*Not your average publishing company

The Company Ham

Big profits this year. Click. Pig is massive. Click. Another picture of incredible Pig—looks like third quarter. A lot to take in on this slide. Click. Go back, go back. Click. A photograph—Pig stands dwarfing a school bus in parking area B of the exhibition grounds. Two attendants stand with shovels and a wheelbarrow near the back legs. They look happy but unsettled. The caption below the photograph reads: Already a record year! Norman Bearchild and Olive Glibney on duty at the Suscorp Autumnal Shareholders Meeting with Pig.

“Can I move on?” Skyler Shingel asks the room.

A bunch of hands go up and wave him ahead with mumbled confirmations. Click. Holiday Party next week. December Seventeen. Business Formal. The room fizzes with excitement. Eight PM at the Rosequartz Auditorium. Click. Some pictures from last year. Sybil Ongater holds up the Big Feeder award. Click. Darnel Tayler wears the Fine Swine sash. Click. Photo of the long swine line for the truck at the end of the night snakes around the whole building. Click. Thank you.

Skyler adds, “I hear maybe two trucks this year!”

The room chatters. It’s been a remarkable year. Everyone is in good spirits and the party, as usual, should be amazing. The all-staff email this morning from Penny Mincetips, CEO, confirmed that all our hard work, all the overtime, and weekends, etcetera, etcetera, has really paid off. Our revenue has tripled over last year and so has Pig. The growth has been through the roof. We’ve had to build a new enclosure—Pig has outgrown the old one! Unbelievable! She ends the message saying we’ve all been part of turning a Growth Opportunity into a real Girth Opportunity and can’t wait to celebrate with us at the party.

Skyler reaches for the remote and shuts off the presentation as everyone clears out.

Olive Glibney is still sitting in the middle of the room, staring at the screen, looking at her reflection. Is this where she wants to be in her career? Is this what’s important? She tries to scramble herself away from the edge of an existential break. Dreading the idea of going to the Holiday Party she thinks of excuses not to go. It won’t work though. It’s a cultural mandatory. You’re in or you’re out. Besides, she was an attendant this year—an honor bestowed only on a few. They gave it to Norm because he’d been with the company for years and had never had the opportunity. And they gave it to Olive because she loves animals. Made sense.

At home, Olive has two dachshunds, one mane coon, a pair of lovebirds, and an albino rat. On her walls are portraits of her past pet family members. And on the fridge is a picture of her and Pig. Here, Olive is lovingly holding Pigs snout. Only part of his giant face fits in the frame. They look happy. They look like close friends. And they were, playing chase your tail at the summer picnic, trying to share an ice cream cone, squealing with joy back and forth as they rolled in the mud. Sometimes when Olive would look into Pig’s face, she could swear she saw a smile.

But Olive mistook stewardship for friendship. This was the mistake. Pig wasn’t a buddy to hang around with and have fun. Pig was profit—the manifest output of the corporation—a culmination of millions of hours of care and feeding by the employees of Suscorp.

Norman walks by the glassed-in meeting hall and sees Olive still seated, alone. He rattles his fingers on the window and mouths, R U O K?. He is probably the only person she can talk to about it. Norman means well in his overly earnest clumsy way. Olive thinks he’s a little one dimensional—like a friendly cardboard cut out you might stick in the corner of the boardroom beside the office palm. She motions him in with a weak wave.

“What’s up Olive? You can’t sit in here all day. I know we’re not attending Pig anymore but there’s still other work to do,” says Norman with his hands on the chair back beside her.

“I just can’t do it, Norm,” Olive says, “I got attached—you know?—please don’t tell anyone.”

“Well, I won’t tell you I told you so, but this is our job, it’s our business—it’s life!”
“And death,” says Olive, turning to look Norm in the eyes, “He’s gone.”
“Try and look at it this way Olive. Everyone and everything has a purpose. My purpose is

to do my best at my job so I can provide for my family. That’s my responsibility. Part of your purpose is looking after all your animal buddies at home. Our work here allows you to do that. And Pig’s purpose is—”

“Stop! I don’t want to hear it Norm.”

“Look, I’ll leave you alone, but you’re gonna have to snap out of it. There’s lots to do before the party. I’m gonna go over and help shovel chips in the smoker. If you don’t want to come with me, I know Analytics needs help with the Acorn forecast for next year.”

“Ugh, next year,” says Olive dropping her head into her hands.

Norman touches her shoulder before he leaves. She looks up at him and he points to the motto on the wall—Feed And Be Fed, in bright pink letters on a dark pig silhouette. The tail spirals into the Suscorp logo.

The next week, Olive keeps busy and distracted in Analytics. She’s helping audit this year’s suppliers.

“Hey Deb, what’s with this number? Where did this feed come from?” asks Olive, still adjusting to the new role in the department.

“Oh that, right— that’s all accrued Pig. Internal costs. It’s Pig from last year.” Deb explains, “We always set some aside so every Pig gets a little extra Pig every year. It’s kinda beautiful don’t you think? Pay it forward—The circle of life!”

“It’s cannabilism, Deb!”
“Shhhhh, easy there. Why you so sensitive?” hushes Deb.
Olive shakes, she’s so upset, “I’ve gotta go get some air, I’ll be back in a minute,” She steps out the back doors and into the corporate courtyard lined with cedars and

yellowing hostas. She takes a deep breath in and holds it. There’s something in the air. She takes another breath and is transported back to her childhood, on the farm, her family around the table for the holidays. She can smell the buttery potatoes and the apple pies, the fresh-baked buns, and the sweet smoky flavors wafting from the oven. She feels warm and her nerves settle. Across the parking lot, the Process buildings blow soft grey smoke. It drifts across the campus.

Ray Carl and Bette Slinsky come out to take their break, “Smells delicious out here,” says Ray with a wide smile.

“Mmhmm,” says Bette looking at Olive to see if she agrees.

Olive, realizing it’s Pig in the smoker looks disgusted and immediately stomps back inside.

They’re putting up the Holiday Party posters at reception. “See you at the ball, Olive?” says Hal Durkstra at the desk. It wasn’t really a question.

Later that week, Olive dresses up and reluctantly attends the party. She still feels uncomfortable being here and is not looking forward to the end of the night.

Norm catches her in line at the coat check with a great parka on her arm. “Oh, smart thinking, that coat’ll keep you warm if there’s a big line later,” says Norm, clearly more excited to be here than anyone.

“About that Norm, can you do me a favor? Can you just take my share? I don’t want it.”

“Waddya mean you don’t want it? This is the whole reason we do what we do. This is our bonus!” says Norm, his voice climbing. A few VPs look over at the commotion.

Olive puts her hand on his arm, “Nevermind, it’s okay, I’ll take my share.”

Norman smiles, relieved he’s talked some sense into his friend, “I’ll talk to you later Olive, I’m gonna head over to the punch bowl.”

The evening drags on and Olive goes through the motions. Behind every empty conversation, she’s trying to scheme her way out of the night end’s festivities.

She sees Norman one more time that evening. It looks like he’s describing our less than glamourous attendant duties to his buddies in Accounting. She interrupts, “Hey guys, I hear a couple of people are lining up already. Wouldn’t want you to miss out.”

“No one ever misses out. What are you talking about?” says Norman, pointing again to another banner hanging from the balcony—All For Pig And Pig For All. He winks and bops her shoulder, “Thanks for the heads up Olive, we’ll grab a drink and get out there.”

Olive chats her way back to the coat check and grabs her parka. She slips out the side door near the restrooms and sees two Suscorp trucks idling at the far end of the parking lot. It’s not like she has a solid plan, she’s going on instinct. She hates the idea of everyone getting their hands on Pig. They didn’t know him, not like she did.

She walks to the nearest truck, steps up, and knocks on the door. The driver rolls down the window.

“Mincetips wants to see you both inside, something about parking,” Olive shrugs. They shrug back and get out of the idling trucks and head toward the building. Olive pretends to follow them inside.

Fifteen minutes later, Norman and his buddies are in line outside behind a big refrigeration truck. Skyler hustles by with a clipboard, shaking his head, looking disturbed and slightly panicked, “Hey Sky, you seen Olive?”

“Nope, why?” Skyler responds without looking up.

“Been saving a spot for her in line,” says Norman,”—Oh and hey, didn’t you say there were two trucks this year?”

Skyler keeps walking, throwing up his hand, “There were. There were two trucks!”

Writing and Art by Jon Toews

Jon Toews is a designer, musician, artist and writer interested in speculative futures and memorable melodies.

Jon Toews is a designer, musician, artist and writer interested in speculative futures and memorable melodies.

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