Flying Pig

As a kid, whenever I asked Mom for something out of this world – like a new bike or video game console — her favorite reply was “Sure, when pigs fly.”

When I was 5, I painted a mural of the zoo on the hallway wall while she napped. I showed her masterpiece once she woke. My eyes were bright with the praise I expected to receive. Instead, she cuffed me on the back of the head and told me to scrub my “graffiti” off her walls.

Tears welled up in me, but I choked them down with raw anger and snapped back, “One day I’m going to be a famous artist and you’re going to wish you had kept this drawling on the wall, because it’s gonna be worth a million bucks!”

She guffawed and spewed, “Sure, when pigs fly!” before her backhand slap sent my mind spinning.

Three years later, Dad went to the store to get some milk and eggs and didn’t return for two days. I asked Mom when he would come home. She took a swig from a vodka bottle, wiped the dribble with the back of her hand, stared at me with dead eyes and chuckled, “Your daddy will be back when pigs fly.”

Mom got heavier into drinking as the years progressed. When I would come home from high school, she would be sprawled out on the couch in a drunken sleep, empty bottles and flasks on the shag carpet around her, threads of vomit clinging helplessly on her chin. Before I did my homework, I would clean up around her and wipe her face. Then I’d fix myself a snack to eat while I did my homework or sit in my room and draw until she woke.

Before I left home for art college, I expressed to Mom my concerns about her drinking. I feared it would be the death of her. “Don’t worry about me,” she said. “The day drinking kills me is the day pigs fly!”

In my first semester, the instructor assigned a project to create functional art. Inspired by my mother’s words, I crafted a giant kite shaped like a pig. The pig was canary pink, sprouted swan wings on its side and flashed a knowing smirk. Proud, I took my pig kite out to the park and gave it a test flight.

I held it aloft and my kite flitted about in a dizzying aerial ballet. It spun about like a sausage dervish at first. Then I got the hang of it and was able to hold it steadily and guide it in a simple waving pattern. That’s when I heard clapping and a resounding voice clamor, “Bravo!”

I turned to see who had spoken and saw an older gentleman approach me. He inquired about my kite. I told him I designed it. He was impressed, and explained that he was the owner of a toy manufacturing company and that he was looking for fresh minds to work in product development. He offered me a job with a yearly salary three times more than what Mom made. I accepted the position on the spot.

Ecstatic, I called up my friends and we went to the bar to celebrate my good fortune. I returned home late. I checked my voicemail; I had two messages. Both were from numbers I didn’t recognize.

The first one, I knew the man’s voice as soon as I heard it, although it had been 10 years since I last heard from him, I knew it was my dad. There were tears in his voice as he begged me to call him back; he wanted to explain his disappearance and attempt to make amends.

I couldn’t believe it. After a decade apart, Dad hadn’t forgotten about me. He wanted to return to my life. Could this day get any better?

I saved Dad’s message and listened to the next one. It was from a doctor, at the hospital back home. While I was out partying, Mother had died from severe and sudden kidney failure, due to years of heavy drinking.