Urban Renewal

By Ivan Faute 

None of the neighbors noticed Mr. Pickson when he moved in, although they did notice the multitude of objects that the movers toted up the back stairs.  Mr. Pickson purchased the condominium on Beacon Street because, although his family fortune was vast, it had been divided and divided over several generations so that, while he was in no danger of being poor, he would never be able to live in the opulence that his grandfather or that one’s father had been accustomed to enjoying. 

Mr. Pickson purchased the last unit in his building, and the other six owners, all college-educated graduates with professional careers, already knew each other, at least enough to exchange pleasantries while walking the dog or leaving the house to buy coffee late on a Saturday morning. 

It was surprising then, to Bob and Susan Endle, when they knocked on the new neighbor’s door, to be greeted by a Bentheim Black Pied Hog with two sets, an upper and a lower, of fully formed tusks.  It is true that Bob and Susan had only seen one example of the swine family before, while driving by City in the Farm at the Lincoln Park Zoo, but they were both reasonably sure, and confirmed their suspicions later in the day, that most hogs did not stand and walk on their hind legs, nor did hogs wear tweed suits with three-button vests, or half-circular reading glasses, or read the Wall Street Journal, especially on Saturday morning.  But despite their misconceptions, and despite the fact that they had stopped by Mr. Pickson’s home uninvited, this truly was the way Mr. Pickson dressed, even on the weekends. 

Of course, some objections will be raised at this point.  Many will point out that rarely, if ever, do Bentheim Black Pied Hogs wear tweed suits, especially with three-button vests, and even rarer still do they read with glasses, or on Saturday.  Most of these objections though can be accounted for by the fact that Mr. Pickson was extremely vain.  He wore the tweed suit because, unlike the other members of his tribe, he was unhappy with the profusion of rough, wire-like hair that covered his body, especially the rough patch just behind his ears that tapered to a thick point in the shape of a triangle halfway down his back.  As well, Mr. Pickson was an avid reader, much to the shame of his father and his siblings, who considered reading a waste of time.  After all, a Bentheim Black Pied Hog, his relatives reasoned, only has an average lifespan of twelve years, and any time spent reading is time not spent “feasting on the teat of the world” as his uncle would say. 

Bob and Susan Endle handled their unexpected meeting with Mr. Pickson quite appropriately, although they struggled to understand his speech, peppered as it was with his thick accent, an accent complicated by the tusks, which muddled his speech.  However, much to Mr. Pickson’s dismay, and fulfilling the worst fears he harbored about moving to the Uptown neighborhood, the couple reported, with prejudice, to the rest of the condominium committee that a “pig” now lived in unit 3E (their choice of words) – a “pig” who walked on his rear legs, had four very “threatening” teeth that protruded “at least” six inches from his face, and this same swine read the Wall Street Journal on Saturdays, news that was outdated. 

The neighbors checked the local ordinances, and, despite his complete ownership of the residence (Mr. Pickson paid cash), the neighbors enforced ordinance 34-675, paragraph 47, line 62 that forbid, “The ownership or possession of swine in the city limits of Chicago except by establishments that posses them for the purpose of slaughter.”  Of course, Mr. Pickson did not plan to kill himself, which would also have been a violation of the law, and although he tried to argue that he was neither “owned” nor “possessed” (in any sense of the word), so the statute did not apply to him, the neighbors were not convinced.  

Mr. Pickson sold his condo at a loss, to cousins of the Endle’s, recent professional graduates from Ann Arbor.  Pickson had found a collection of freeze-dried pig ears, arranged in a bundle like a bouquet of flowers, placed on his doormat with a note that read, “Good luck in your new home!  My dog’s favorite chew toys.  With compliments.”  But the signature was illegible.


Ivan Faute is a doctoral candidate in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Recent short fiction has appeared in Other Voices, The Louisville Review, The Blotter Magazine, and the fantasy anthology Touched By Wonder (Meadowhawk Press, 2007). He was named a finalist for the Calvino Prize and the World’s Best Short Short Fiction Contest. In addition to fiction, he is involved in the vibrant theater community in Chicago.

Published on March 29, 2008 at 10:22 am  Leave a Comment  

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