KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 5: Spring 2016
Flash Fiction: 728 words
(Prompt): 65 words

Weight Loss

by Jonathan Cardew
(Prompt: Your village of Britons is under attack from Saxon marauders, and you have the fattest, the most beautiful pigs in this part of the country. What do you do to save such a treasure trove from the licking lips of foreigners? Include in your story a Frankish orphan, named Detroit, who plays an important role in saving the pigs. Title the story: “Weight Loss.”)1

The Saxons were fat and brutish, with broken teeth and leather pouches lined in silver. They bellowed for food and beer, and they eyed up our pigs, the plumpest they’d seen in this part of the country.

“Our country,” the boldest village boy said.

“This country,” they assured him.

It was hard not to give them their bounty. Metal shone at their flanks, ready for meat slicing. They were numerous, a good thirty or so, but we were more. For this reason, their hands remained close to their sides. Two or three of them were twitchy. These unstable brutes would swing their axes, their victim usually nothing more than a grain barrel or small shed. The rest kept their heads.

We debated. The elders favoured handing over the pigs, but the young were defiant; they had tasted Saxon blood before, and they wanted to taste it again. A push and shove ensued between a few of our clan, with daggers unsheathed, but nothing came of it. A small Frankish boy stepped forward when the dust had settled. He was no older than ten or eleven, but he spoke with a clearness of voice that silenced our warren.

“We could make them disappear,” he said.

The blue eyes and foreign tongue worked to the boy’s advantage. He had come to our village one diseased summer years ago, when a quarter of our people was sweating and dying. He was considered a sign. His dark complexion, the way he watched and listened—it was clear he was more than a boy.

“Pigs don’t disappear,” said one of us.

“The Saxons will have our guts for their dinner,” said another.

The Frankish boy listened to our complaints, but never looked convinced.

We drew the pigs out of their pen in the middle of the night. It was drizzling and windy. The Saxons were passed out in the main hall, their drinking horns all over the place, foodstuffs and vomit clinging to their long beards.

It was hard to keep the pigs quiet; they grunted and snuffed, and tapped their trotters along the wooden planks out of the sheds. We thought we heard the heavy latch of the hall door fall open once or twice, but it was our imaginations.

The boy led the pig escape. He was either delirious or supremely confident—he never once looked over his shoulder, never once showed any trepidation. He appeared at his ease. It was as if this was simply a walk out with the pigs. He went ahead of us, moving with purpose and certainty into the darkness. He spoke in his native tongue. He addressed the trees and the ground and the sky—and we listened to every word, even though it made no sense to us, even though the strangeness of each sound struck a warning bell in our heads.

We had been kind to him. We had raised him as a Briton, taught him our language. He had learned how to work iron, the forge and the anvil seemingly his natural habitat. And with the passing of the seasons, we had forgotten that he was of foreign blood.

We crossed the river, entering the woods by the stone circle. Our breath came out like smoke, as it did for the pigs. In fact, their smooth, misty breath trailed along their hindquarters as if they held candles in their snouts—and this is what we followed, in a kind of trance. Here, the sequence of events gets muddled. We know that Detroit—this was his name—had some of the pigs on rope, and we know that the rest were ambling behind keenly. What we don’t know is how we lost him. How, in the cover of trees, Detroit and the pigs, all of the pigs, disappeared into the night.

Without the pigs, we walked back to the village. The moon slid out from behind the clouds and cast a strange light on the main hall. It filled us with hate to imagine the Saxons in our home, their stench lingering in the corridors, their weapons and shields and tin ware clanking all the time. They would demand answers; they would want to know where the pigs had gone, why their lips did not taste the salty crackle of pork.

But we had a chance. The Saxons were still sleeping.

1. Editor’s Note: This prompt was offered by the author in response to a question from Georgia Bellas in Ordinary Mythopoeia: An Interview with Jonathan Cardew, in Atticus Review (28 May 2015). After discovering the interview last fall, KYSO Flash publisher Clare MacQueen emailed Cardew that she would enjoy reading such a story—and he was kind enough to write this one for our spring issue.

Site contains text, proprietary computer code,
and graphic images that are protected by:

⚡   Many thanks for taking time to report broken links to: KYSOWebmaster [at] gmail [dot] com   ⚡