Meanwhile, Back at the Pig Ranch
Frank tuned into the minute details of his beloved home—the Cloning Farm. This morning at daybreak, he heard all 115 cows mooing. The cows wanted to alert the farmers to the collective empty state of each cow’s quad-stomach. Yes, the volume was set at exactly 1154 stomach decibels (sd) by cow standards.
The other animals tried their best to compete, even though they were outnumbered. With differing pitches, they harmonized. The rooster, singing with the highest note, crooned as the lead soprano. The pigs’ snoring added the percussion, and Old Red, the favorite dog—the one they let in the house—barked to the beat. The sound was symphonious, and Frank concentrated on burning the cantata into his memory, refusing to forget the farm’s spiritual awakening at dawn.
He read the sign above his pen: Surrogate Frank #28064105A, cloned, human brain. Even though 2 microchips with the same ID had been implanted under his skin—microchips identifying him as property of Chetley Takes—escape might be possible before the officers came to take him away, but it would be short-lived.
Frank’s memory jarred, and he recalled watching the interview on OneNews with Katharine Moore from the Cloning Institute. Much of
dribble angered him, but one statement in the documentary caused his hackles to
raise above all the others. Moore
She said, “The brain in question belongs to Chetley Takes because he commissioned me to create it. A surrogate, like FrankenPig, is like a storage unit. The storage unit doesn’t own its contents, and Frank doesn’t own the brain he has kept for Takes.” I may be transgenic, Frank thought, but the people at the Cloning Institute are missing segments of DNA if they equate a living being with a storage unit.
A buzz filled his head. Last night along with his siblings and friends, he drank a bit of homemade corn brew to help say “so long.” It was the first time Mr. Benjamin, his caretaker, known as MB to friends, had given him any alcohol. MB said they all needed it and deserved it. The feeling in Frank’s head this morning told him differently. Human vices are not expedient for intelligent pigs.
Frank relished every detail of his home. The hay smelled fresh, as always, since only the most meticulous farmers worked at the cloning farms. Through the air vents the sugary sweetness of the corn blew in along with the cool morning breeze. The fragrance of a sugary, woody scent added to the breeze indicating that someone on the farm had felled a sap tree. The chug-a-chug of the wood chipper in the distance told Frank a woodsman proceeded to chip the wood. Frank could taste these scents; combined they tasted like honey poured over thick, hot wheat bread from the oven, bread like the farmer’s wives made and sometimes added to his pig pellets.
Although the morning breeze felt chilly, Frank was not cold, since the concrete floor was warmed with radiant heat to a comfortable temperature. Through the open barn door, the orangish eastern sun rose beyond a hazy fog. MB carried Frank’s breakfast of pellets in one hand, and a suitcase in the other.
“Morning, Frank, I think I packed everything for you.” MB said with a sadness reserved for such days, “You’d best eat and take your bath.”
Frank measured the whiff of alcohol emanating from his friend, and calculated his ally had just started drinking. Frank walked over to the thermostat on the wall to set the water heater temperature for his tub in the corner of his pen. While there, he poked his nose through the rails to greet Miss Lou, his girlfriend. She nudged him in return, showing only delight in the encounter. Lacking the ability to understand human developments, she only understood it was morning—time to eat and to bathe. She felt none of his sorrow.
Pigs, in general, love baths, and Frank often considered grooming the best part of the day. Anticipating the sun’s rays would soon beam through his window, Frank hoped he and Miss Lou could snuggle and dry together on the fresh hay one more time. Dread chased away the buzzing in his head with the realization this might be the last time he’d stretch out in a warm puddle of light with his love.
While Frank waited for warm water for his bath, he began to eat. Between bites, he murmured “I am happy as a pig, and I wish to die a happy pig, but not anytime soon.” He eyed Miss Lou gobbling her feed. How he loved her, and the thought of separation from him took all joy from the best part of his day. MB scratched behind Frank’s ears while watching his friend eat, and MB bowed his head with his eyes closed, as if praying. Frank pretended to ignore the warm tear that made its way through the hairs on his back and settled on his skin, but yet he felt every bit of its lovable regret.
Frank checked the temperature of the water with the tip of his snout and stepped down into the bath while MB cleaned the stall. Another farmer attended to Miss Lou accordingly.
After MB returned with fresh straw, he knelt by the tub to apply the soap and worked the brush around the Duroc’s svelte body. MB preferred the muscular, nimble Duroc to the fat, flabby pink Hampshire breed, like Miss Lou.
MB worked soap into Frank’s thick, brownish-red hair.
Wanting to break the silence, the only thing Frank could only think to state the obvious. With a quavering voice, he said, “Tomorrow in court I fight for my right to keep my brain, not to keep a cloned brain, or a human brain, my brain.” He spoke with a broken voice, “Thanks for all the baths together, man.” Sobs halted the next thought, but then he said, “Like I said before, you must be a Roman descendant.”
MB chuckled despite his wet eyes. “Toga, toga,” he choked out an old joke they’d shared in happier times. “Sorry, Frank, my emotions are muddled in my mind. Words lurk dangerously—like poisonous mustard plants amidst the tall spring lettuce. There’s just no way to digest the meaning of today’s events. Perhaps we should consider this: If you don’t win in court, you will be one fine human.”
Frank winced and said, “Please don’t mollify me. Even if I survive—if my brain survives the experimental transfer—I don’t care to be that greedy hog.”
MB applied a warm rinse in slow, circular movements “I know. I just want you to understand there is no way to share understanding when I can’t begin to understand. Understand?”
“Yes, I do,” Frank said
The whine of the blow dryer, the whoosh whoosh sound of the back-and-forth motion, and the hot air vibrating coarse hair all worked together to quench the conversation. MB dressed Frank in a suit for the drive to the city. No time to dry in the sun today. They took that one last pleasure from him.
As MB straightened the tie around Frank’s neck, Frank’s pig ears heard the vibrations of manly footfalls which sent shock waves from the dirt path up his hooves and through his pig body. His human brain fully comprehended the seriousness embroiled in tomorrow’s deliberations, and he knew who had arrived.
One of the police officers mockingly called, “Here pig, pig, pig.”
“Soooey, Frank screamed through wet eyes. “Soooey, right back at you.”
MB chuckled and wiped tears. He opened the gate connecting Frank’s pen and Miss Lou’s pen to let her in for a visit one last time. The young sow trotted to Frank and nuzzled him from his nose and all along his side, and then she playfully poked him in the ribs. Then she stepped back and seemed to consider the suit. She stared. Since she had proved herself to be, other than himself, the most intelligent pig on the farm, Frank wondered if she understood on some level.
His heart felt a swift stab, a new kind of heartbreak. He recalled the deep and intense pain when they took his mother away to remove her heart for her commissioner, who happened to be Chetley Takes’ uncle. In Frank’s thirteen years of life, he lost other friends for like-wise purposes. This time, this intensely, horrific pain magnified itself, not because he was scheduled to die, but because he alone couldn’t bear the grief. He knew Miss Lou would miss him dearly. He hurt for her.
The other pigs who had been led away to die didn’t know what to expect. Frank understood. As he prepared to go to the city, a surgeon sharpened his blade to dissect Frank. Takes’ surgical team reviewed current information to harvest his brain. A butcher intended to package his remains for Take’s dinner after his recovery. He knew what they planned.
As knowledge intensified his sorrow, a smirking, young police officer invaded his home, humming and swinging a leash. Miss Lou darted to the back of the pen. MB stood beside Frank and scratched Frank’s ears.
Theocop moved beside Polease to shake MB’s hand. “I’m Theocop,” he said.
MB snappily engaged in the human gesture and released himself quickly, squinting hard in an effort to force back tears.
The young officer did not offer his hand. “I’m Polease,” he chimed in with youthful discord, folding the leash and slapping it on the palm of his hand. “Why aren’t the farmers wearing air tanks?”
MB smiled at Theocop. “The air is different in the country. We’re used to the odors, here. You probably couldn’t handle it.”
Theocop shot the youngster a stern look, and turned faced MB. The oxygen tank clicked and exhaled between the officer’s words. “This is official business, so we are using our One names for this operation. Allow me to introduce myself as Theocop, Sergeant of district 5, and as the boy said, his name is Polease.”
Polease shrugged at the sergeant and pulled folded papers from his jumpsuit pocket. “We’re from the Dayton Police department, we’re and here to escort you, surrogate # #28064105A, to the city for court tomorrow under the direction of a subpoena.” Polease tried to hand the subpoena to Frank, but blushed slightly at having tried, realizing Frank had no hands. Although Frank could have taken it in his mouth, he had no intentions of making the young jabber’s job easier.
Theocop stepped forward and stood behind MB. The sergeant’s eyes scrutinized every sty around the perimeter of the room, and his fleshy, long ears twitched at every sound.
Polease took a microchip reader from his jumpsuit pocket. He moved it across Frank’s ribcage. Just as Polease nodded an approval at the read-out, Frank read his girlfriend’s intentions.
Miss Lou took a step back, and only Frank noticed the look in her eye. Before Frank bothered to say, “MB you better grab Miss Lou.” Frank stepped aside, not wanting to muss his attire, and Miss Lou charged at the rookie.
As if she knew where to direct an effective blow, she hit Polease in the back of his knees. The young officer caught himself with the palms of his hands just before his pointy nose met the straw-strewn concrete floor. He cursed, sat up, and picked straw from his skinned palms. Noticing the sow had stopped on the other side of the pen near MB, he inspected the hole knocked in his overall leg, stood, and bent down to hold his bleeding knee.
MB said, “I got her; oops, no I don’t.” Miss Lou charged a second time hitting the lad in the rear sending him down again. MB called to nearby farmers, and they scurried from nearby pens to help. Theocop pulled Polease to the far side of the pen, and farmers shooed Miss Lou into her adjoining pen and shut the gates.
Theocop failed to hide a smirk. “Sheize, brush it off will ‘ya. Have a handkerchief.”
Frank squealed a little squeal which MB understood to be Frank’s pig laugh.
“Uh, sorry,” MB said while wiping away perspiration with his handkerchief.
Miss Lou squealed several times loudly as if she were answering her piglets’ cry.
Her mothering cry—directed at Frank—caused his tears of laughter to turn to plain-old tears.
Polease stood up, but upon noting that the finely dressed pig took two steps toward him, he jerked his hands in front of his face, scooted back a few inches, and cringed. He peeked at Frank between his fingers.
Frank kicked at the leash—now laying on the ground—and grunted to clear his throat. He protested with conviction, “You may put the leash to your pocket, now. I may be a pig, but I have a human brain. Fully grown pigs do not walk with a leash attached to a collar. It simply is not dignified.”
Polease kept his distance and looked down at Frank. “Hey. The pig wants to look dignified. Is that why you’re wearing a suit?” Polease asked while forcing a nervous chuckle that sounded like a corn grinder with a bad motor.
Theocop folded his arms across his chest and tried to explain their course of action to Frank. “Look, we have orders, and they direct us to keep you safe and under control while moving you from the farm to the city. Normally, we would handcuff you.”
“Yeah, but, hey, you don’t have hands, do you FrankenPig?” Polease taunted while licking his sketchy lips and squinting.
“And you realized that when? When you tried to hand me the subpoena?” Frank asked to embarrass him all over again.
“Look, FrankenPig,” Polease began with as much authority as his shrill voice could muster.
MB interrupted with a teary chuckle, “His name is Frank. The press dubbed him Frankenpig like some kind of software development, like a thing, or perhaps to play with the idea of Frankenstein.”
Polease ignored the explanation and waved the microchip wand over Frank’s head. While reading the screen on the device he said, “I’m just surprised you’re not covered in mud. But, hey, didn’t you clean up real nice for the trip to the city?”
Theocop stepped sideways next to MB and mumbled, “Since the pig talks, I’d think he could assume we has the right pig, sans electronic device to verify it.” MB nodded, shook his head, and winked.
Frank cleared his throat. “Allow me to educate you. Wild Boar, being the direct relatives of various breeds of domesticated pigs, do not wallow in the mud, but go swimming instead. Both pigs and boar are fine swimmers capable of great distances. Swine, pigs, boar, whatever you want to call us, all love to be clean.” Frank had walked to the end of the pen and turned to face Theocop. “Farm pigs only wallow in the mud when they are not given access to large tubs or bodies of water. Since pigs do not have sweat glands they use the mud to protect their skins until you decide to make pork rinds.”
“I love pork rinds,” was the only comeback Polease could concoct while turning off the microchip reader. “Unfortunately, this is our pig.”
Theocop placed his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Why don’t you give up? Haven’t you been raked enough today by the Little Miss Piggy?” He drew a deep breath through the tubes in his nose and blew air from his mouth.
Theocop directed his attention to Frank. “You’ll have to excuse Polease. We rarely move criminals or protect witnesses in this day and age of PoliceRobots. He is a little excited. Look, they wanted me to bring an animal control vehicle and put you in the cage. Honestly, I pled extenuating circumstances to keep you out of the cage.”
Frank cleared his throat. “You expect me to thank you for the humane removal? To play along with your police posturing, I will agree to wear the leash once we arrive in the city. However, since I’m willing to walk from the barn to the car without any trouble, I don’t understand why you want to demean me in front of my friends here on the farm.”
“Hey, before we can even put the pig in the car, pork chops claims his rights as a human. The jury’s out concerning your rights,” griped Polease. He breathed sporadically from the tubing.
“Okay,” Theocop agreed as he put the leash in his suit pocket. “Frank, have you said good-bye to everyone?”
At the word “good-bye,” Miss Lou let out another mothering call. She charged at the gate, and the entire metal pen rattled all around from the force.
Frank put his nose between two rails in the gate. He nuzzled his girl’s sexy, wet nose and said, “I go to fight so we might both live and die of nothing other than old age. No one dies alone, even if he dies solitarily.” After more nose-rubbing, he said his beloved, “Parting is all sorrow.”
Frank turned from his girlfriend who now sat with her head down. He answered the officer, “I said my serious good-byes last night in private.”
Polease pulled out the car keys. “More information than I want—way too much information. But a pig-love video for MeTube might be fun, though.”
Theocop said to MB, “We’ll let you two say one last good-bye. Meet you in a minute at the barn door.”
Polease slid his microchip reader into his pocket. He sneered at Frank and added, “But we are watching.” Passing the gate, Polease postured with a clenched fist in front of the trapped sow. Polease and Theocop walked out of ear-shot and stopped by the open barn door.
Frank said to MB, “These are temporary good-byes. I fully expect to win this court case and return to my home. I intend to prove that animals should be granted rights, too.”
Polease called, “I’m certainly ready to return to the city,” he announced jingling the car keys. “C’mon, FrankenPig, don’t be a pig in the poke.”
MB walked toward the officers with Frank, shaking his head and rolling his eyes toward the young officer. Theocop whistled his low whistle and said “Son, ‘Pokey pig’ and ‘pig in a poke’ aren’t the same thing.”
“Actually,” Frank shouted while moving in his direction, “I’m too real to be a pig in the poke, and I do most things with alacrity.”
“Hey, who is Alacrity, your other girlfriend?” Polease asked.
Theocop shook his head at MB who kicked at the ground, smirking.
Frank joined the officers, but turned look at MB and Miss Lou one last time. Frank yelled across the barn, “Send the boy a dictionary from me, please!”
Squinting with misty eyes through the open barn doors, Frank’s tears broke the sunrise into a spectral work of art. He blinked to capture the swirls in the bluing sky as they emerged past the green horizon. Would this be the last time he’d take in the splendor of a morning on the farm, his home?
Walking through the door, Theocop muttered to Polease, “Quit being such a swellhead and take it down a thousand. If you think your going to bag on the pig in the car, you can bump that! Understand?”
“Maybe,” Polease said as he brushed some straw and dust from the torn pants leg.
MB and Frank paused mid-way to the car, and he said to Frank, “Thanks for being a good friend. Come back just as you are, okay, man?”
“Good plan from a good man,” Frank replied quietly.
The officers opened the car’s back door, and Frank jumped on the seat. In the front, Polease and Theocop removed their oxygen tanks. Polease drove the car with uneasy turns. Classical music meandered from the radio serenading the trio.
For Frank, a car ride would have been pleasant under different circumstances, but the back seat was too narrow for him to sit like a human, facing forward. Frank’s suit felt particularly tight around his crotch and neck, and the material made traction on the leather seat almost impossible. He had to dig his front hooves into the seat to maintain a seated position.
At every turn, Frank was thrust forward and had to push with his snout against the back of the front seat to scoot back into his place. Frank refused to get on the floor and ride like a lesser being.
Theocop looked irritated that the pig hadn’t settled down, and Polease grinned into the rearview mirror just before he came to a turn or a curve in the road.
“He’s gonna start askin’ how much longer pretty soon,” Polease cracked.
“You’re just mad because his girlfriend dusted you. Quit before the referee counts to ten,” Theocop said.
Eventually, Frank realized sitting side-ways both helped to stabilize him and make the trip quite enjoyable because he could look out the window.
They arrived at their destination, the city’s only hotel. Theocop and Polease strapped on their oxygen tanks. As the car door opened, Frank breathed in a stench that burned the hairs inside his nose and dried the lining of his lungs. He began to wheeze. His throat caved in, and from his throat he heard a sound like high wind rushing through a crack in the barn. The thought crossed his mind that he would not make it to trial. The sidewalk began to warp, jolted from one side to the other, and it wove a strange pattern as he attempted to walk. The next thing he knew, he saw at a bright light, even with his eyes tightly closed. The backs of his eyeballs felt as if they might not ever move again, but then he heard them move inside his eye sockets.
He thought he saw his mother fly past and call his name.
Even now, he couldn’t relate to his dad—a breeder who Frank thought of as just another boar.
Inside his head, Frank shouted, “Tell Mr. Benjamin ‘thanks.’”