Territory

Territory

A Story by Laura Jean McKay
Art by Anthony Tremmaglia

Territory Untitled 2 by Anthony Tremmaglia

       How’d Sarah like it? Scotty asks when Marko runs back to the buggy.
       Yeah good.
Marko puts his hands on his knees and looks back through the bush to where Sarah would be if all the trees were gone. Scotty gets out of the buggy and points his hips at the side of the road. His piss sends up a low cloud of dust.
       She’s a nice girl, Scotty says over his shoulder. I’d fuck her.
He does a little jump to shake, and tucks himself in.
       Would you fuck her?
Marko shrugs.
       She’s still hung up on her ex.
       But if she can stick a pig. . . .
Marko nods.
       You should see the fucken great hooks on him.
Scotty hoots and climbs in the buggy. They drive over the rough ground until Scotty gets stuck between a rock and a tree. He revs the buggy like a thing dying. Marko climbs out and runs. The sweat that dried starts up again and his legs take up their familiar burn. He runs until he reaches the bend at the end of the hollow where Sarah is crouched down in front of the boar. She has one hand to her ear and the other touching the dried black hair on the pig’s bloodied snout. She looks like she’s having words.
       You right?
Sarah jolts and moves her phone from her ear to her pocket. She lifts her eyebrows. Still looks the same as in the profile picture. The angle of her head even. Marko grins.
       Thought you were talking to the pig.
Sarah opens her mouth to answer but the sound of the buggy burning through the bush eats up her words and Scotty appears, swerving and bucking. He hardly stops the buggy before he gets out and lurches towards the boar.
       Fucken rippin’!
He gets down to pull out the stick that Marko shoved in its mouth. The jaw slips half closed against the tusks and then stops frozen, mid bite forever. Scotty grips the sticky head and plants a kiss on its snout.
       Ripping hooks!
He gives Sarah a high five, his hand black with blood.

 

Scotty asks Sarah to take their picture. She lifts the screen of her phone and Marko and Scotty pose behind the pig. Their teeth on show.
       Ripping hooks.
Scotty steps around to admire them.
       Your turn Sarah, cover of Bacon Babes for sure. But you got to take your top off for that.
Sarah glances at Marko who shrugs.
       If I had tits and I caught a boar like this. . . .
Sarah looks at the pig like she might touch it again, her black nails shining like beetles, but she pulls off her shirt and hangs it over a branch. Her bra is gray—white and the strap twisted. Marko stares at Sarah’s fleshy breasts, one more bulky than the other, and Scotty grins like it’s his birthday.
       Awesome, he says and takes a photo of Sarah posing next to the boar. Awesome.
Marko looks at the web of stretch marks over Sarah’s brown skin. She stands and laughs and pulls her shirt back on.
       Never gone nude in the bush before, except for this one time—
       Not every day you get a boar like this, Marko interrupts. You were great, the photos’ll look great.
       The cover you reckon?
Sarah arranges her hair back around her shoulders. Marko stares at her breasts through the pink shirt.
       With your looks for sure.
Sarah smiles with her eyes.
       What about my personality?
       Come on lovebirds, Scotty calls, or we’ll miss the weigh in.

 

The pigs are a pile of black, except where they’ve swelled in the sun and split their pink skin. Some of the guts remain, bloated like faces. The stink of sweet rot sits heavy on the air where Marko, Sarah and Scotty line up around the outdoor bar to get beers. They watch their boar get weighed but it comes up small compared to some of the other fat bodies that still look alive, like they’ve just finished a feed. Scotty leans towards Sarah.
       They stick them in water, get them all heavy—we should’ve done that. We should’ve done that, he tells Marko.
Marko sucks on the edge of his can.
       With hooks like that who gives a fuck about the weight?
       Too true. He lives for pigging, Scotty tells Sarah. Don’t try to get him excited about anything else. You want to give him a hard-on: stick a pig in the bed.
Sarah splutters her beer and it sprays yellow.

 

The other piggers stand around to admire the hooks on their boar, now on the pile with the others, forever leaping with stiffened legs.
       Those hooks, they say, they’ll win for sure.
       You should’ve seen Dingo go after him. She’s small but she’s a good fucken pigger.
       Sarah here wasn’t bad either.
       Fuck off Scotty you weren’t even there. But I meant you were good too.
Marko glances over at Sarah. She smiles at him but not with her eyes. In the paddock beside them, little kids are throwing pig legs to see who can get the farthest. One girl watches the others, toying a severed leg with her bare foot. A woman sidles up to Sarah.
       Haven’t seen you here in ages. Where’s your kid?
       With my ex’s mum.
       I thought I saw him here before, says the woman and they both crane their necks to look through the crowd.

 

More people arrive and the sweet pig smell is mixed with dust and sweat and beer. Marko loses Sarah between the swollen guts and pink bodies of Scotty and his mates. He stumbles through, looking at the women in jean shorts and black or pink polo shirts and blonde hair. He drinks two bourbon and colas, then takes his shirt off and loses it.
       You’ll do, he says to one woman.
       What?
She’s prettier than Sarah but she glares at him ugly.
       Nothing.
Over by the bar, two of the lads push each other down and scramble in the dust. The blood paints their faces.
       This is a family event, a man calls over the loud-hailer. For families.
The men stumble off to the car park to hit each other there. The man with the loud-hailer says they’re going to judge the tusks and Marko pushes towards the front. Their pig has been hauled out—just a head now that ends at the neck. Its big teeth look like they’ve been carved and shoved in a pig’s mouth. They bring out another, a massive great thing with some serious tusks, and lay it in the line. The judges take their time with the measure at the mouths and Marko shuffles side to side. When they announce it he nearly pisses himself. The hog head gets lifted up and he props it on his bare shoulder with flies buzzing about his eyes and pig fur dried in solid clumps against his skin.
       Wait up there’s more of us.
Marko looks for them, unsteady with the weight of the boar. He can feel the fleas leaping from the dead pig to him. The man with the loud-hailer calls for Sarah and Scotty but after a while they take the photo of Marko alone.

 

       I must’ve been on the toilet.
Sarah is propped up against the bar. Marko’s voice and body drag.
       We fucken won. We’ll split it three ways, right? You, me and Scotty, when the money comes through. Because we fucken won.
He shows her the medal—a little metal pig on a wooden stand—and they order the pork roast and eat it at a table in the pub, away from the stench. Marko can still feel the fleas on him and he scratches at his head. Across the beer garden Scotty is laughing hard at something. He catches Marko’s eye and gives him the thumbs up. Marko shoves more pork in his mouth and turns back to Sarah.
       About your ex, he says through a mouthful. I mean you can get over him if you want. But only if you want to. You know?
Sarah laughs around her beer.
       I’m think I’ll be right. I’m pretty confident. Being a mum, you have to be. For your kid’s sake.
       Oh yeah. You like kids then?
Sarah laughs again.
       I thought it was girls who asked that.
       What?
       I like kids, who doesn’t?
       Scotty. I mean he likes kids, he just wishes he doesn’t have one.
Sarah glances over.
       Maybe he hasn’t met the right girl.
Marko launches out of his chair and it tips and clatters back. He just makes it to the bushes around the corner of the pub to piss until he’s empty. When he comes back around he sees Sarah is still sitting alone. She’s finished her beer and is rubbing lip balm on her lips. There’s a loud roar from Scotty a few tables over and Marko flops into a chair beside him.
       Marko’s taken up with a shit-hot pigger, Scotty tells everyone.
       Nah she touched the pig.
Scotty leans forward. His smile splits his face in half.
       She touched the pig?
Marko leaps up and starts humping the air, squealing. Scotty chokes on laughter. Marko cranes his neck to look at Sarah, who’s half facing them and half not. He lands in his chair again.
       Nah just kidding. She just patted its nose or something.
Scotty paws Marko’s face with his bloodied hands.
       Oh I love the little animals, he squeaks. Those piggers should be stabbed.
Marko laughs and pushes him away. He looks at Sarah again but her chair is empty.
       Boars before whores, Scotty tells him and drains his beer.

 

Marko calls through the door of the empty ladies’, where toilet paper is streamered over the cubicles. In the mirror the dried blood from the pig’s head makes it look like half his face is coming off. He moves outside and peers through the dark to the pile of hogs. There’s a figure hunched over, hand outstretched and teeth white in the shadows.
       Leave her there, Marko says to himself but he stumbles over.
Sarah doesn’t move when he calls. He gets right up close but it’s not her, it’s just a dead sow, legs stiffened, black nails shining. The smell hits him. He makes it over to his pickup before he chucks up his guts in a rush. Dingo’s eyes glint from the cage. He wipes his face and lets her out and shuts Rabies back in. Marko and Dingo weave back through the bodies of the hogs to the bar. But Scotty is gone too. The music rattles over the empty chairs and tables. The little metal pig sits next to two half finished beers—Sarah’s lip balm is caked around the rim of one. Marko drains both, then walks off into the black. The pub lights bleed away behind him and his knife beats a rhythm against his leg. The dog is beside him on the dirt. He starts to run.

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