When the orders came down that all the gold was to be digested by the end of the day, Efren couldn’t believe his ears, despite their unusual and rather floppy size.
“All the gold?” he asked his co-consumer Ricky Shay, the fattest stupidest pig in the sty. “I mean, that’s some heavy stuff right there.”
Ricky Shay ignored him, mostly. Ricky Shay was stupid, and didn’t understand English. He could grunt, and he could eat gold, and when it bust out through his system, it was, yes, it was thoroughly what it should be. But he didn’t speak a lick of English. Sometimes Efren felt he was working with an idiot.
“I mean,” said Efren, speaking in his piggy grunts. “That’s some heavy stuff.”
Ricky Shay said nothing. The orders stood. The gold before them stood, mounting up to the ceiling with nuggets as big as your fist. Efren, an optimist, shrugged his haunchy shoulders and tucked in.
Image from here.
Halfway through the day Coffield came trotting through the grand arch and started stroking his bullwhip against his knees. Coffield liked to stroke his bullwhip against his knees, the coiled leather squeaking and distracting Efren. Coffield was their supervisor, he discharged the pipe-fed nuggets and made sure it was eaten, but his presence was more de-motivating than anything. His head was purple and he looked a bit like a boiled egg.
“Give over,” said Efren through a mouthful of cracked teeth and yellow gold-flakes. “I’m working here.”
“PIG!” cried Coffield. “Know your place!”
Efren didn’t mind. He was used to it. Coffield always talked like that, like he wanted a fight with the pigs, like that was something he could get away with. Even he knew how much the pigs mattered to Rigatoni.
“Go squeak your bullwhip somewhere else,” said Efren. “It’s very distracting.”
Coffield glowered down at him and seemed to make an extra special effort to squeak his whip. After a while he opened a voice-flue in the wall and pushed the clicking switch to ON. He whispered something into it, violet lips up close to the copper mouthpiece, and sat back to wait.
There was a rumble from overhead. The pipes were tumbling and fumbling and getting ready to spill. Efren just had time to dodge a few steps backwards, gold-flecked trotters porking out of the way slowly, when the hatch swung wide and the pipes erupted in a gold rain storm.
CLACKETY BOOMITY BANGITY CLACK
And just like that poor stupid Ricky Shay was dead. Buried beneath the fresh mound of glinting chips, sparking like electric flares in the steady halogen glare.
“Oh, you’re in trouble now,” said Efren to Coffield. “He’s the best pig you’ve got!” Coffield just gurned his bad potato head at him and tipped his cowboy hat forward.
“Happy to help a pig,” he said. “More than happy. Now, I want all sign of this little accident cleared up by 1300, clear?”
“Ricky Shay’s dead, how can I chow it all myself?” asked Efren.
“And you’ll need to dispose of him too,” said Coffield, ignoring Efren’s barked question. “I’ll be back to check in a few hours.”
Efren wagged his meatball head, teeth CLACK CLACK-ing in his meaty jaws. “Can’t be done,” he said. “I’ll need new teeth soon enough, and that takes most a day to set, it just can’t be done.”
Coffield grinned. “Then I’ll just have to squinch you too. You want to be squinched?”
“What’s your problem?” asked Efren. “What did Ricky Shay ever do to you?”
“Just eat the gold!” said Coffield and slammed the sliding metal door behind him.
Efren ate the gold, his teeth wearing down to molar stubs, white enamel dusting the air around him. His belly swelled heavy with the semi-digested metal, the slurry boiling and roiling in his gut. But that was no problem, he rather liked the feeling. It was like having a baby. He’d never had a baby, being a gold-eating pig meant he was locked out of that loop, but at least he got to feel like it might be a baby.
When he came across the bloody husk of Ricky Shay, he knew he’d have to expunge. It was always like that, get a bit of a shock, he had to go off-load his junk-full stomach. Every time Coffield did something mean he got antsy.
So he heaved his chugging gut-sack over to the bottom loading flues, positioned his hairy butt over the drop slot for produce, and tugged on the lever with a ground incisor. The vacuum switch flicked and the chute sucked up round his haunches. What a delightful tingle! Then he relaxed all his muscles at once and let it suck him dry.
Produce ripped out of him at an alarming rate. He felt his insides rubbering to gritlins as it flowed, steaming side to side as the rush of liquid drained from his molten gut. The whole draining process took about 20 minutes, and it was a blissful pain-rapture the whole while.
When he was done he noticed Coffield standing up on his perch round the pit, staring down with a gloam of unbridled disgust in his twinky corn-hole eyes.
“You disgust me,” he said. Then he pointed at the bloating Ricky Shay jutting from the gold like a half-exhumed corpse. “Go eat your friend.”
Efren belched noisily.
“Oh!” said Coffield. “Oh, that’s revolting, I’ll make you pay for that!” and he snapped open the copper voice flue cover so fast it spun off and landed against Efren’s shuffling butt, nestled, then got sucked down the vacuum drop slot.
“ARRGH!” yelled Coffield, tilting back his head and wailing into the gold-musty air. “You think you can do whatever you want, getting special treatment all the time, just because you’re a pig!” Then he put his lips up to gaping mouthpiece and called down an air strike.
CLACKETY BANGITY BOOMITY CLACK went the gold as it zipped through the ancient rusty pipes overhead. Efren, lightened of his liquid metal load, ballerina-ed across the chow-hall floor as neat as a nutcracker, nipping from shelter to shade as the furious Coffield ordered load after blossoming golden load dumped from the cloud-like feeders above. They racketed and clumped to the dented earth, sending up spumes of gold dust and plashing blood from Ricky Shay’s battered body.
Efren started to laugh, and sing the pig song Ricky Shay had taught him before he’d got too stupid to speak, half grunts and half words about the pleasures of chomping gold. Coffield screamed with rage in the corner, unhooked his bullwhip, and sent it cracking out to meet Efren’s mongrel head.
“Whoops!” said Efren, catching the delicate trailing end in his Moby Dick jaws and giving it a huge yank. Coffield fell off his perch by the flue and hit a mountain of gold on the way down. Efren could hear fragile bones breaking. Coffield started to scream with the pain.
Efren trotted over, nudged at Coffield’s bone blistered shoulder, and said: “want me to finish this up, too?”
Coffield was crying.
“Ricky Shay’s dead,” said Efren. “You tell me why, because he was a good buddy, even if he was a bit dumb, why you had to squinch him with all that gold?”
Coffield only sobbed, so Efren decided to tuck in, and chomped a bite right out of his foot. 3 toes and part of the heel. Not bad. Coffield squealed and batted pathetically at Efren’s snouty head, but nothing doing. Efren wound up to chomp the other foot.
“They can hear!” cried Coffield. “You can’t eat me, the flue, they can hear!”
“I don’t care,” said Efren. “You think I care?”
“Damn your grunts, I can’t make out a word!”
“Why did you squinch Ricky Shay?”
“Ricky Shay was stupid,” cried Coffield, squealing with the pain. “He didn’t deserve to be a pig. Neither do you, you can’t even speak properly!”
“What? You try on this jaw and see how well you speak!”
“I did so well!” cried Coffield, languishing as Efren slowly chewed on his mangled foot. “I ate all the pies faster than the other boys! I even finished the cherry and ice cream glace.”
“You tried out?” asked Efren. “When?”
“When I was a lad, but I couldn’t hold it in, when they added the cat-shit. It all just bolted up!”
“Hmmm,” said Efren, gnawing at shinbone, as Coffield bared his soul. “Cat-shit is tricky.”
“I told them, gold is not the same as cat-shit, but would they listen? Would they listen to me?!”
“They don’t listen,” said Efren. “They haven’t got ears, have they? Not like these beauties!” and he waggled his head, floppy bunny ears flapping like ribbons on a bow. “Not much use, but good for losing heat and essential for the alchemical thing.”
“I told them,” cried Coffield, raving with the pain. “I said, ‘I can be a pig too, don’t make me a potato head’, but that’s exactly what they did! All the girls laugh at me now and tell their friends I couldn’t make it as a pig.”
“Ah,” said Efren, the light rising in his eyes. “So that’s why you squinched Ricky Shay? You were jealous?”
Coffield nodded. Efren nodded. “Helluva gut on that kid, wasn’t there?” he asked, mooning over the memory.
“But he ate everything!” said Coffield. “Even things he wasn’t supposed to!”
“Yup, he was good. Helluva gut, and never a peep or complaint outta him,” said Efren. “I’ll miss him, for sure.”
“He’ll be back,” whined Coffield. “Please, stop eating me!”
“Yeah, he’ll be back soon enough, when they scrub the produce for DNA. I hope he gets put back here. Best gut I seen in years.”
“But I want it to be me!” cried Coffield.
“Well,” said Efren. “Like you said, they can hear all this. So I reckon, this is what you do. I finish you up, drop you into produce, and let them scrub you down. When you take the cake test next and they drop cat-shit into your mouth, pretend it’s no worse than what you’re about to do.”
“Eat a piece of your own leg.”
“What?” shrieked Coffield.
“It’s not so bad,” said Efren, “and they’re listening, remember? It’ll sure impress them. Not common, that. And I don’t mean just a nibble, I mean a proper bite, wash it down, and hold it. No spills, OK? Can you hack that?”
Coffield trembled. Wobbly flesh above his eyelids crumpled and un-crumpled in fear.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think I can.”
Efren takes a huge chomp out of his knee. “Easy,” he said. “Just pretend it’s a hamburger, you’re all set. It’s better than squeezing your bull whip and getting laughed at by girls, right?”
“You think I can do it?”
“I think it’s better than not doing it.”
“Alright,” said Coffield, “I will,” and grabbed his ravaged leg, put it to his lips, and took a huge bite out of his knee. Tendons tore and blood floomed out, splashing his lips. He chewed it then swallowed.
“Not bad,” he said woozily.
“Attaboy!” called Efren, watching him closely. When he realized he was about to puke it back up, he bit his head off to save him the failure.
“Success!” cried Efren up at the flue. “He did it! Why not scrub him for pigging, like me!”
Then he went back to the gold, Ricky Shay, and his life’s work.
The next day Efren had a new chowing buddy by his side. His name was Coffield, and he never stopped grinning.
“This gold tastes so GOOD!” he would say. “Mmmm,” even though the flue cap had been repaired and he already had the job. But, Efren figured, on the plus side, there was no bullwhip anymore and he wouldn’t have to worry about making polite conversation since he was already starting to lose his voice to grunts anyway. He had just long enough to teach new guy Coffield the pigging song. New guy Coffield sang it all the time after that.
The day after they got a new potato head at the flue giving them orders. His name was Ricky Shay. He could speak perfectly fine.
“Hey boys,” he called, just before dumping a fresh load of gold from the roof-pipes. “We just go round and round, huh?”
“I’ll eat to that!” grunted Efren, but Ricky Shay didn’t understand him.
“What what!” hooted Coffield.
“Watch out, Coffield you dirty pig!” called Ricky Shay and unloaded a light hump of the good yellow stuff on Coffield. It went squinch. The fat little porker squealed with delight, shook it off, chowed down. “Ain’t that the way!” cried Ricky Shay.
Efren smiled. He was happy. He was eating gold with his buddies again.
You can see all MJG’s stories here:[album id=6 template=compact]