There were forty pigs in the pen. Murray was in the prime of his life. He stood in the pen waiting. Liev was supposed to meet him for lunch. Murray was starting to lose his nerve. He felt silly standing in a pig pen, let alone waiting for someone standing in a pig pen. It’s an honest-to-god pig pen, Murray said when Liev finally got there. I eat here all the time, Liev said.
The pigs ignored them. The men smelled strange to the pigs and they to the men. A few of the pigs squealed in fear as though the men were wolves or bears. Liev had a large blue box in his arms. He held it out to Murray. Hold, Liev said and Murray grabbed it. Liev unfolded the box into a little table. Inside was a satchel of food. The table was small but there was enough space to fit two plates and sandwiches. Murray and Liev leaned against the fence posts and ate the sandwiches. Why do you eat here? Murray said. Liev dropped a dollop of egg salad into the mud. You probably want to avoid feeding the pigs. They can be vicious, Liev said. Murray looked at the pigs. They were snorting and bumping into each other. Above them was a blue sky that made them look dirtier than they were.
I only have one more payment on my car, Murray said to change the subject. Fuck your car, Liev said. What’s this about? Murray said. Why do you eat in a pig pen? And why do you seem like you want to be alone? Liev put the last bit of sandwich in his mouth and wiped his face. He threw the napkin into the mud. I’ve never eaten here before, he said. Who’d eat in a pig pen everyday. I asked you here because I hate you. I’ve always hated you. I read a book where a character was eaten by a pig, Liev said. And you want me to be eaten by these pigs? What did I ever do to you? Murray said. Liev shifted his weight and bent down to tie his shoe. Why’d you even bother with lunch? Murray said. You ask a lot of questions. That’s another thing I hate about you, Liev said. They both stood there, quiet. The pigs never attacked and Murray turned and leaped over the fence. He got in his car and drove away. He never saw Liev again, but spent a long time thinking about what he could have done to warrant such treatment. He had never had so much as an argument with Liev.
Years later he received a letter in the mail. Murray didn’t recognize the address. It was from Liev. That was a very difficult time in my life, he wrote. At this point the only thing I can do is apologize. I’m doing a lot better these days. I haven’t used the pig pen in several years. One thing I’ve truly regretted is not congratulating you on your car. It is quite a triumph to complete such a purchase. Kudos. Murray had sold that car a year after he made the final payment. He remembered paying off the car as a triumph, but now, with Liev bringing it up again, it didn’t feel like a triumph.
It was sunny out. The house cracked as it settled. Murray thought back to all the triumphs in his life. None of them really seemed like triumphs just then. He crumpled the letter and threw it in the trash. At the kitchen table he finished a cup of tea that had steeped too long. He knew he had some triumphs somewhere, but the feeling wouldn’t shake.