“Hey, piggy. Hey, Charlotte,” cooed London Sweet. She blinked shimmery blue eyelids at Bernadette as she sank slowly into the mud. She was sinking because the skinny heels of her leather boots could only walk on certain types of flooring: marble, honey-gold wood, Persian rug. They were no match for pig shit.
Bernadette blinked back with pink eyelids and hoped London would be swallowed up whole. The other pigs were very excited about the presence of the Trust Fund Babies: Ranch Round-Up cast and crew. Thin, noisy teenagers in sparkly clothing. Men in baseball caps behind cameras. They were nothing like the usual caretakers, quiet Latino men who always seemed tired, who seemed to consciously avoid befriending the pigs.
But Bernadette wasn’t an idiot. She was some terrific, radiant (if not humble) pig. She knew, for example, that Charlotte was the fucking spider, not the pig. Wilbur was the pig, and Wilbur was an idiot.
To Bernadette’s disappointment, London Sweet did not keep sinking. She stood there stupidly until a freckle-faced guy in overalls and a cowboy hat came over and gave her instructions on how to “slop a pig.”
What the hell? Bernadette had never seen this guy before. How could he possibly know anything? It wasn’t like she adored the regular workers, but they knew how to turn on the pump that filled the long troughs with a mealy mixture of soy and ground pig. And what was this? It was full of corn cobs and grass. When Bernadette was a piglet, she might have been into it, but she was an adult with discriminating tastes.
“Ew, it’s so nasty!” squealed London.
“That’s how you do it, that’s how you slop a pig. That’s just farm life,” said the man in the cowboy hat, a little awkwardly. He stopped and looked at the camera. “Like that? Should I say it again?”
One of the baseball-capped men said, “Sure. And if you could make it, like…more of a lesson, that would be good. Like, I like what you said about ‘Farm life is hard’ or whatever.”
The cowboy hat looked at London Sweet again and said, “Look, London, I don’t know how they do it in Beverly Hills, but here in Kansas we ain’t afraid to get a little dirty. Farm life is hard.”
“Beautiful!” shouted the man in the cap. “Now London, honey, get a little closer to the pig.”
Yes, Bernadette thought, Get a little closer.
“And let’s get Marina in the shot too. Where’s Marina?”
Soon a girl almost as skinny as the heels of London’s boots appeared. She was more willing to grab hold of the bucket than London had been but less capable with it. It appeared to weigh more than she did.
“Oh my god!” she giggled, almost falling over. Bernadette contemplated how Marina would look with a layer of mud covering her. Like a chocolate-covered pretzel stick.
“She’s sorta cute, don’t you think?” said London, looking at Bernadette. Bernadette hated the word “cute.” In the week they’d been shooting at the farm, she’d heard it a lot. At least the usual guys didn’t pretend. If they said anything at all, they said, “Ey, puerco.”
“No, London, I don’t think it’s cute. You are so gross. But you dated Dimitri Miller, so what should I expect? It kinda looks like him, actually.”
“Take that back,” said London, sounding a little bored.
“Say, ‘Take that back, bitch,’” said the man in the baseball cap.
“Take that back, bitch,” said London, even more bored this time.
And soon the two girls were wrestling, smearing handfuls of shit in each other’s long blonde hair. Thick ropes of it fell out and made a halo on the ground around them. Bernadette saw that the hair was as fake as anything. The show, the man in the cowboy hat, the corn-and-grass stew.
London grabbed Marina’s shoulders and shoved her towards Bernadette’s pen. A normal sized person would have stood up and dusted herself off, but Marina’s spindly legs hit the top rung of the pen and she teetered dangerously.
Just long enough for Bernadette to indulge in a moment of nostalgia: her favorite movie moment, which did not involve singing farm animals or creative-writer spiders. It was from the first half of The Wizard of Oz, the Kansas part, the black-and-white part. The real part.
Dorothy falls in a pen and nearly gets trampled by big, evil pigs. The man who plays the scarecrow saves her.
No one here is nearly as kind or resourceful as the scarecrow.
So when Bernadette sees the hoof-sized jewel that dangles from Marina’s neck swinging her way, she grabs it with her teeth. She pulls. Marina screams.
London was wrong: Bernadette hasn’t been cute for a long time now. She weighs 250 pounds to Marina’s 83. She’s been fattened on meat, and she hasn’t gotten any today. She pins Marina with her hooves and hears things crack. The girl is barely a snack, but no matter. Bernadette snuffles her nose deep into Marina’s nest of extensions and takes a satisfying bite of her head.