Little known shit from the Bible. The Three Kings weren’t kings. Probably weren’t three either. Mark, Luke and John have them at none. Matthew’s non-specific. The Aramaics say twelve. There’s no stable either. We Three Kings from Orient Aren’t. We’re with the Zoroastrians, who claim – in addition to Matthew’s gold, frankincense and myrrh – the gift of lard.
See, there’s this pig. When you first get him he’s not much bigger than a medium-sized dog. Pinker though. Bristlier; and more taut. Like a vacuum-packed duffel-bag of kinetic potential. Small enough for Dan Finn to cradle in his arms, put in the back of the truck, drive home with. But not for long.
Things soon get bonkers. Every time you turn around, he’s doubled in size. Now he’s this marble-eyed, shit-nosed, demented hippopotamus, bent on a single currency; eating. No, not eating. Devouring. Ingurgitating. Osmoting. It’s like he doesn’t want to consume food; he wants to be it. And he will. Witnessing the obscene force of his appetite is like watching some obscure and beastly genre of German pornography. All that’s missing are the uniforms and throttled screams of ‘Ja! Ja! Ja!’.
Astonishingly quickly he’s so big he blots out the sun. This is no Babe. This is anabolic Wilbur on mescaline. He’s still got that shit-eating grin and crooked-pin of menace in the tiny, black bauble of his eye; but now he’s outside, squawking blue murder in the perpetual mosh-pit of his siblings as they collectively chow their way through the neighborhood.
His time is come.
One evening you coax him into a trailer with turnips. The next, you drive North across the tundra, through frostbitten ribbons of towns that huddle beside the road like refugees. You drive home without him.
5.30 in the morning, midway through an April that makes like a January. Coffee’s on the hotplate, Tosca is hurling herself from the ramparts and the air, once again, is spiked with pig. We’re at the terminus of an overnight rendering in the locomotive of the Aga. There’s gleaming Ball jars, conical sieves and a man in his underpants. Cubed pork fat, cooked long and low with a little water makes for odorless lard as white as snow. Pour hot and golden, filter, set aside to cool. Go mash an avocado onto Marmite-smudged toast, turn back to see the ghostly apparition forming, like Hamlet’s dad, from the bottom up. Lard. A cloudy precipitate that slowly stiffens to slurry. An hour in the fridge and you have the virgin, seamless stuff itself. The opaque quintessence of Thornton Steward; in a jar.