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by Charles Rempel

Not Clem's Year

Clem Bergen spat and thought, Oh no, this will not do. Not at all.

This was supposed to be Clem's year. He'd been raising his prized sow Sweet Baby for three years now, and at 350 pounds, it looked like Sweet Baby would be the cream of the crop of the Nicaronda County State Fair (which, granted, is an odd name for a county fair, but there's tradition here, in that Nicaronda County petitioned the U.S. Government in 1852 to become a state and just assumed their petition would be accepted; sadly, it was not). But now here he was, staring at Will Buckett's entry. Staring at Pagaena. All 600 pounds of her.

Maybe the judges will find a flaw, Clem thought.

Joseph Cutler, the head pig judge in Nicaronda County for as long as anyone could remember, joined Clem at the fence. "Dang it, Clem, you sure do got Sweet Baby in county state fair shape, don'tcha?" "That's not Sweet Baby. That's Pagaena." "THAT'S Pagaena! Sweet Georgia Crap! I thought she was just a mythical story the old farmhands would tell the greenhorns. Well, better luck next time, Clem. See you tomorrow at the pig parade" Next time, Clem. Next time. They told him that last year, which was supposed to be his year as well, except Sweet Baby, then a slender 265, pulled a ham muscle and couldn't walk in the pig parade, which, as all good citizens of Nicaronda County know, is a prerequisite for winning at the County State Fair. No pig parade, no blue ribbon.

No pig parade, no blue ribbon. A smile, crooked and evil, grew on Clem's face as he hurried to his truck and sped away.

In the pitch black of night, Clem snuck back to the fairgrounds, carrying an old duffel bag from his hockey days. He slipped into the tent housing Pagaena and slowing made his way to the massive sow. Unzipping the duffel, he pulled out one of his old ice skates and a roll of duct tape, and began securing the skate to Pagaena's legs. After all four legs had been dressed in skates, Clem stood back and surveyed his work. Pagaena, the biggest pig in Nicaronda County history, wobbled slightly in her new footwear, until her massive weight forced the skate blades down into the earth.

Time for a test, Clem thought, as he ran as fast as he could and slammed his full force into the side of Pagaena. The blinding pain in his now-dislocated right shoulder knocked him unconscious for a minute or two, but when he came to, he noticed that Pagaena had not even budged... she was stuck. "See you at the pig parade," he said to mighty pig, and he slipped back out into the night.

The sky the next day was dark and foreboding. Clem had to pull his coat tightly shut to fight off the whipping winds as he entered the fairgrounds. He went to Sweet Baby's tent and fed her the usual slop bucket with apple. Then, he latched her leash to her collar and led her against the biting wind to the starting point of the pig parade.

Clem stroked Sweet Baby's scruff and waited, waited for the parade to start. He noticed a few, then more, then even more people were running every which way in a panic. He saw Joseph Cutler come by and he grabbed his arm to stop him.

Shouting over the roaring wind, Clem asked Joseph what the commotion was all about. Joseph shook free of Clem's grasp and pointed behind Clem.

Clem turned around, just in time to be sucked into the tornado.

He awoke two days later, just across the Parsons County line. Sweet Baby was nowhere to be found, but he did find some arts and crafts from the Cub Scout exhibit, for what it's worth. He hitched a ride back to the fairgrounds, in hopes to find Sweet Baby, or at least his truck. But there was nothing there. No tents, no trucks, no carnival rides, nothing.

Nothing left but Pagaena, firmly embedded into the ground. The winner by default. The blue ribbon hanging jauntily off her left hamhock.

As Clem slowly slumped to the earth and faded into unconsciousness, he muttered softly, to himself, "Next year. That'll be my year."


© copyright 2001 The Van Gogh-Goghs