Â by Gianluca Mercadante
– Wotcha mate, how are you? Feels like a lifetime since we last spoke.
– A lifetime…? It’s been about eight years.
– That’s how old my daughter is. For her, eight years is a lifetime.
– But I’m your friend, aren’t I, not your daughter’s.
– Er, anyway… what you up to these days? Still in the kitchen grilling meat?
– No, I’m about to open a vegan restaurant.
– A what restaurant…!?
– A restaurant serving vegan food.
– Yep. I’ve become a practising vegan. Like my wife.
– You?!! I mean, you’ve stopped eating meat and… and, bloody hell, you’re married? No, and don’t tell me you do your shopping hand in hand, maybe with a pushchair, in an organic supermarket!
– We don’t use a pushchair, it’s uncivilised.
– It deprives children of contact. Until last year, we carried our twins around in a sling. Now they’re walking.
– Your… your twins…!? Oh my God.
– Heraclitus and Sophocles.
– I said “oh my God”. What have philosophers got to do with it?
– Those are their names. The names we gave to our children.
– We do our food shopping at our local association — I’m the vice chairman. We also organise vegan events to make others aware of good nutrition, how important and healthy it is for the body – not to mention instinctive and natural – to stop relying on animal protein for our nourishment. Life, whether human or animal, is too precious for…
– What’s your wife’s name?
– Cassandra, why?
– I’ll get straight to the point: is she a good shag?
– Is Cassandra a good shag?
– Well… I got two kids out of her in one go, so… yes, I’d say she is.
– That explains everything, old pal. I’ll speak to you again in another eight years. If I haven’t already popped my bloody clogs due to an overdose of pork ribs.
Gentlemen (pigs) are born, not made
– Good morning, Complaints Department. My name is Claudio, how can I help?
– Claudio, I’m calling you regarding a delicate issue.
– Please explain.
– I’m a pig.
– Don’t worry, I won’t tell your Mum.
– No, seriously, Claudio: I’m a pig.
– So what’s your reason for calling us, Mr Pig? Do you want to know whether I pray to God or Allah? Whether I’m a friend or an enemy?
– There you are, you see? I call the Complaints Department to make a complaint and the Complaints Department treats me like… like…
– Like a pig?
– If I’d said I was a lamb, would you have acted in the same way? I doubt it.
– Don’t mention lambs, it’s Easter!
– Exactly, dear Sir, it’s Easter. The Internet’s been awash with pro-lamb awareness campaigns for at least a month: lambs are so nice, lambs are so sweet, lambs are so cute and what do people in Italy do on Easter Monday?
– I don’t know, what do they do?
– They eat those bastard pigs.
– Yes that’s true, they’re delicious on the barbecue.
– You see? No-one gives a shit about pigs.
– I see. So that’s why you want to file a complaint.
– Absolutely. Are there any reasons why you can’t accept my valid gripe?
– You took the words out of my mouth, Mr Pig: for a complaint, or a gripe, as you say, to be accepted, the reason needs to be legitimate.
– Legitimate, Mr Pig. Your accusations need to be proven.
– Proven? Just go to any Easter Monday barbecue! You can’t get more proof than that!
– A barbecue doesn’t constitute an offence.
– And nor does mass murder of pigs, I suppose?
– No, it doesn’t.
– But lambs are beatified.
– That can only mean that somewhere, some people are also treating lambs like… like…
– Like pigs?
– Yes. Like pigs.
– There’s no two ways about it then, is there. No-one cares about pigs.
– No. Not even the Complaints Department.
– Well, that more than proves the accusation I intend to make. This phone call has been recorded.
– …Damn. One week into the job and I’ve already made a pig’s ear of it, excuse the pun. I’m so sorry, Mr Pig… any chance you’ll forgive me?
– About as much chance of that as me sprouting wings and taking flight. Put me through to your manager.
– Go back a channel.
– No, one more.
– Yep, stop there.
– Oh actually, it’s all right, keep going.
– Nothing interesting?
– It looked like an alien, but it’s just the usual black kid.
– Welcome back, love!
– Where are you, darling?
– I’m in the kitchen putting away the shopping, come in here!
– Here I am, darling. What did you buy, angel?
– Oh, nothing special. Decaf coffee was half price so I got that instead of the normal sort…
– But darling, you know decaf makes me…
– … and I also got the usual fruit, the usual vegetables, some cheese, and a person.
– Wh… what…?!
– I bought the usual fruit, the usual veg…
– Yes, yes, darling, I got that bit! And… and what else?
– And I also bought a person.
– Ah. And where have you… er… where have you put it? The person, I mean?
– In the living room. It’s watching TV.
– But… I mean, does it work? Does it eat, drink, do its business where it should…
– Of course, love, it’s an adult person.
– Male or female?
– I’m not sure. I think it’s female.
– You can’t tell whether the person you bought is male or female?
– Well how am I supposed to know? I got it with my loyalty points. You never know when you might need a person in the house, do you? Come on, don’t make a fuss.
– I’m not making a fuss, sweetie, it’s just… what are we going to do with it?
– Nothing. People are useless, that’s why they’re on offer at the supermarket.
– But if they’re useless, what on earth did you buy one for…!?
– Just because. You know, I sort of miss people. I thought you might like it too, having one around the house. But if you’re really not happy with the idea, it doesn’t matter, we’ll exchange it for something else.
– Did you keep the receipt?
– Of course. Do me a favour darling, go with it.
– Go where?
– Back to the supermarket. Look in the wardrobe in our room, you should find that thing they used to put around our necks; it’s one of Mum’s mementos.
– The lead?
– That’s it, love. The lead. Make sure it’s wearing it, else it’ll escape. People always try to escape.
– Well even if it did escape, darling, it wouldn’t matter. After all, where would it go?
– Wherever it did go, it would cause damage. That’s why we buy people, love, to ensure they don’t cause any more damage. So?
– So what?
– So are you going to take it back or are we keeping it?
– Well… I don’t know. We could give it a try. Maybe it’s a nice person; we might be able to trust it.
– The last one who trusted a person was God. If you were God, what would you do right now?
– I’d take it back to the supermarket. And I’d contact the complaints department.
– Here’s the receipt, love.
– I love you, Lady.
– I love you too, Tramp. Shall we have a pizza this evening?
– Great idea. I’ll be back soon.
– Don’t forget to put that thing around its neck, love! That… what’s it called again?
– The lead, darling.
– That’s it. The lead. Make sure it’s wearing it. You can never trust people.
– Doctor, I want a pure Aryan race.
– Dye your hair.
– Doctor, I’m talking about a “pure race”.
– So am I. The last “pure race” left on earth is people pretending to be someone they’re not.
Illustration by ManuelaCh
Gianluca Mercadante was born in 1976 in Vercelli. Dozens of his short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines and in the Italian book series Giallo Mondadori.Â He has published “McLoveMenu” (Stampa Alternativa publishing, 2002, Parole di Sale prize), “Il Banco dei Somari” (NoReply publishing, 2005), “Nodo al Pettine — Confessioni di un parrucchiere anarchico” (AlacrÃ n publishing, 2006), “Polaroid” (Las Vegas publishing, 2008), “Il giardino nel recinto di vetro” (Birichino publishing, 2009), “Cherosene” (Las Vegas publishing, 2010), “Io ho visto tutto” (Milanonera publishing, 2012), “CasinÃ² Hormonal” (Lite Editions publishing, 2013), “Caro scrittore in erba…” (Las Vegas publishing, 2013), “Noi aspettiamo fuori” (EffedÃ¬ publishing, 2014), and “CasinÃ² Hormonal — Versione Integrale” (Lite Editions publishing, 2015). Together with Daniele Manini, he has also been responsible for the anthology “Liscio assassino” (Zona publishing, 2014), appended to the band Banda Putiferio’s album with the same name. He has written literary criticism articles for the Italian daily newspaper “La Stampa” and for the magazines “Orizzonti”, “Pulp” and “Satisfiction”.
His most recent work, which has just been published, is “Caro lettore in erba…” (Las Vegas publishing, 2015).