Going whole hog for the interview

A 52-year-old man in bright-yellow hip waders hunched over a pig, on its back and lifeless, carefully removing its skin. Clotted blood dissolved and spread like watercolors around the drain. The faint odor of barnyard hung in the air.

I stood in the corner of the cement-floored room, asking questions.

“Do you remember the first pig you ever slaughtered?”

The butcher stopped and cocked his head. “What?”

“Do you remember the first pig you ever slaughtered?”

“Nope,” he said, returning to his attention to maneuvering his knife through the subcutaneous fat covering the pig’s chest.

We’d been at this for half an hour. I asked each question twice and he gave the shortest answer possible. His longest response came when he spelled his four-letter last name.

“Do you like your job?”

He stopped again. “What?”

“Do you like your job?”

“Used to,” he said, again returning to his work. This time he shook his head slightly, a movement that told me exactly what he thought of me.

He gave me points for not vomiting when he eviscerated the pig or dug around in the 50-gallon bucket of waste to find the eyeballs he was supposed to save for dissection by future biologists. But he didn’t trust me; he wasn’t going to tell me any more than necessary.

During what could only be called a one-sided interview, the butcher’s boss interrupted us.

“You want a brat?” he asked me. Well, those were the actual words he used. But his offer of ground pork stuffed into a sheep intestine was really his way of asking a different question.

“Are you a pussy?”

It is one thing to watch someone slaughter hogs. It is something else to hear the sploosh of blood gushing out of a pig’s jugular and sloshing into a bucket of entrails while noshing on the victim’s brother. This offer was a call out.

It didn’t matter that I wasn’t really hungry, either, there was one obviously right answer.

Both of these had grown up around animal slaughter. They felt no more emotion when killing a pig or lamb as I do squashing a mosquito; it’s just the way it is.

The boss brought me just a brat — no bun, no ketchup, no mustard — and held it out to me. The translucent casing sheathed the warm, gray meat of the just-steamed sausage.

I don’t remember if I hesitated when before I took the sausage or when I went to eat it. All I remember is the snap as I bit through the natural casing.

It would have tasted better grilled.