Cannibal - R.M. Cooper

He lined the piglets together across the cutting board, wiped the blood on his pants to keep his grip on the knife and cut horizontally. He tossed all the ears punched through with the blue tags and scraped everything else into a big bowl, the bones soft enough for the blender. Over the coming week the remains would be added to the trough; two dozen runts so chalked-full of vaccines they would keep the whole drove of five-hundred healthy until spring.

That’s how he always told it.

The first Sunday of every month Tammy and I would visit Dad at Sapphire Acres, and he’d tell about the two dozen runts. With trembling hands he’d line those piglets together across his lap. Sometimes he’d add how nobody in the county could afford vaccines for five-hundred head or how those piglets—runts so small he collected them a dozen at a time in his pockets— wouldn’t have survived the first freeze, but usually Dad just ended with the healthy five-hundred in the spring.  

After he finished, Dad sat back in his chair, eyes small and scanning the rec. room. He’d linger a moment here or there, stare at the blue hairs playing canasta at the next table or Freddy Jones doing a lap with his air tank. Then something would click, a word or face triggering the place some memory once resided and he’d lean forward, look you in the eye and start lining those piglets up one more time. Of all the farm-boy stories he could’ve chosen, this line of synapses was the only one left with any juice. Clefts of gray matter folded and refolded until every neuron fired through those two dozen pigs, the ones tasked with keeping the rest alive through the winter.




R.M. Cooper's writing has recently appeared in Fugue, Cream City Review, Portland Review, Ellipsis, Lumina, Yemassee, and elsewhere. Cooper lives on the Colorado Front Range and serves as managing editor of Sequestrum.