The past is something that is rarely comfortable for people to sit and look back on. More often than not they are the person they’ve become thanks to years of pressure and pain grating at them like a whetstone over a piece of steel until they become sharp as a blade. In some instances, that person becomes just as deadly as a knife.
My childhood home stood on a one-hundred acre lot in the middle of a dense forest. A couple acres of the lot had been cleared for the two-story house, animal pens, garage, barn, and gardens. We maintained every inch of the cleared land with pride. The forest around us acted as my playground during my time off from taking care of the animals.
But that was all in the past. In there here-and-now, the house’s roof caved in. Windows bore cracks and were held together by hope, prayer, and duct tape. No one had mowed the grass in years. It stood waist-tall, catching the hem of my coat as I wandered through paths that were no longer visible, except in my mind.
To the left sat the old garden. Mom spent most of her time tending to the tomato and pepper plants in there. On my right was the backyard where our pool stood. In the winter, it’d get so cold we thought the water would freeze solid to the bottom of it.
Behind the garden, that was my destination. The fences lay heaped on the ground–a mass of decayed wood and rusted wire. A larger pile of wood at the front of the area used to be a small house. Our pigs loved it in there.
Pork Chops, Belle, and little Bilbo called the pen home for years. Against the furthest fence posts, a chunk of blue plastic stuck up out of the dirt. I kicked the grass aside. Little fish eyes stared up at the overcast sky. My boot brushed over a piece of the plastic and the old wading pool crumbled into shards under the weeds.
Tears stung my eyes. I shouldn’t have made the trip up to the old house. I thought maybe if I could find a piece of who I used to be that it’d justify what I was about to do. That the innocence of my youth would protect my soul.
It was a stupid idea.
I walked out of the sagging gate to the pig pen. A nail snagged the edge of my coat. Cursing, I yanked it free. The gatepost toppled over. Silver glinted off of something pinned under the rotten wood.
Curious, I bent down and picked through the weeds. A small metal dog tag slid onto my palm. Brushing the dirt aside, I read the engraving.
I lost the battle with tears. Knees weak, I sank to the ground and cradled the tag to my chest.
Memories overwhelmed my mind. Choppy, as we called him, sleeping in the laundry room–a tiny body in a huge pile of blankets. The same piglet learning that he could jump and tossing everything off the coffee table until someone gave him a snack. Lastly, the way he quietly passed in the middle of the night of old age.
Impossible to believe, but a long-dead pig saved my soul that day. If I could remember the pureness of the love I felt for him, nothing I did would damn me.
No matter how many bodies I shoveled into shallow graves.