BLOOD & SWINE: A Comedy of Terrors
(2009, unpublished) - a novel by A.R.Yngve - Sample Chapters
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CHAPTER 1: The Rookie
Carl Olson and nine other men sat waiting. They sat in a spacious white hallway of a large hexagonal office building. On the white walls hung giant posters of pigs, hams and aerial photos of enormous industrial-scale farms.
The ten men were waiting for their names to be called. Their names would be called for job interviews, to be held simultaneously. The ten applicants had passed previous application tests to get this far. 592 other applicants had failed. The final, decisive interview would begin in about one minute.
All 602 had applied for the position as Assistant Coordinator for the Polish branch of Hogoration Inc., one of the biggest multinational hog-breeding corporations in the world.
Carl was twenty-five, single, fresh out of the university with an MBA and a degree in agriculture, the youngest of the ten. He had blond hair and faint freckles on his face. His posture showed a tense readiness, and the smile on his lips positively radiated optimism. He repeated a mantra to stay focused: Either I succeed or I don't, there is no third option. Succeed or don't, succeed or don't...
At this point you're probably asking: Why would an ambitious young man want to work with pigs?
Carl loved pigs - though not in a sexual way. He grew up in Sweden, the only child of his Swedish father and Polish mother. In the summertime, his family went to Poland and spent two, sometimes three or four weeks at his Polish grandparents' farm. Carl's grandparents Ivar and Olga Krocek taught him all about pigs: how they were born, how to feed and raise them, how to make them grow fat and healthy.
The little boy Carl got a pet piglet to keep on the farm, and named it Prosi after the Polish word for "piglet." Carl fed, bathed and tended that pig with more devotion than most children would spend on their dogs.
Predictably, this ended in tears and bacon.
When Prosi had grown to almost full size and was finally led to the slaughter, the eleven-year-old Carl cried his heart out. Carl's parents tried to comfort him and explain the harsh realities of farming: the meat on the table came from slaughtered animals. They offered him bacon made from Prosi. He threw it away, even though Dad assured him it was the tastiest bacon he ever ate.
In protest, the teenage Carl swore to become a vegetarian. A few years later, when he succumbed and ate a delicious ham sandwich served by Grandma Olga, he gave up vegetarianism. But he made a new vow: To bring his grandparents' knowledge of hog farming to the modern world. For Carl had seen modern large-scale hog farms, and how they caused the pigs unnecessary suffering and bad health.
Carl did not explain this commitment to his grandparents. He understood that they wanted him to inherit the family business, but he had greater ambitions.
As he now sat perched on a plastic chair next to the other nine applicants on their chairs, holding his bundle of grades, letters of recommendation, documents and his master thesis on hog farm reform, Carl Olson thought:
I'll get this job for you, Grandma and Grandpa Krocek. I'll make you proud, and I'll improve the conditions for millions of pigs in Hogoration, Inc.'s hog farms around the world, using what you taught me...
And I'll do it for you, Prosi.
Carl became aware of what clothes the other applicants were wearing: dark-gray or dark-blue suits, with shoulder pads and matching shoes and socks.
Chilled by a sudden self-consciousness, he looked at his own clothing: a double-breasted pin-striped suit he had inherited from his Swedish grandfather, a white tie on a sky-blue shirt... and white sneakers. The suit made a perfect fit on Carl's lean body. But now he only saw how it made him look goofy. He started to sweat heavily and wiped his forehead.
An involuntary reflex caused Carl to drop his handkerchief. As he leaned forward on his chair to pick it up, the papers slid from between his arms. They fell in a heap on the crimson wall-to-wall carpet.
"Excuse me," Carl muttered to the other nine. They gave him sneers and disdainful looks. He stepped away from his seat, stooped forward and picked up the last sheet. When he raised his head, Carl bumped into someone who was walking past. His papers and the other person's papers flew across the floor.
"Hey!" said the other person. Carl looked up, and felt his neck flush with embarrassment. The other person, who stood rubbing her arm where Carl had bumped into it, was a woman in her twenties. She was wearing a sky-blue dress suit and had long copper-colored hair. Her full lips were the most luscious Carl had ever seen, and her eyes were the color of emeralds.
"Sorry!" He bent down to pick up the papers for her... and bumped his forehead into hers.
"Ow!!" The girl clutched her forehead, stepped back and glared furiously at Carl. "Watch where you're going, idiot!"
"Sorry! I didn't mean to..." Just as he was struggling to pick up the papers from the floor, a man entered the hallway and shouted something Carl didn't hear. The other nine applicants heard and rose simultaneously from their chairs, marched after the man through a door, and the door shut behind them.
Carl finally gathered every last piece of paper, frantically sorted them in two bundles and handed one to the girl. He noted the headline on page one: Sanitary Measures for Slaughterhouse Workers - Health Issues of Compressed-Air Tools. Carl was a quick read.
"Say," he told her eagerly, "are you working on worker safety? You know the reports, that when slaughterhouse workers blow out the brains on pigs they catch infections from the -"
"Mind your own business!" The red-haired girl snatched her papers. Then she stormed away to an exit.
"Wait... what's your name?" She didn't listen. Carl blinked. He looked around. And he realized that all the other applicants had gone somewhere in the building and he'd missed it. "Oh my God."
Carl ran to the nearest row of doors and looked desperately for a clue. He noticed a tiny, handwritten Post-It notice glued to a closed double-door entrance. It read: Int. Mon. Appl. #1-10.
He tried the door handle. It was locked from the other side. Feeling terribly embarrassed, he knocked on the door. After five knocks, a supervisor opened and gave him a hard look.
"I'm here for the interview," Carl said quickly and tried to look calm.
The supervisor looked at Carl's pin-striped double-breasted suit and white sneakers, sneered and hesitated for a moment. Carl held his breath.
"You're late," said the man. "Get in. Last booth on the left."
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