stood on your front lawn, unsure of where to go.
I started moving when I saw that gnome on the house across the street. I remember a kid slightly older than you lived there who was not kind to you. Like that time when you were riding your bike in the street. You’d just learned to ride without training wheels. You looked so proud just riding around and around in between your houses. He probably didn’t like that. He stood in your way, grabbed the handles of your bike, and knocked you over. I spent much of that afternoon and evening doing backflips in a sailor hat and little galoshes until you felt better.
I had always associated that gnome with that kid. It just stood there smiling benignly at me in its pointy hat, but out of loyalty to you I projected all of this toxicity onto it. In another time he would have been my direct nemesis and I could have done something about him to make both of us feel better. But I couldn’t anymore. Instead I just tried to imagine it wailing in terror in a dryer.
As I made my way up the street and away from your house for good, I wondered if that’s what it was like to dream.
The Magic Pig Looks for a Friend
I walked I don’t know how far in I’m not sure what direction. But being magic-based, I could go most places few other creatures could go without detection, and I could never tire.
After some distance the idea of not being needed by you was easier to accept. But finding someone else who might need me was going to be harder. Whoever heard of a freelance magical friend? Could it be possible that someone, somewhere needed the same kind of magic you needed as a kid? I had to try. What else was I going to do?
I walked all over where there were neighborhoods just like yours. Luckily for me there were plenty wherever I ended up. There were bound to be children there who were in need of just a bit of magic. It was a matter of being seen. If I could be seen then I guess I found my new friend.
I walked around where kids might be: schools, parks, front yards. Nothing; I was like a ghost. It was only when I wasn’t explicitly looking for someone to see me that I was finally seen.
One afternoon I had wandered into a backyard where a girl was swinging by herself. It was a loneliness I recognized in you long ago. I was halfway into her yard when I noticed that she noticed me and stopped swinging. She approached me cautiously. She was curious in that innocent way, nervous and naïve, the kind that puts off children and adults alike.
I wanted to prove my worth to her. I was trying to show my magic by my own command. I stood on my hind legs and put on my monocle and walked a few steps forward. I tried to bow but I fell back on all fours. She froze, looking right at me with a stunned expression. I felt the changes in me not unlike when I was under your direction. Only her expression grew more and more frantic. She squealed as loudly as I do, darted several paces back then shot into her home. When she shut the sliding-glass door behind her I saw the reflection of what she’d made of me.
I was black as soot, with a spiky mane from my head to my back. The mane on my head was thicker and longer, its spikes twitching as if they were independently alive. From my mouth were two long yellow tusks, and my eyes were a deep red that flickered like lightbulbs about to burst. I stared transfixed at this mutation until the white dress of the girl’s mother obscured it as she looked outside for something that she knew wasn’t there.
The Magic Pig Gets a Tattoo
I gave up trying to be seen for a while and decided to focus on controlling my own abilities, seeing as how that might have to come sooner than having to rely on anyone else. I wanted to do two things: I wanted to defend against the imagination of the highly sensitive and undisciplined; I also wanted to mark my independence. I decided to do this by branding myself.
After hours of honing my concentration to one spot on my hams, a mark very, very slowly burned its way onto me. When it was complete—that is, when the burning had begun to fade—I saw it was a clock without hands.
I couldn’t tell you what it meant; I didn’t even have a meaning to withhold. There would be a time for something. Maybe when I knew when and for what, I would elaborate on my tattoo.
For that moment: a new era with new magic.
The Magic Pig Rides in a Sidecar
I learned how to fly on my own.
I’m not sure if that’s something you’d want to hear or the last thing you’d want to hear, but I did it; it’s done. I can’t remember just how I did it. Wishing, I guess. I wished for days that I could grow wings far wider than those you gave me. Wings that would allow me to do more than just holding patterns in your room.
Then it happened. Something like eagles’ or hawks’ wings grew out of me. They took me so far that I started to run out of neighborhoods. Then I ran out of buildings. I was soaring over stretches of road and dirt. I’d never seen anything like it. Not in person, not outside your encyclopedias, which did not prepare me for the expanse that seemed to just go on and on and on.
But that’s not important. What’s important that in all of this, I actually found someone who saw me.
I was in a diner, sitting at a booth. People, servers and customers, passed me by totally oblivious, sometimes they sat where I was sitting. I sat there all day, writing you these notes. I felt like I was going to be there forever.
Then a grizzled-looking man in a leather jacket and a red bandana around his head stopped and stared dead at me from his stool at the counter. He calmly took the seat across from me as if not to disturb anyone or attract notice. He stared at me, assessing his apparent hallucination, then leaned in.
“You look like you’re looking for someone,” he said in a slow drawl. “I look like I found someone.”
He paid his bill and led me to his motorcycle, which had a sidecar. He strapped on a helmet and goggles for me and we took off on the road, riding all night.
When dawn came up, he stopped on the side of the road and we stood in a desert field as the sun came up. He was silent, staring out at the horizon with his sunglasses on, and every whisker casting a tiny shadow on his creased, sandy face. Without turning to me he spoke again.
“You ever think there’s such a thing as being too clean?” he asked.
“I haven’t,” I meekly replied.
“I think the whole world is just a bit too clean. Maybe that doesn’t mean anything to you. It doesn’t mean anything to a lot of people, I’ve found. But I’d like it if we’d get just a bit messier. That’s what I wanna do. I wanna make messes. I wanna show them how messy they can get.”
“Alla them. I don’t know. Momma, my brother, my brother’s girlfriend, the foreman, my landlord, my landlord before that. Alla them.”
“Never thought about it much. Just like it better than what we have. Alla this … alla this cleanness.”
“I’d like to help.”
He looked at me with surprise. “You would?”
“It’s what I do. I help people.”
A sincere smile curved slightly, shyly on his face. He led the way back to the motorcycle.
“Well c’mon,” he waved to me, “we got some work to do.”
I trotted spritely after into the sidecar and we were off.
“I’m Earl, by the way,” he said sometime later. “Who’re you?”
The Magic Pig Collaborates
Riding in Earl’s sidecar took me far beyond where I thought possible for me to go. I didn’t want to compare different parts of my life and find one lesser than the others, but it became unavoidable for me to see my time under your direction as being rather small. Not just in space but in my abilities, too.
I grew a horn. It protruded up from my snout in a perfect inward curve of polished silver to a very fine, very sharp point. This was done at Earl’s direction, but he made it feel as though it was as much my making as it was his.
We’d go along the highway for an extended period, sometimes for days at a time; he never told me to sleep and he never slept either. Earl had this easy rambling way about him, as if he was a man without a map or a plan. But when we stopped for gas once, he showed me a brand of his own on his shoulder.
“Done it m’self,” he said with a prideful grin. It was a compass with the needle pointing due west. “That’s all I need. The rest is taken care of.”
Earl, when things got down to it, was determined beyond the limits of most other people. He didn’t need protection or to be soothed. He had business on his mind that he needed me to help bring it out.
We made a lot of messes together. Just when I thought we’d reached the last stretch of the last road, he’d find a turnoff that would take us to a town or a diner or a campsite. He’d stop the bike, take that wrinkled red bandana from his jacket, and tie it around his head. That was the signal. My horn appeared and as he got off his seat to help me out. “Let’s get to it,” he’d grumble. Then we’d set to relieving the world of the cleanliness he so little enjoyed. It was almost like old times: I’d squeal, he’d laugh.
After we finished, we’d build a fire out somewhere on the vast plain, and I’d get to telling him about my past. I’m sure he saw me writing these notes from time to time, so I’d recount their contents. He always seemed endeared by the scope of my magic and the joy it could bring with the right person. He asked me to demonstrate my flight, so I sprouted birds’ wings and flew a few revolutions above the fire. Looking down, Earl’s eyes gleamed with borrowed innocence.
Though I didn’t say as much, Earl could tell I regretted how things transpired between us.
“You never did get closure did you,” he said. “Maybe it’s high time you went back and got some.”
“Is that … like making a mess?” I asked.
“It’s a relative of the kind. I’ve been known to get at it here n’ there.”
“I hardly remember where he is.”
“You leave that to me,” he said gesturing to his compass, the needle of which was now pointing due east.
“I think we thoroughly messed up this part of the country anyway.”
The Magic Pig Sends a Postcard
Greetings from the road! The clock hands have burned into place. I’ll be seeing you again shortly.
—Your childhood magic pig (whose name is now “Hank”)