March 1

National Pig Day

 

“They’re misunderstood animals,” Aunt Marcie would say to justify the annual celebration.  “They’re actually quite clean, quite intelligent.  Their appetites aren’t any more excessive than, say, that of a goat or horse.”

Your dog could sit on command, then raise its paw for a visitor to shake.  “Good boy,” you’d say.  Aunt Marcie would respond, “A pig is just as smart as a dog.”

If she loved pigs so much, why’d she work so hard to promote a public event that served bacon, BBQ ribs, and ham-and-cheese sandwiches?  Each tasty bite commemorated the end of an animal she touted as “the perfect family pet.”

One year, she even convinced you to wear a pig suit and walk in the parade.  The costume was heavy, with large cloven feet that fit over your shoes and mitten hooves that took two fingers each.  You could barely see with the pig head over your face, and the sweaty inside smelled worse than an unkempt barn.  Fortunately, the next year you’d grown too big for the costume, and Aunt Marcie never asked again.

Such parades seemed so far in the past.  All celebrations were cancelled this year — in your town, and throughout the U.S.

People no longer needed to be reminded of pigs.  No more pigtail ribbons in young girls’ hair; no more piggy bank promotions at the local branch.  No more outdoor screenings of Babe and Charlottes Web in the park; no more luau parties, hog-calling competitions, and snort-offs.

The problem began last April, with a widespread outbreak of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus.  The symptom of awful, watery-yellow diarrhea initially affected suckling pigs, but soon spread to the adult population.  The CDC assured the public this virus would not affect humans — either through contact with the animals, or through consuming pork products.  But the real crisis wasn’t caused by the virus itself, but by scientific efforts to curtail it.

A recommended cocktail of antibiotic and steroid injections, given in high dosage to all pigs in the U.S., quickly cured the diarrhea symptoms.  But other symptoms followed.

First, the pigs began to breed and mature very quickly, with the average piglet reaching the size of a state fair “show pig” in a matter of weeks.

The drug combination produced another unexpected side effect, somehow shocking a dormant genetic trait to express itself.

Wings.  They grew wings.

People no longer needed a parade to remind them of pigs.  All they needed to do is look into the sky.

You wish Aunt Marcie was still around to see how wrong she was.  Pigs weren’t the smartest animals.  Otherwise they wouldn’t be flying into airplanes, crashing into mountainsides and tall buildings.

They were everywhere.  A drift of young pigs rolled in the air, legs flailing as if they paddled through mud.  A sounder of swine,  clumped together, could actually block out the sun.

Invariably, one member of the passel would lose focus, forget to flaps its wings, and would plummet to earth, as heavy and reckless as an automobile without brakes.

That’s what got Aunt Marcie.  A prize-sized pig fell right through her roof and crushed her in her bed.

There’s more of them every day.  Air travel is impossible.  Most highways are impassible due to pig-shaped potholes in the asphalt.  Pot-bellied holes, if you were inclined to joke about it — but things don’t seem that funny anymore.

You’re hungry, and can’t get to the store.  You wait, hoping a pig will fall near enough to your house without hitting it, so you and your remaining neighbors can scavenge the carcass for food.