It’s a blustery March Saturday. I’m sitting reading by my upstairs window. The view is the same – rain is melting the edges of obstinate snow patches in the muddy yard. I return to Anna Comnena’s account of the Byzantian court. I hear a vehicle coming up the track. I look out and see a man in overalls and wellington boots get out of a green van. Ole Nefstad, the farmer with whom I lodge, strolls into sight. He greets the man and they walk together towards the barn. It’s none of my business. I return to Anna.
Minutes later I hear air splitting shrieks from the barn. Through its dark doorway I see the two men backing out, bent and straining. They’re pulling a large pig by its ears. Ted Hughes in his poem describes the cries as “the rending of metal”. He was spot on. Anna Comnena has dropped to the floor. I have a presentiment of what I am about to see. A voyeur, I shrink back in my chair but keep looking.
Dragged into the middle of the yard, the condemned creature is released, but it makes no attempt to escape. The barn door is still open, promising warmth food and jostling brothers. But the pig does not bolt. As the man retrieves a rifle from his van, the pig stays absolutely still, with lowered head. He presents an ideal target. Standing beside Ole Nefstad, the man aims the rifle and shoots. Time seems to stop for just the long second that it takes a body to realize it is dead and for the executioners to react. The pig stands for this long second then just collapses into the snow. Ole is on him. With an agility I have never seen before, he has drawn a sharp knife across the pig’s throat. The snow around the corpse turns red.
Ole runs to his tractor with the fork lift ready. A few minutes and the pig has gone as has the rifleman in his van. When Fru Nefstad returns from a prearranged coffee morning, all that is left from the scene is the blood on the snow and the churned up mud