‘Pigs’ fiction by Chris Jalufka


There were elements of his office that required him to brag. Three walls of glass, high above the fog. Each veined with fiberoptics, alive with video and the potent touch of connection between man and technology. His desk was Russian born, a slab of steel from a battleship downed in the Tsushima Strait during the Russo-Japanese War. An immovable joy hauled from the waters between Korea and Japan. He paced the marble floors, window-screen to window-screen, following the constant stream of global commerce that was his privilege to ingest.

In that office forty-seven floors above the scampering mess and dissolve of San Francisco, he was supposed to look down from his pedestal and feel something.

“Phone call for you.”

“I didn’t hear it ring,” he told the receptionist.

“I turned your ringer off so you wouldn’t be disturbed.”

“Isn’t barging in disturbing?”

“You tell me.”

His phone call was over in seconds. He buzzed the intercom and Ruby came back in. She was a young girl, a decade or so his junior, and he knew she was the daughter of someone he knew, but he couldn’t recall whom. A client. A barroom acquaintance. A neighbor. He wished it wouldn’t turn out to be a neighbor. It bored him to think that he lived next to someone who’s own daughter could not get a job as a secretary on her own.

“I told you if my sister called to not send it through.”

“She said it was an emergency. I thought if I heard emergency that was a key word,” Ruby explained.

“Anyone can say anything. It doesn’t make it true or even important. I love you.”

“Is that it? Are you done?” Ruby dismissed.

“I don’t even know who you are or how you ended up here.”

“I’m taking a lunch break. You can answer your own phone.”

“I don’t even know your name.”

As Ruby walked out, he steadied his eyes on the drab fabric of her dress. The sweat of her back soaked into the cheap cotton. Pastel yellow, the color of the suburban religious. He wanted her close to him, to lick the sweat from beneath her arms and smell that guttural breath of someone who hasn’t kept a meal down since high school. It was nonsense. He knew this. Nonsense that is to never to be spoken. Never acted upon. His own urges embarrassed him, but he allowed them to play out on the internal stage of his mind.

He drank the last splash of morning coffee and against his better judgment ran his fingers through his hair, yanking and dragging the oiled strands until a fistful of black hair and white scalp flakes covered his desktop. It was a short relief. That quick pulse struck again. A cryptic and dull urge brought his palm flat against his nostrils and in came that musk of dead skin and oiled head sweat. His own animal stink gave him a sense that all was right and erased all memory of the modern world.

He typed and read correspondence. Across the country men in other offices spoke his name and wrote up contracts that permitted him a certain amount of money for a certain amount of work. There, in his own city he was to entertain out of town businessmen, act as a liaison between the San Francisco and foreign offices. These men were there to visit empty buildings and make offers to take them over. Infiltrate foreign soil. San Francisco was growing and here he was, a man in an empty office, building as corporate skeleton, ready to sell his hometown off piece by piece.

There was a time in his college years that all he wanted was a life in the American South. There were moments from books he had read of coastal towns where the people clawed the shore for crayfish and fell in love under sagging trees spun with Spanish moss. The love conjured was simple and sweet. He could work at a gas station, his wife could be a waitress at the local diner, knowing the name and history of each of her customers. Her kisses sugared from sweet tea and meringue pie.

When he drank at night, he thought of this, of the girl that he could love, of her soft accent that survived a millennium of generations. She would teach him the slow way of life. A life of forgetting.

“Monteverdi arrived. He wants to have a meeting with you, “Ruby told him.
“You’re back,” he said.

“I couldn’t resist.”

“I’m seeing him tonight.”

“His flight was early. He’s here now. In the third-floor men’s room.”

He was beginning to form an idea of who Ruby was and where she came from. Her face was soft in the jaw with no chin line, a puffed round of cheek from eye socket to collarbone. He could see the subtle shape of her body, outward hips, waist only inches in, thighs equal to the outstretch of hip. She would grow into a dense trunk as time took the few curves she had and erased them with a straight line of fat from shoulder to foot. She still had the upturned breasts of teen hood, but those too would be lost to the rectangular and unformed fat of her future-self. Seeing the progress decades ahead of her, he thought of her life and future. She’d move on, career-wise, maybe. Continually bounce from minor station to minor station. No discernable purpose. There was no place for him in her story and he grew bored.

“Get your dad on the phone for me,” he asked.

“Fuck off.”

“Don’t talk to your boss like that.”

“You’re not the boss of me.”

“I know your boss. Close enough,” he stated.

“Third floor men’s room. He’s waiting.”

Illustration by wampastompa

‘Pigs’ Illustration by wampastompa

The third floor, like the rest of the building, was entirely empty. To reach it he had to take an express elevator from his office to the first floor that opened to his private parking garage, then take the public elevator back up to three. The building was constructed with attention paid most to the forty-seventh floor, the architectural brain, with each subsequent floor a conduit for the layers of work the building was designed to accommodate. The floor would be designate your rank, the higher up, the more vital your work was to the business of the building. He found old man Monteverdi staring at himself in the giant mirror above the duet of white sinks.

“I see Ruby got my message to you,” the old man said.

“Yes, sir,” he answered.

“This is a good restroom. I like the smack of the tile. Good craftsmanship.”

“They did a good job.”

“An excellent job. I would love a home in this style. One you could simply hose clean. Filth down the drain, air dry, and repeat.”

“It’s a good space.”

“Come, join me. Let’s talk.” Monteverdi ushered him into a stall and entered the neighboring toilet.

“We have some kid arriving soon. He’s bringing with him a fleet of his people.”

“I’ll arrange a dinner.”

“No sushi. This kid will be flying in from Japan I believe. Along with a pod of cronies. Give them something American. Heart stopping,” Monteverdi said.

“Easy enough.” He heard Monteverdi’s pants unzip and the shuffling of toilet tissue on the seat. He took it as his own cue. He tried his best to release his bladder with a heightened attention to the volume of splash and dribble.


“Yes, sir?”

“This kid has money.”

“That’s what I hear.”

“Quite a bit actually. He buys buildings just to sit on them. This is what he does. He has no use for them. He collects. He’s an odd bird.”

“We’ll tour all the properties. Easy catch.”

“Another thing about this kid. Sebastian, you listening?”

Sebastian pressed his eyes closed until they burned, cupped his hand below his waist and felt his stream of hot piss. He fanned his fingers, urine spread like daylight through the city blocks.

“Yeah, I’m listening.”

“He’s going to want to be entertained. He’s a child, you understand? A grown child with a monumental bank account. I’ve heard stories from reputable sources that this trip he’s been on the last year has corrupted many a person. His people, the ones he’s been traveling with, were stopped by customs when they were flying out of Laos. I don’t know why, but I have it with good confidence that whatever they were stopped for was not left behind.”


“That’s what I’m telling you. I don’t know what it was, but it didn’t stay in Laos. It’s traveling with the kid. Whatever it is.”

Bastian’s heart warmed and his urine-soaked fingers rubbed against the stretched baby skin of his anus, tickling the elastic of his sphincter.

“You be careful around this young man. I don’t know what he’s in to, but I do not want you being made a part of his world.”

“Of course, sir. I’ll be careful.”

Sebastian’s fingertip made contact with the splintered end of a beam of feces, an unborn shit waiting to fall, still incubating, touched now by the hand of its true God.

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