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."