“Hell Pig” — Aimee Nezhukumatathil

“Hell Pig”
Aimee Nezhukumatathil

To keep me from staying out late at night,
my mother warned of the Hell Pig. Black and full
of hot drool, eyes the color of a lung—it’d follow me
home if I stayed past my curfew. How to tell my friends
to press Pause in the middle of a video, say their good-byes
while I shuffled up the stairs and into my father’s waiting
blue car? How to explain this to my dates, whisper
why we could not finish this dance? It’s not like the pig
had any special powers or could take a tiny bite
from my leg—only assurances that it was simply
scandal to be followed home. When my date and I
pull into my driveway and dim the lights, we take
care to make all the small noises that get made
in times like these even smaller: squeaks in the seats,
a slow spin of the radio dial, the silver click of my belt.
Too late. A single black hair flickers awake the ear
of the dark animal waiting for me at the end of the walk.
My fumbling of keys and various straps a wild dance
to the door—the pig grunting in tune to each hurried step, each
of his wet breaths puffing into tiny clouds, a small storm brewing.