The Bronze Medal by Vincent James Perrone

She wants to meet the pig—snout down, paraded through the town square of sodden earth and stump dimples, now trailed by serpentine line of freshly showered farmer with tomato noses and breath prematurely soured from all that auctioneer talk. She wants to meet the pig. She, in pigtails too tender for her head which has expanded to the size of a watermelon and is too filled with sweetness and black seeds, hears this: Sooey.

Claps until curious dusk slips between the ferris wheel, until the podium is arranged for the swine show.

Falls in love under the first puff of twilight and Don McLean through whistle-sharp speakers.

What she would say to the pig, with bubblegum tongue, with snake lisp from brilliant popcorn kernels stuffed up in her molars, with cranky ache of a day outside in the sowing season, is, you’re just like me.

The pig wears the bronze-medal.

Hazy with an evening sweat, she watches the snout turn to pout, feels the whole sonorous moment in her teeth when her classmate, the bowl-cut known as Jackson Reik, hurls a pocked styrofoam cup through the trembling air, and when it soundlessly collides with the upturned ear of the pig, she’s thundered with veins, hacking through the crowd with reedy elbows, and facing her classmate who gnaws pencils in splintered cobs.

Says: You.

Hears: Nuh.

Turns fist into gavel and strikes down on the titled chin of Jackson Reik until her hand is a rich mottle of blood. Here and there, tears. Spooked audience turns to lift her from the crook of splayed arms, and she’s spitting on the boy. Her face, from golden harvest crown down past her underbite, becomes solar. A grin of divined justice, godly because she knows the present truth of violence: the thing living behind the spiraled hazel of her mother’s eyes, surfacing with affection and terror during evening prayers and holiday feasts, or when her grandfather slips off to sleep in the recliner under the curt little gleam of those aforementioned burning irises. She’s seen what she’s felt and now wishes only to see herself, and does, in the dark reflection of a funhouse mirror as she’s pulled to the entryway of the fair and sat before a consumptive sheriff scraping manure from his shoe.

Under his gaze, slow like a freighter through heavy ice, she rises from the dirt. Crowd of fairgoers still encircled, close enough to hear the amber resin in the core of her throat. She talks to none of them.

Says: Take me back.

Says: Take me back to my father.

Vincent James Perrone’s recent work can be found in TIMBER, Pithead Chapel, A Common Well, and Storm Cellar. He lives in Detroit and teaches at Wayne State University.

Vintage photo of a small child standing next to a large pig with a saddle.
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