Fat Books & Thin Women

Story Sundays: Cat Rambo’s “Magnificent Pigs”

Story Sundays is a weekly feature at Fat Books & Thin Women. Always short stories, always ones available online for free.

Cat Rambo’s “Magnificent Pigs” is, at its heart, a story about loss and a young man’s attempts to protect his younger sister from the knowledge of where her cancer will lead her. The narrator’s parents, died in a car accident, leaving him the parent to his sister Jilly, whose increasing stomach pains are diagnosed as cancer.

There are so many eerie elements to this story that are heightened by the central figure of Jilly, a girl who’s going to leave life almost before she’s been in it. Pig farming isn’t enough to pay the medical bills, and the narrator decides to take his interest in art and work on opening a tattoo business. There isn’t much demand for tattoos in their town, though, and he quickly runs out of friends to practice on, so he begins tattooing the pigs. This comes together with Jilly’s illness as they read Charlotte’s Web; the scenes in which the narrator tries to show his sister that Charlotte isn’t ever really dead, because they can turn back to the start of the book, or in which he tattoos some of Charlotte’s words across a pig, are heartbreaking.

I’ll stop here, but the end of this story is extraordinary, at first almost grotesque as the narrator heads into the barn to tattoo the six pigs he gave to Jilly, her fill-ins for the runt of Charlotte’s Web, then, again, shattering. Rambo brings elements of the extraordinary into the close of her story, and it works so well because of her slow build and consideration of the more ordinary aspects of her characters’ lives.

Read “Magnificent Pigs”

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1 Comment

Hmm. I liked how this ended, but I’m not too sure about the beginning and middle. I didn’t feel like I really needed the background to become involved in the story, and I felt a little like Mrs. Andersen was included for the sole purpose of saying the words “when pigs fly.” However, the final bit was filled with love and exhaustion and magic, and was so perfect as an end for the story, that I left it on a happy note.

Comment by Jennifer Marcketta

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