I was inspired to write this story after an exercise I did for my OU course. The prompt was to look at a photograph and then write about it. The picture I chose from the options is embedded in the text, and the story itself marks a departure for me from the usual kind of things I write. As it is the first one of a different type of story, I would appreciate your thoughts on it so I know if I am on the right lines. Many thanks.
My name is Madalina and I slaughtered a pig this morning.
I have slaughtered many pigs in my life, but there has never been a pig such as the one I dispatched today. You see, in my country, it is quite usual that people keep their own livestock – hens, goats, pigs, maybe even a cow if you are one of the lucky ones. My family have never been able to buy our own cow and we swap some eggs each day with Gheorghe on the next property who gives us a bottle of milk in return.
Gheorghe is as old as my Grandpa and I have known him all my life. He does not have many words, but he does not need them. His animals understand him when he grunts at them or swats their behinds when he wants them to move, and there has never been a Mrs Gheorghe, so what does he need words for? People who trade with Gheorghe understand what he needs from them in return for his rich, buttery yellow milk or the small white truckles of cheese he makes from the milk the goat gives. Too sour for drinking or using to make our morning porridge, it is the only way Gheorghe can use the surplus. He could give it to us to feed our pigs, but the cost is too high, according to Pa. Nobody has ever asked Pa what he means by “too high”. In fact, nobody asks Pa what he means by a lot of things.
Known for his meaty fists and powerful shoulders, Pa is always in demand when it is time for a barn to be raised, or if a calf or piglet gets stuck in the birth canal. Sadly, when he is in drink and the vodka fuels his strength, people avoid him as if he were carrying a terrible disease. Pa knows how to keep his house and his animals in order, and people only ask his advice when they have no other choice.
One day, Pavel asked Pa how to cure the problem of tail-blight in his hens. We have hens and tail-blight is not something we have ever had to deal with before. Pa’s answer was to drench the affected creatures in a bath of linseed oil and lye soap then wait for the rotted feathers to drop out. All ten of poor Pavel’s hens died and Pa roared with laughter at the news. “Well, it cured the blight didn’t it?!”.
Pavel disappeared soon after the incident with the hens and many said he had gone to another village to find a place with another farm. It was later in the summer that the truth was uncovered. The hot sunshine had dried up the local stream a little and in the now-shallow middle of the watercourse a bloated, half-eaten carcass dressed in Pavel’s clothes and weighed down with big stones in its pockets was revealed.
My mother, Natalya, disappeared soon after that.
She had been miserable for some time but the discovery of Pavel’s corpse affected in her in unseen ways. I last saw her in the run with our pigs, her shawl pulled close around her face to stifle her sobbing. I tried to speak to her – “Mama?” – but she turned her back to me, shoulders shaking and head slumped down.
That was three months ago.
I have changed in those three months. I no longer care how my dress looks or whether my hair is neatly rolled into my cap. I no longer take any interest in Luca, the boy I am supposed to marry. Why should I? I replaced my mother in many ways after she disappeared and it suited me, mostly. In all but one way in fact, and of that, we will never speak.
I slaughtered a pig this morning, and my name once again is Madalina.