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essay /judith ralston ellison

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

Pig O’ My Heart

Tiny, tiny bodies, nine or ten, side by side. Sucklings, fighting their fellows for the teat. Little squeals and grunts climbing, pushing with pink feet and toes pushing, pushing to gain the high side to the creamy sustenance from nipples set like double breasted buttons. Her body lay on its side, in the sweet-smelling straw, open to the little noises.

Rocking, jiggling the bodies move together traveling, destination unknown. Prisoners of the deal an unknown carrier with metal bars not straw. Metal bars await at the end before the end. But warm arms cuddle each, every day. Eyes closed in contentment, soul exposed as snouts snuggled warm necks. An experience unknown in their short life. But good. No dirt, grass, or routing for worms or grubs. Not missed. Never a grass or a muddy pond roll.

Warm arms of Lucia fed them nipples then grain, no more creamy milk but petting, petting soft baby hair. Snouts pushing through the metal squares to her warm fingers and cooing baby talk. Nice little one, so pretty, love you babies. And shortly to fingers rubbing grizzy hair. Bigger, growing, eating toward six months when their heart was human sized, and being unaware of their awaiting fate. Don’t all pigs have a fatal fate she mused pragmatically?

The crying humans waiting and near death have similar heart functions. Chosen to make the take easy, only ten gene edits on the pig to go in the body of a heart damaged human called xenotransplantation. The sacrifice is because of a human organ shortage. Not enough humans dying and donating. The lovies are taken.

To lie upside down, legs tied together, wrapped with sterile plastic. To the slice of a surgeon’s scalpel. To have their hearts torn out bleeding, dripping blood. Others did know of this end. No thought to the pig. Do they feel pain? No thought given to loving human handlers like Lucia.

In the last hours, minutes, the warm arms and fingers were quiet. Trying not to think of the scalpel, of being without them. Gone now. Thinking of the end and the lovies being far away from the cage and far away from pressing their snout for a rub or a coo. Do tears make noise when they fall and hit?


Judith Ralston Ellison retired from her law practice in 2009 and began taking classes in writing at a community college. She has half a dozen flash and fictions published in small presses, and also writes essays for the Mentor, a inhouse publication of the Michigan State Bar, and Art and Sole, an inhouse publication of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

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