A short story about letting go.
“Give her back to me,” I said, breathless after running all the way from the house when I saw daddy out in the barn, loading hogs into the trailer. My eyes filled with tears that I refused to shed. “I’m not going to let you take her away just to butcher her. She deserves better than that. She’s smart.”
“Honey, you know we can’t do that,” my father said. I knew that my crying was getting to him. It had been an ongoing argument for a week and one I knew I’d eventually lose. “They all have to go. We’re done with farming, and we have to be done all the way.”
He released his grip of MaeBelle’s collar, the one I had lovingly bought from my allowance so daddy would know that she wasn’t just any pig. She was my pig. He walked up to me and held me in his warm embrace, my tears flowing now as I sniffled against his bib overalls. He gently rocked me in his arms and stroked my back.
“It’ll be okay, baby. You know we have to let MaeBelle go with the others, don’t you?”
I barely nodded my head at all, but I did know. We were going to have to leave the farm behind and move to Chicago where daddy had a new job, but a big part of me … no, a huge part … didn’t want to leave the freedom of the farm behind. It was a life I loved. When I came home from school, I knew exactly what to do. I would rush to the fridge, get a glass of milk and scrounge for a snack in the kitchen, throw my book bag onto my bed and change clothes into my chore clothes. I’d put on my boots and do my chores: shoveling manure from the chicken coop, collecting eggs, washing them in the downstairs sink and carefully placing them on top of the pile in the big fridge downstairs. My next job was to muck out the farrowing house where MaeBelle lived. When I was done, before going in the house to do my homework and practice my piano lesson, I would often take some time to teach MaeBelle to count. Well, not so much count anymore. We’d worked our way up to adding now.
You may not believe it, but MaeBelle can do math. She can add and subtract, and I bet you anything, if I had more time and the patience to sit there with her, we’d probably shock you to death someday to teach her to multiply. She has it in her. She’s a very smart pig. Bet you didn’t know pigs were that smart, did you? You probably think they’re nothing but delicious.
But I knew that carefree life of throwing tennis balls against the garage wall was over. The days of coming home and building a snow fort in the backyard or digging up arrowheads where the old duck shed used to sit were coming to an end. I’d have to figure out how to live in a city and get along with all those people everywhere and keep myself from being bored to death with whatever it was that city kids did all day.
Daddy stroked at my hair and patted my head. “SuzieQ, you’re going to have to say good-bye now. Lester is going to be here any minute to take the last haul of hogs off. Do you want me to stay with you? Or would you rather be alone?” He placed his hand under my chin and lifted my face up to his. My cheeks were wet from the tears I’d shed, and my eyelashes were in the way of being able to see daddy clearly.
“Alone. I can do it alone, I think.”
Daddy leaned down and kissed my forehead. “Okay, baby. You say goodbye then come in the house and get washed up for supper,” he said, walking away from me, his hands in the pockets of his striped overalls. He loved those striped overalls. I wondered, just for a second, if daddy would miss farm life too. Would he ever wear striped overalls again in the city? Folks would probably think he was a hick if he did that, but he looked just fine in them on the farm. After all, you don’t want to wear anything you care about out on the farm.
I walked over to MaeBelle’s stall and sat in my usual spot, in front of her pen, and she came up to the fence and snorted. I reached my hand in and gently rubbed her snout. She’s such a good pig and so smart and gentle. I think she knows how sad I am. I’m sure she can tell.
“Oh, MaeBelle. What am I going to do without you? You’re my best friend in the world, well, outside of Lily. She’s nice, but she gets jealous of stuff sometimes, and you never do.” Maybe this was just part of growing up, part of life, I suppose … learning to let things go, whether you want to or not.