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課 題 文

It was the pig that woke my grandfather on the morning Gran died. It was squealing outside in the garden. The noise didn't wake him at once but crept into his sleep and brought on a dream. He dreamt he was back home in Glasgow, in the slaughterhouse where he first worked beside Gran. They were children then, barely into teens, but in his dream they were already old, shrunken and wrinkled, twice the age of their parents. Grandad was trying to butcher a pig. He struck it repeatedly on the back of its skull with a mawl, but the animal was stubborn and refused to buckle beneath him. All the while it was squealing Gran was squatting by a tub of scalding hot water, ready to scrape it, quietly waiting. In the shadows behind her their parents were huddled together and whispering. Grandad began to pour sweat as freely as the blood which flowed from the pig, until he could hardly see what he was doing. "There's nae strength in me, Agnes," he said. But Gran didn't respond. She dipped her elbow in the water and smiled to the parents, who cooed and muttered admiringly. He continued to strike at the pig, crying now in frustration, still sweating, and when he woke his vest and pyjamas were soaking. The room was sunk in near darkness, the curtains drawn tightly. He tried to gauge the time by the sunlight showing under the door, but he knew it was late. The pig did not normally squeal unless it was hungry. He didn't realize at first about Gran. "The beast's after her grub, Agnes," he said. But of course she didn't reply.