BLOOD & SWINE: A Comedy of Terrors
(2009, unpublished) - a novel by A.R.Yngve - Sample Chapters
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CHAPTER 3: The Old Guard
Two days later, Carl visited his Polish grandparents. They lived in the countryside, several hours' drive from the city, in an old brick house surrounded by flat farmland. The first thing he showed them was the signed contract from Hogoration, Inc.
"Grandma, Grandpa!" he shouted in Polish. "I got the job!"
Grandma Olga wept tears of joy and hugged and kissed Carl. He was six feet tall and she only five, so he had to bend down.
"Congratulations, my boy!"
Grandpa joined in and hugged his grandson; he was Carl's height and overall build, but pot-bellied. "Well done, Carl. We're very proud of you. Now when you get to work with those big-city types, don't let them look down their noses at you. You have solid knowledge about pigs that one can't get inside an office."
"It's time to feed them," Olga said. "Come along!"
"Yeah! How are the piglets I saw last time?"
"All alive. Grandpa took care of one that got sick."
All three put on work clothes, and went to the feed barn.
After feeding and watering the pigs, Carl removed his work clothes and boots, took a shower and scrubbed off the worst smell, and dressed for dinner. He knew it would take at least two weeks until the pigsty smell wore off completely; he had to use strong cologne to cover it up. But while others might have turned up their noses at the smell of pigsty, he associated it with happy childhood memories and his beloved grandparents.
He went into the kitchen and helped Grandma clear the rough wooden table. Olga collected Matroshka dolls for a hobby, and they could be found on virtually every shelf in the house.
"What's for dinner, Grandma?"
"My specialties. Goulash, steamed cabbage, pork chops wrapped in bacon and garlic, Miesem Pierogi with my own cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes with garlic, home-made garlic sausages and sauerkraut. For dessert, my own cookies baked on oatmeal and pork fat."
Carl's mouth watered. "You don't let anything go to waste, Grandma!"
Olga waved a wooden spoon in the air as she talked: "And don't let those fancy doctors tell you pork is bad for your health. Grandpa has eaten my food for forty years and he's doing fine!" Her round face wrinkled with thought. "But maybe it's the silverware we always eat with, and the garlic... keeps disease and bad luck away."
Carl knew better than to try and argue with Grandma's many superstitions. But she had a point about garlic being healthy, and that silver killed germs.
Grandpa came out of the bathroom shaved and dressed, and joined them by the table.
Olga read the dinner prayer. "Amen. Now eat, boys!"
A while later, Carl had stuffed himself; his belly was pleasantly full on the verge of aching. After gently refusing a second helping, he had to ask the question which had been on his mind all day.
"Does it worry you... that the Hogoration corporation is starting to build big hog farms here in your country?"
Grandpa shrugged. "Well... I've tried their pork. It tastes... wrong. It's watery. Their animals must be sick. Why would people want to buy that bad meat?"
"Because of the commercials," Olga said quickly, and waved her silver fork to emphasize. "They play on TV every day, telling people to eat that junk. Ha! As if ham and pork chops and spare ribs had anything to do with dancing girls and pop music!"
The grandparents went quiet and looked at Carl. He swallowed. "I'll do my best to make a change. I promise I won't let you down."
Olga reached for Carl's hand and squeezed it. "I understand how hard it must be to work for a big employer, Carl. Too many cooks making one soup. You can't expect to win all the time." She gave him a secretive glance. "I'll give you some lucky charms for work. Promise you'll carry them on you."
"Don't argue! Just promise."
"I promise, Grandma."
From the pockets of her apron she dug out a selection of trinkets and placed them neatly on the table. "This silver capsule contains wolfsbane and dried garlic. Wear it around your neck anytime, but especially when you sleep. The cross makes good protection at all times, but dip it in holy water every now and then to make it more powerful."
Carl tried to distance himself a bit from the barrage of superstition. "Where do I find holy water? In a Seven-Eleven?"
Olga gave him a disapproving glare and went on:
"This flask contains special holy water touched by the Polish Pope, bless his memory. The last real Pope, not like that German impostor..." She cast a glance at the yellowed photo of Pope John Paul on the wall. "You can drink it when you need the Lord's strength, or put it in an evil man's drink to make him weaker. And this medallion of St. Peter..."
Carl did not take the lucky charms seriously - but since he knew what they meant to Grandma, he brought them with him.
Alone and restless in his small apartment in the city, the night before his first day at work, Carl indulged in an erotic daydream about Lucia Surunova... though it did not involve pigs or hog farms.
The next morning, when he drove off to his new workplace, he hesitated about the wolfsbane-and-garlic capsule. He took a good sniff, and decided it wouldn't leak into his clothing, so he hung it around his neck with the crucifix and stuffed the other trinkets in his jacket pocket. Having them there, he thought, reminded him of Grandma and that made his stomach jitter much less.
His first day working for Hogoration, Inc.! What challenges awaited him there? And would he meet that beautiful red-haired girl Lucia again?
"You bought a new suit. That's a small improvement." Max Freyt looked over his new assistant. Carl stood waiting outside Freyt's office, nervously shifting his feet. He wore a plain gray polyester business suit and plain brown shoes. "Do something about the hair, though."
Carl impulsively moved to brush down the unruly lock which stood up from the center of his scalp like a waving hand. Freyt sniffed and scrunched up his nose; Carl had doused himself with two spoonfuls of Lagerfeld to hide the lingering pigsty smell. "And cut down on the fancy perfume when we're dealing with customers, will you?"
Freyt gave Carl a plastic badge. "Here's your corporate ID badge. Always wear it at work. It's also your key card." The badge/card had Carl's photo printed on it, his name and his Hogoration job title. He pinned it to the lapel of his suit.
"Where do I sit, Mr. Freyt?" Carl asked. "I mean, where's my workspace?" He expected an office, or at least a spacious cubicle.
"Later," Max said, and walked briskly toward the exit with a cellphone headset on his right ear. "Come along to the heli-pad, we've got an emergency. First unit's half-finished and already the big boss is on my ass to fix a problem he caused."
"You'll see. If we fix this crisis, the bastard's either going to hog all the credit, or pretend it never happened, as frickin' usual."
"Jack Drasco. Who frickin' else?"
Carl was a little taken aback by Max Freyt's foul mood, but he followed along without a moment's hesitation. He knew from business school that one should work hardest on the first day.
They took the elevator to the heli-pad on the office roof, where a small helicopter stood waiting for them with the engine running. It was painted with the Hogoration corporate symbol: The stylized silhouette of a swine, eating a chunk out of an apple covered by latitude and longitude lines. Carl climbed into the cramped cabin next to Max, who told the pilot to take off.
From the air, when Carl looked down, the towering HQ resembled a bulky spaceship which had landed in the city to take possession of it.
Raising his voice over the engine noise, Carl said: "This is not bad, flying to work! Do you do this a lot?"
"I have to!" Max shouted back. "With all the farmland we're buying and all the new compounds we're building this year alone, we've got to act fast! Drasco comes over from the U.S. to inspect our progress anytime now! He loves to take people by surprise, and he gets bored if things don't move fast! This crisis was just what I bloody needed!"
"You'll see! I told him this area was a wetland and the Greens might get mad about choosing this site, but he insisted! Said we must build as close as possible to urban centers to save up on distribution costs!"
Carl got worried. He tried to focus on the view ahead and not get airsick on his first day.
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