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The Good Pig

by Jason Stutz

     He’d been drunk already for hours and he was on a roll. He started banging on shit - the walls, the floor boards, my door. "You faggot!" "You homo!" Bang! Bang! Bang! He pounded my door. "Lemme in! Lemme the fuck in!!"

     I just wasn’t sure it would all be alright this time. My heart was calm, but I didn’t know for sure. "I’m going to call the cops, Billy!" He was surprised and settled down for a minute. Then he was at it again.

     Bang! Bang! Bang! and "Homo!" and "Faggot!" and "Open this mother fuckin’ door before I break it down, you fuckin’ homo!!" Bang! Bang! Bang!!! I guess he wanted to see how far he could push me. I shook my head unemotionally and dialed 911 like I was doing my duty.

     "I called the cops, Billy!" He stopped. He quieted. He stood and waited. I heard him breathing out there, shifting his weight on the creaky floor boards.

     "Aw, now why’d you go and do that?" he complained, his voice soft and disappointed sounding.

      By the time the cops came, Billy had gone upstairs to sleep. A slight Asian man and a tiny Afro-American woman in clean, pressed blue uniforms asked me about the trouble I called in. I smiled and sent them away, thanking them and apologizing for calling them out so late.

     Later, the next day, Billy said to me, "You’re supposed to understand me," as though we had an agreement or something. I don’t know, maybe we did.

     "I’m sorry, Billy. It’s just too much." I could tell that underneath his faux disappointment, he was scared, and that in calling the cops, I put something in his brain, something I should have put in there a long time ago: the word "Stop."

     I was barely hanging on in NY. I had moved into a tiny bedroom in Queens in the back of an all wood, pre-war house; it had a window adjacent to a little back yard.  I was so exhausted from simply trying to subsist in NY that I took the first room I could find.  It had a refrigerator and no closet– $300 month. I could afford $300, I think.

     A broad, deep, grinding voice shot out from his chest as he hovered over me up the stairs that first time, like a shadow that death gave forth, vacant of himself but for that light he cannot erase, informing me that he’s killed 4 men with the gun he has upstairs, and I’ll be next.  I regarded him.  Silence. Silence.

     "Okay, that’s cool.  Uh… I’m goin’ back to mah room, now." 

     Billy Bacon, an old sailor (Coast Guard, Private, 3rd class, worked in the boiler room of ships and submarines), lived upstairs and was often on the back porch smoking and drinking cheap beer.  He was in his mid-sixties by then; a hulk of a man, a mountain; a cursing, lumbering mound of earth risen up on two legs and another great mound pushing out over his hips so that his back arched with it, and his knees bent from that majestic weight. 

     Instantly, I just got him.  I knew him, or his type, or I had suffered and loved his kind before.  He, with such a complex and intense emotional structure of love and fear that it made him almost unable to bear, but I knew that love, I knew that fear, and I felt, in my way, at home in it.

 

     He came at me, pointing his two chopped-off forefingers with a menacing glare, calling me out for something, trying me, showing me his twisted love. 

      "I’m a little crazy," I said, in answer.  

     And that was good enough for him. 

      "Ooooh, I like you!"  

     It was painful to watch, as Billy slowly eliminated his own cognizance from his mind, "Crack! Slurp!" "Crack!" goes the beer can, "Slurp!" goes his mind, his fearful, disordered, love-hungry mind.  Something in himself was too much for him. I believe that his love was too uncomfortable for him, he didn’t understand it, feared maybe he himself was gay, or weak, so he drank so that he could act anyway he liked, tell his friends he loves them, he hates them, he curses them, he blesses them.

     Often, Billy tried to engage me, to grip my heart with his needful gut-strings.  "Y’know… if you were on the ship with me… I’d shit in all the toilets and make you eat it for dinner!"  

     If I was on the ship with him, I knew, I’d be his superior.  He knew that, too, and, in a deeper way, he knew that I held something in me that gave me a rank that, sometimes, he was glad to defer to.

     "You’re the law around here!  The fuckin’ LAW!!"  he shouted daily for a time.  And he’d shout about God, how he wants to meet Him, offering moving descriptions from his whetted imagination, raising his arms to the sky like the curtain of a stage, lifting his face toward a vision that surely had precedence somewhere in the vast Universe, where not only he was mocking it, but God Himself is in on the joke.

     He often talked about his dying, sensing its eminence, smoking and drinking so hard for so long. Often, when nothing better filled the empty air, he bellowed long about his death, how he wants to be buried in the garden (out front of the porch), his tombstone, right there, where the bird bath is. It was there he sat, with a cellophane bag of white bread, and cursed the blessed pigeons and sparrows to come to dinner. Little, gentle frisbee throws from his gnarled forearm and his two chopped off forefingers, broken white bread tosses ticker-taping gently to the garden ground; and the happy peck, peck, peck of bird beaks, the light scratches of their feet and fluttering of wings as they ate and I could see his heart lift with the arc of the bread through the air.

     He was there, on that bench, day after day, with his cans of beer and his cigarettes, and his bread crumbs and peanuts for the squirrels.

      "Hey, Niggah!" he called to the black squirrel. "Niggah! Get yer meal! Niggah, come ‘ere!!"

      The black squirrel knowing nothing of the Civil Rights Movement, and Martin Luther King and Malcom X, and slavery and human rights, and black skin and white skin, or even his own fur, came prancing on his little paws up to the obscene old sailor, and climbed upon his tattered shoes to feed from his thick and soiled hand.

      "Right there. I think the landlord ’ll let me be buried there."

     He shouts about God, after his mind is drunk and his heart is lifted away from that inner war or, sadly, about how God could never forgive him. He’d often described how Hell would be for him, darkly, with a sick humor, testing me, trying to rip my heart from its root.  

     He was a theme-oriented man: "The devil is the law around here… deal with it!"– knowing my religiosity, testing me playfully, cruelly. 

     Then, after spending days with the devil, "I’m the the law around here, pick-up your fuckin’ mail!  Get out of La La land you freakin’ homo!"  (Always with the "homo" he was. He loved that "homo" shit). 

 

     He was me, I know now his struggle to accept himself, to forgive and forgive and forgive, again. His struggle was mine, and he was me, my own heart, begging terrified for mercy, even while he took the rope God gave him and walked with it, tied to his back, all the way to the abyss.  I, too, had travelled far, yet still I held the rope, and when I walked as far as I could bear, and I felt I was dangling by only a thin thread of it over the edge of a great dark end-of-Jason-Isaac-Stutz, I somehow pulled myself back upon the Earth; I turned and walked the long walk back, holding on to my sanity like the Rosetta Stone.

     Sometimes, when Billy was calm and wanting to talk, my lungs seemed to fill with the smallest of perfect words, and he’d praise God loudly. He’d go to the bar and shout!  And people would laugh and call him crazy, but it made him happy that they laughed.  Crazy, he was, but void of sin. There is no evil in a man who wants only to love and be loved.  We all pay a price in such a name as that, hurting, sometimes killing, out of that same desire. Why else would he drink, but for the pain of all that fear of all that love?

     I lived there 4 years.  Finally, near the 3 and a half year mark, I walked out the door one day on the way to work.  It was early summer, bright, but cool.  Billy was sitting there alone on the Kelly- green bench.  He looked upended by thoughts, looking between his knees at the ground.

     His voice choked, "Y’know... I can’t stop drinkin’," he said.  

     I thought to say be stronger, but I couldn’t any more than he could stop.

     "I know you can’t, Billy." There was a pause– not even the air moved. His ears waited, resting in that moment outside of time; the cilia of his inner ear swayed and swirled in dynamos that drew the words from me: "He knows you can’t." 

 

     His whole body gave in at once. All of his air exhaled through all of his muscles, and he leaned forward with his hands on his knees. The one big, sad tear of it all, like a barnacle, freed itself from the tender walls of his submarine heart, and he was free. 

     The air all around him was quiet... calm. He was quiet and calm, looking out ahead of him through his thick, brown eyeglasses, a soft focus upon his garden, the bird bath, the branches rising up and the greenery folding over the ground.


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