"PigSkin" by Rebecca Gransden
By Rebecca Gransden
Originally published in sleazemag (October 2018)
She was born in a pig skin. Outdated as a thwarted foeticide subject she stunk to heaven’s high. A multitude of deleted dreams terrified her mother. Tobacco and vodka so she would slip the child out. Mother had gone for the anomaly scan and got a pretty picture. Wanted it airbrushed. Fat thighed baby. Mother hated her, but just the same as she retched at everything else.
One day her mother convulsed out of this world. Alone in a flat.
How quiet was the flat now her blue mother had taken up residence. She did not cry, did not gag with coarse lungs. As if pulling herself from the primordial stickiness she reached with opposable thumbs for the sides of her secondhand pram. Shaky muscles propelled the dwarf-like frame. She was no longer a babe, you see. Her clunky, bulbous head supported itself against any laws of physics. Atavism had galvanised and coalesced in this she. Her little hands gripped the pram and she stood on unformed limbs. How would she feed? She would not gnaw her mother—she wasn’t an animal.
The pram was old-school. Massive like from post-war photos. She climbed out placing her chubby toes along mould-encrusted metal and wheels. The floor was covered in skin dust and filth. Time had melded the fluffy dirt into fur strewn clumps. Her feet accustomed to the rank resistance of the floorboards, bereft of carpet, of attention. She sat and looked at her mother for a while. This soon bored her. The fridge—the small kind people keep beer in in their garages—had lemon juice, vinegar, scraps of tinfoil. She knew there was some powdered milk in the cupboard out of reach. Trying the freezer she found five tubs of vanilla ice cream, and what looked like some kind of meat product enclosed in an icy sarcophagus.
She ate with her pinky hands until the cold made them red and unbearable. The ice cream was left to thaw to a welcome slush she could trough at whenever she needed a little.
Her nappy was its own fearsome world. She took it off. The window was ajar. By the sofa sat a stack of old encyclopedias that had been used as a side table. Sweeping the rubbish off the top, she pushed the pile of heavy books over to the window and climbed up onto them, nappy in hand. This was the outside world she had been aware of as an amorphous onslaught of glaring and blaring. Now, as she was, it cohered for the first time. Her reach was not far but enough to push the window and force through the acrid nappy, which dropped to the ground silently.
Now she was covered in old baby shit. A combination of kitchen chair and those encyclopedias assisted her ascent to the kitchen sink. She let the cold water hit her hard, blasting the residues away, making her mind blank and her breath insane. She sat in the sink, her porcine posture reflecting a lack of circadian awareness. Her eyes moved to her mother. The steps taken away from the woman had only been to lead her into the light. Her mother’s slack-jawed frame was a mass of sunken hope—a notion as alien to her as her own transmogrification. Older people, people in the world, had a phrase that went like ‘but she was still your mother.’
The water slowly drained away. She slipped out of the sink and sank to the ruined floor to dry in the fierce rays of the late evening sun, her pig skin pricked with the clefts and fissures of a foraging ant’s nightmare. A beetle scurried from somewhere and charged into her foot. She grabbed the insect and thought about eating it. Instead, she dropped it into the ice cream trough and watched it drown.
The singing of a business of flies had risen from the mean corners of the darkening flat. The open window invited the taste of the evening—of fast fat and chippies, of moist oil and sweet privet. She found the nappies wedged behind the sofa. Taking one, she fit it to herself, examining her body and its movements as she did so. Precise placing for her comfort. A street light outbid the sun and pitched its tonal feelers about the flat. Her mother’s body captured this light from the legs down, her torso taking shadow.
Another beetle emerged, rushing about in the eye-strain. It slowed and lifted its wavering antennae. She watched this insect closely as it appeared to detect her. It turned to her slightly, oscillating its protuberances to divine her nature. She thought, just for a second, that it would speak to her—that it would have a word. It went on its way as it would. Tears came to her eyes like a dream she was struggling to recall, all syrup frustration and tangled modulation. She made no sound.
First light on a new day as a freak hog. Her stained eyes and snot-encrusted face stuck to her head like a mask. Her mother’s body had softened on its edges, the mouth having drifted into place and her bulk merging with the surroundings like blending Sahara sands.
There were heavy footfalls outside the flat. She lay herself on the floor and pretended to be dead, but she couldn’t keep a smile from her lips. Her eyes closed, the door was forced open and other people were there. She fought the smile but it was too strong. Peeping out from one half-open lid she saw frantic legs and blurred outlines. She shut her eyes tight and tried to sound like a babe. Someone lifted her as her first magnificent noises came forth.
Laughter of the throatiest kind.