I’ve never been in a hog processing plant. When I lived in Iowa I knew people who had though. Knew people who worked the second and third shifts. Knew people who worked on the kill floor. Work comes up in conversation as it does now and then and every once in a while I’d hear stories.
If a story provokes me hard enough I’ll form a complicated, detailed mental playhouse of it. And it’ll stick like glue, turn into an everlasting memory that my imagination makes all too real. It’ll become part of my story. Follow me around like gum on my shoe. For life.
I often accidentally think of the hogs in whatever warehouse room they’re herded into before they actually got to the kill floor. Again, I’ve never been in such a place but I get sucked into the dirty, gritty gum when the hogs beckon.
It’s dark and hard to see in the pre-kill chamber. Because the corporate doesn’t want you to. The workers shouldn’t see the hogs nor should the hogs see each other. Seeing the animal eyeballs of panic would only amplify the room’s sweaty electricity.
The floor is concrete, permanent and unnatural. There’s no give to it.
The workers stand behind railings up above. They wear Leatherface aprons, backward capes. They’re the unintentional supervillains, paid by the hour.
I’m down with the hogs, moving as part of the chaotic herd. I’m not one of them because I always play the outsider but I am one with their stress.
Hurried hog silhouettes herding in panic. Unknowingly moving, running. The wrong way. Pivoting their front ends left and right because they don’t have necks. Looking for an out but only bouncing off one another and continuing their momentum forward.
The room’s energy is filled with heated power. I don’t know how big it is. It’s like being in a nightclub and it’s so dark that you become disoriented and lost.
I see flashes of chemically stretched animal flesh as the swine prison spotlights make their way to and from. Sometimes the lights are only a few hanging flood lamps, swaying with a gentle horror.
The pigs wear collars similar to those Rutger Hauer wore in Wedlock. I don’t know why they need them.
If I were a better artist I’d draw what I imagine as a comic book cover.
It’s never quiet either. The hog hoofs march the concrete in nonuniform muffled clapping. There’s a constant frenzy of short lived screams. Not death screams but outbursts of piggy alarm. Cry outs. High-pitched shrills of Mel Gibson’s Freedom.
The hogs are my lambs…but they were never real for me.
After I typed that last sentence I paused. I realized Clarice isn’t real either. But not to me. Movies and characters and plots can (and often do) take non-fictional places in my head. They become history.
In my darkest, blackest, most panicked times my fright is televised internally. As those pigs. In that room. My horror is nowhere near the magnitude as the hogs’ and being funneled into whatever electric chamber but…when dread overtakes me and I can’t think clearly…I generally see, hear, feel this warehouse space played on some twisted massacre loop.
Not long after Kathy and I divorced, I had an outburst outpouring captured in the song below. The music is much more audibly harsh than the scene I describe above, what I actually hear, but I had a recent breakup swirling and all. It was an attempt though to translate how the hogs manifest when I’m alone.
Hmm. I didn’t intend to go this far down the rabbit hole. I’ve never told anyone of the hogs before. They’ve been with me since the first time I saw Carrie and a sadistic John Travolta. The playhouse solidified when I lived up the street from a processing plant.
A couple of years ago when anti-socializing with the terrorized hogs in the slaughterhouse asylum, I told Jimi of whatever inescapable distress I was in the midst of. That I wasn’t taking my spiritual antibiotics, that I was just freaking out with the other hogs. I felt as if life had been hitting me with a shock rod over and over again.
I hadn’t prayed for a couple of days. Or sought spiritual guidance. All was lost.
Jimi said to me, “Well, ya better start praying again.”
The most divine answers are the most simplistic. I lose sight of that easily.
I talked about this not long ago in a meeting but want to reiterate its value to me. The value is the main reason I started writing this blurb that put my hysterical hog factory on public display. In the department store window.
Just because I haven’t prayed for a couple of days doesn’t mean that I can’t start praying again. Like right now.
Often times when I don’t do things that I should, my mind goes to this place where I can never do them again. I haven’t called a friend in awhile so I can never again pick up the phone sorta thing. And the longer the time since the last, the more I feel like I can’t. I have to give up entirely. Too much time has passed and I’ve lost my chance, the window closed. The department store turned off its lights.
I don’t know why this is.
But I can. I can pick up the phone. I can reach out. I can go to a meeting. I can pray. I can pick up where I left off. It’s not too late. It never is. I don’t have to quit completely. The only one who says I can’t is me.
Stop thinking, stop fretting. If I start thinking my wheels start moving. And then they start spinning. And then I never go anywhere.
Stop road-blocking, cock-blocking yourself. That was vulgar I know but whatever.
My point is we can (and should regularly) give ourselves permission to do the things that — for whatever reason — we tell ourselves we can’t.
Take the piggy out.
Embrace knowing that there are no warehouses. There’s only freedom from our own limitations.
I have no judgment on the workers. America’s gotta eat. ↑