When meeting my Truffle Pig, even a know nothing is able to tell that he is plagued by an acute sensitivity to the many anxieties of existence. He is often sent into somber moods by a sad story, and it is a rare day that his brow is not furrowed by as early as twelve noon. This melancholy and vulnerability to the suffering of others, of course, is part of what those who are familiar with him find charming, but, regardless, it is troubling to see how much he aches from the realities of the everyday.
In the last few weeks, my Truffle Pig has taken to moping aimlessly around his apartment. His roommate and close friend, the Meat Dog, noticed this, and expressed his concern.
“If you need an ear, I am willing to lend you one,” said the Meat Dog, calling from the kitchen to the sitting room, where my Truffle Pig was lounging.
“I didn’t mean to concern you with my moping,” replied my Truffle Pig, dolefully, “but Oktoberfest is approaching, and it is a celebration which holds many sad associations for me.”
“I’ll be working here for a while,” called the Meat Dog, as he stirred the bubbling contents of his vat of meat slop, over which he had been laboring for hours. “I’ve got time for the story, if you’re willing to tell it.”
“Yes, I would appreciate the emotional release of sharing my reason for sadness,” said the Truffle Pig. “Thank you.”
When my Truffle Pig was a child, he lived on a farm in the country, far from the city where he now worked a part-time job at a law firm, but equally far from the woods were he now practiced sniffing out truffles. He lived with his mother and his siblings in a pen owned by a kindly soy bean farmer. Here they lived in relative tranquility, the farmer providing them with their basic needs and they providing him with the warmth and affection that any good farmer may enjoy from a pet well-tended.
“Eat your slop,” my Truffle Pig’s mother would say to her brood, “for the kindly soy bean farmer has culled it from his own waste, and it is a great gift indeed to be cared for with such grace and mindfulness.”
For many summers, they enjoyed life in the blithe, stupid way that pigs do when they don’t have to worry about sniffing out truffles or making rent with a part-time job at a law firm or getting gigs for their band. Then, one summer, something happened. Something bad.
That summer, the kindly soy bean farmer’s homeland suffered a drought the likes of which had not been seen in his lifetime. Soy beans need rain to give them water to grow, and soy bean farmers need soy beans to make money, and money to buy brine. The brine, of course, is used to make pickles which soy bean farmers can eat, consuming enough to sustain themselves and saving the excess in order to make slop to feed their happy, happy pigs.
But with no rain, there were no soy beans to sell, and with no soy beans to sell, there was no money to buy brine, and without brine, the kindly soy bean farmer’s vaults full of cucumbers went unpickled, and his hunger unfulfilled. Night after night, the very hungry and kindly soy bean farmer huddled over his ledger, trying to figure out how, despite his poor harvest, he could survive. No matter how he fiddled with the numbers, he couldn’t deny that this was a tight spot.
Familiar with the relationship between rain and soy beans, one of the kindly soy bean farmer’s friends suggested an alternative source of brine cash. Oktoberfest was approaching, he said, and the celebration would create an incredible demand for juicy pig meat to pump into beer-paired sausages.
“You’ve got several fat piggies on hand,” his friend said. “Why not grind up one or two of them and take a tasty slice of that Oktoberfest cheese straight to the bank?”
The kindly soy bean farmer spent many nights tossing and turning, thinking over the dilemma. He loved his piggies, but he also loved satiation; he also knew that, the longer he was without brine, the more likely rot would set in, turning to mush the thousands he had invested in raw cukes. Tear stains smearing the red ink of his ledger, he went out to the pen to tell my Truffle Pig’s mother the bad news: she would have to be ground into sausage, and soon — Oktoberfest was approaching.
Her brood cried and cried, but she hushed them all up.
“My sweet babies,” she said, soothingly, “don’t fret for your dear old mama. I will soon be tied up and thrown into a dark truck which will take me to a slaughterhouse far away. There, I will be shepherded into a crowded mass of destitute creatures and forced into a small, hot chamber. One by one, I will watch my cohort be taken away, and soon enough it will be my turn. I will be shoved down a dark shoot, my fall disorienting me to my surroundings, and suddenly from out of the darkness a million sharp knives will materialize which will cut me and peel me and slice me and dice me, until I am so much pig meal, fit to slide into an edible tube made from my own intestines and be sold for a single dollar bill at a fair thrown for no other reason but drunken revelry. It is a terrible end, but I will endure it happily, knowing that it will provide for our friend, the kindly soy bean farmer, and for you, my beloved brood. But rest easy: though my body may be ground down into a paste to harvest my sweet, salty meat, my soul shall forever live in heaven with the Lord our God.”
Then, she took my Truffle Pig aside. “You are the oldest of the brood, and thusly, I trust you to help care for our family after my mutilation. Also, as a sign of my affection for you, I have a final gift.”
At this point in the story, sitting on the couch in his apartment, my Truffle Pig pulled a small brass locket out of his hiding place and presented it to his close friend, the Meat Dog.
“She gave me this. Then she was taken to the slaughterhouse. I did as she asked, and watched out for the brood, and although I knew he was only doing what was necessary, I admit that my relationship with the kindly soy bean farmer was never the same again.
“When it finally came time for me to leave the pen to go to college, I was relieved. At last, I could try and forget my mother’s sorrow, and attempt to move forward. I fell in with a crowd of interesting, intelligent students who read books I’d never heard of, watched films I didn’t realized could be burned to a disc, and consumed drugs that altered their perceptions in ways I’d never experienced. They were exactly the kind of group I was looking for to spur me on to a new life.
“Then, one day, my friends and I began discussing God, and the afterlife. It became clear that they all had largely atheistic views. They argued marvelously for their particular ideas about the way life ended at death. When it came time for me to explain my own faith in God, I realized I couldn’t justify it in the way they could. Consumed with emotion, I fled from the room. After that, I cut ties with those friends. I never spoke to them again.”
“You cut ties with them?” repeated the Meat Dog as he nursed a spot where a bit of the scalding hot, bubbling meat slop had splashed on his face. “That seems a little extreme.”
“But don’t you understand? I couldn’t debate my friends on the merit of my faith, because I had no proof, no evidence, for what I believed. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, they had planted a seed in my heart. As it grew and bloomed, I slowly realized and came to terms with the fact that, deep down, I didn’t have any real faith in the existence of God.
“And without a God, what happened to my mother after she was cut up into a tiny million pieces in preparation of that Oktoberfest, so long ago? If she didn’t have an eternal soul, then the beer sausage was her true end. That’s why, so many summers afterward, I still feel blue when the leaves change. I can’t say for sure if her faith in her own salvation by God was justified or not, but my own lack of faith makes it clear, perfectly clear, that when I die, whether there is an afterlife or not, I won’t ever see my poor mother again.”
The Meat Dog stepped out from the kitchen after these words, and stood in silence for a moment before saying, “Yes. I can understand that must be a very painful dilemma.”
But my Truffle Pig knew that the Meat Dog did not understand. He was totally consumed by the tedium of which his life was composed. Day in and day out, he thought only of stirring his meat slop, making it nice and warm so that it could be poured out into tiny cups and served to all his friends who slurped it down to enjoy its sloppy deliciousness. Matters of the soul concerned him very little. His mind was situated firmly in the purely physical world of viscous meat cuisine.
“If you don’t mind my asking,” the Meat Dog said, as he turned off the stove and lifted his vat of meat slop toward the counter, “what is contained in your mother’s locket?”
“Inside, there is a picture of her,” my Truffle Pig replied, matter-of-factly, fiddling with his mother’s brass locket in his hand, “and on the outside, it is inscribed with the verse, ‘2 Peter 2:22.’”
Intrigued, the Meat Dog leaned over to get a better look at the ornament. As he did this, he lost both his balance and control over the heavy, piping hot vat filled with yummy meat goo, which went flying into the air, splattering meat slop all over the kitchen and sitting room, gooping up on the walls and staining the carpet.
“Drat!” said the Meat Dog. “I can’t believe I did it again! Well, better get to cleaning up.”
Forgetting God and his mother and his everlasting soul, if only for a minute, my Truffle Pig reached for a sponge.