by Morgan Blair
Runestone, volume 3
by Morgan Blair
I am standing in the middle of the road. Well, sitting now. Just off to the side because I heard the golf cart’s motor and have a feeling they are coming to get me. It is not a road with any worry of someone passing by. Gravel. Dusty. Dirt road. With just the sound of the crickets and the muffled smell of pig shit filling my nostrils. That’s why I am out here walking in no particular direction in my little blue bikini dotted with yellow daisies sipping on a Diet Coke while my pale skin slowly burns under the humid July sun. I ran away from the smell. The goddamn repulsive smell of thousands of pigs rolling in their own shit. Excuse me, feces. My Uncle Dave owns this farm, seated somewhere out in the middle of Kentucky. He is my ex-uncle now. My aunt got divorced after coming to find out Dave was actually a pathological liar and therefore not a single word out of his big mouth had been true.
Didn’t surprise me, if I were being honest. My aunt and Dave had three kids together and each one is terrifying enough in their own way, but get them together and it is bad news for anyone with a skinny ass. With kids like that it makes sense that their parents would have issues. They are big, all three of them, Chelsea, Chrissy, and Jack. And, they are loud and strong and if you say one thing to piss them off then you better bet they are going to come for you. Rumbling. That is what they call it. As if calling it that somehow made beating on their cousins a game instead of some sick power trip.
This afternoon I politely declined a burger and instead reached for this Diet Coke, which is now warm and kind of gross, and as I did so I could tell from the look in their eyes that I was a dead man.
“You calling us fat?” Chelsea, the oldest and leader of the pack, demanded.
I shook my head, which was a lie because, in truth, they were fat and my declining of a burger was some passive aggressive remark toward the amount of calories they were shoving in their faces. But I had learned to lie. It was better that way. You know what else was better? The day I stopped responding verbally. Past experiences proved that using words was a bad, bad idea.
“Just because we eat chips and burgers while you suck silently on grapes and fake sugar doesn’t make you any better than us. Blairs (that’s my last name)—always thinking they are better. High and mighty and rich as hell.”
I slowly opened my Diet Coke and took a long drawn out sip.
“Say something,” Chrissy, the middle one, yelled.
I didn’t, but I did blink and that did it. That was the start of the rumble, which resulted with me in the pool and my cousins laughing somewhere on the patio. I could have thanked them, but I think that would have only made matters worse. The reality though was that being in the freezing above-ground pool with Andy and Em and Jordan and the rest of the little cousins was precisely where I wanted to be. Not with my drunk Uncle Dave who just got in a first fight with my ex-uncle Dave or with the big cousins shoving gallons of ice cream in their faces or my aunts gossiping about everyone’s ex’s. No, the pool was perfect by my standards.
When my mom first told me we were going to Dave’s pig farm, I laughed.
“Why on earth would we go to a farm where 5,000 pigs are bred for slaughter?”
My mom didn’t like that too much and told me I was being disrespectful.
I retorted with, “Didn’t Dave like cheat a million times, abuse Chelsea, Chrissy, and Jack, and steal all of Aunt Beth’s money? Why should I care about respecting him?”
All of what I said was true, and yet here I was standing in a barn the length of a football field, packed with rows and rows of pens full of screaming pigs. Dave said that once the filthy creatures got so big that they couldn’t run around in their pens anymore, that was when they would ship them away. Straight from the pen to the truck and that was the only time the pigs would ever see the light of day.
Nonsense. Insanity. That is what this all was. The pigs and the farm and this reunion. Why visit a relative who isn’t even a relative anymore? Don’t tell Aunt Beth, my mom had instructed, she would kill us all. Then why go? Why were we all so willing to come into a pathological liar’s slaughterhouse? I’m only eleven, and even I am aware of the insanity of this ridiculous reunion of ridiculous relatives. I hadn’t wanted to come and yet I had to come because I was eleven and when you are eleven it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t want to do. So, here I am watching as my sanity slowly unravels into the hands of Dave and Chelsea and Chrissy and Jack and every other sweaty, redneck relative to the orchestrated melody of these squealing pigs.
“Are the pigs spotted?” my younger cousin Andy had asked.
“Nah, that’s just the feces,” Dave said.
I looked out at the speckled pigs and the blanket of black shit covering the floor and vomited. I tried to run out, but nope. Right there. In the barn. Everywhere. Projectile vomit. Diet Coke and grapes and whatever the hell else. Puke. Chunky. Nastiness. All over the goddamn barn.
When my body was empty and done, I wiped my mouth and looked up in shame at the crowd of disgusted faces. My dad yelled at me for my disrespectful behavior and forced me to apologize to Dave. I did, but that was another lie. Because really I thought that my vomit wasn’t half as vile as the shit already carpeting the ground and the pigs. And, if anything, the vomit was complementary and appropriate.
My dad, after my weak and forced apology, told me to get out and I told him I would be happy to. So, I left behind my vomit and my cousins chasing, holding, and playing with the shit-wearing pigs and headed toward this gravel road to wander with no clothes, no phone, and no intention of returning to the reunion at the farm.
Art Institute of Chicago
Morgan Blair is currently a senior studying writing, film, and art therapy. She is from a family of accountants, doctors, and business professionals based in St. Louis. She sets herself apart from her family by finding her identity through expression and wishes to offer the same ability to others through a career in art therapy.