The Quixotesque misadventures of unreconstructed Marcher Morgan Jones-Jones, who has probably not heard of the suffragettes let alone second- and third-wave feminists.
Not everyone agreed about the name – or about the man.
Few minds are open to us. It’s another curse of the Age. Only three we managed to contact, but three is enough, three is a good number, it is our number. Three is harmonious stability bringing forth conscious movement, Zeno’s point from which to move the earth, the fiery tripod projecting the ‘I’ towards its destiny. Of these three, one was dead but lingering, the next sunk deep in her sorrows, pivoting on the liminal, alive but contemplating death through the bottom of her half-empty glass, the third still living, but mostly in the shadows of the past.
Death had turned the first bitter. Her teeth rattled in her empty skull. She plucked at her shroud.
“Morgan? Who’s he, when he’s at home? No, I never knew any Morgan. Why should I care anyway? Who got my money, that’s what I want to know – who got my bits of jewellery? All these years and never so much as a flower on my grave by way of thank you. I never knew any Morgan. Too busy hanging on to what I’d got to bother with other folks, wasn’t I? Too busy scrimping and saving, too busy working my fingers to the bone – look at the state of them now. So, do I know a Morgan? No, well, not unless you mean that gawby from The Porth. He’ll be no good to you. No money there. And he’s thick as two short plank-ends. Leave me be. Who got my money, that’s what I want to know – who got my bits of jewellery?”
Life was doing much the same for the second.
“Black Morgan was a bloodthirsty pirate, wasn’t he? Yeh, yeh, only joking, I know who you mean. Doesn’t come home much, but I’ve seen him about. He’s a bloke, what more is there to say? Take it from me, men only come home when they want something, or when there’s nowhere else left to go.”
The last lived with her blind tabby, some moulting poultry and an assortment of mute ghosts in a tumbledown shack, off a back-lane, down a track, through a gate and across a field. Her social life comprised Holy Communion at Easter – too dark to hobble that far come Christmas, too cold – a weekly shop at the Co-op, and the library on alternate Fridays. Since most of the voices she heard were inside her head anyway, she wasn’t averse to listening to three new invisible friends, even when we talked over each other – that’s the way of it, you see, past, present, future always overlap.
“Who? Oh, him. You’ve got to feel sorry for him,” she said, “in a way.”
“That name for a start. Well, I mean to say – Morgan isn’t the half of it.”
“It’s Morgan Llewelyn Padrig Arthur Caradoc Jones-Jones to be precise. What a mouthful – enough to gag on. Where’s the space on Income Support forms for that kind of malarkey? It was only tagged on to pacify the in-laws at the poor little rinnock’s christening.”
“It’s what we round here calls the smallest pig of the litter.”
“But of course, as things turned out, he was the only one.”
And the christening?
“That’s a story in itself, the christening. Wasn’t invited, was I? But yours truly went anyhow – wouldn’t have missed it for nothing. Like something out of one of them old fairy tales, it was. See, old Caradoc Jones, his paternal grandfather, had insisted it was a girl’s name, Morgan. Colour of beetroot he’d gone; spluttering and gulping and turning on the water works. Totally confused, I tell you. Poor old ffŵl was probably thinking of Morgan le Fay. Of course, they didn’t get stuck in Homes at the first sign of a dribble in those days. And Morgan’s mam, Gwenffrewi Jones née Jones, made everything worse by standing there smirking. All in black she was, from head to toe. At a christening! At her own son’s christening! There’s scandalous. Anyhow, the vicar assured Caradoc that Morgan was indeed a male name, the first element being mor, the sea, and so on and so on – which is perhaps why he grew up such a gallomping great wet. Talking of wet, Caradoc worked himself up into such a tub-thumping passion he lost all control and peed himself, didn’t he? Whereupon Gwenffrewi up and accused him of being the anti-Christ, deliberately spraying his unholy water towards the baby’s head, dirty old man. Budr pig. Filthy mochyn. Which was a lie, except Gwenffrewi was always right, even when she was wrong. No, no, let’s say that proper like – she was right especially when she was wrong. Still, it was a good excuse to smack Caradoc round the chops, something she’d wanted to do ever since taking the gamble and marrying Dai, his gawby gawk of a son, seventeen years before. It was a gamble that had paid off, mind you. Gwenffrewi wore the trousers all right. Yes, indeed. Rosemary, sage and parsley flourishes in her garden, don’t it? And we all know what that means. Lord and Master of all she surveys, that’s Gwenffrewi.
“Anyway, Caradoc’s wife, that’s Rhonwen – Gwenffrewi’s mother-in-law as was – didn’t take kindly to another woman stealing her battering rights. No, indeed, so Rhonwen upped and set about her with that mildewed old umbrella she always carried, even during droughts and heatwaves – cost three shillings and eleven pence ha’penny in proper money, she said, and plenty of wear left in it – wielding it like a shillelagh and screeching that it was Gwenffrewi what was the agent of Satan, a witch, no better than she should be, and that a babby born on the Change never came to no good. ‘He’ll probably grow up a Mongrel,’ her said, ‘look at his funny eyes, poor little crink.’”
She sucked in air. “Crink? Oh, that’s what we round here call the runt of the farrow.”
“‘Yes,’ her said, ‘and look at her, all in black, dressed in mourning because she’d set her heart on a girl. And that weren’t natural. Dirty bitch.’ At rock bottom it was more about the farm than Morgan’s mam though. See, when Dai and Gwenffrewi finally tied the knot, tradition was that the old couple give up the farm to go and live in a crap bungalow in the village. Well, it was a prefab, let’s make no bones about it. Anyhow, Gwenffrewi kicked her good and hard. Not to be outdone, Rhonwen spat acid at her. She missed, though, by miles. ‘Oooooo!’ the congregation gasped – every last one of them, even that heathen chapel lot, seeing spittle dripping off the font. ‘Ooooooo!’ ‘Indeed and to goodness, look at that!’ ‘There’s wicked!’
“Of course, Gwenffrewi being Gwenffrewi, she spat back…and she never missed nothing. Then the band started to tune up, first old Caradoc – what a carry-on, jumping up and down in his own puddle, shouting what passes for Welsh obscenities. They’ve never got the hang of swearing, the Welsh. It’s a musical language, all right, but for a good curse they have to dirty their tongues with Anglo-Saxon every time. Rhonwen mopped her cheek with a bit of torn-up sheet and started grizzling. Dai fumed and twitched, but quietly, though. Keeping out of it, or trying. No doubt fixing his mind on the long drink he’d promised himself when the ordeal was over.
“Just picture it – the church, the choir, Fumbler Meredith at his organ, all the pious aunts, up from Cardiff for the day with offerings of welsh cakes and laver bread, quivering and quavering platitudes. And finally Morgan parting his toothless gums, letting out a wail which set the few natural teeth left in the congregation – whipped them out rather than fill them in the sixties, the dentists I mean – on chalk-skreek-on-blackboard silver-paper-hidden-in-melted-chocolate edge. ‘Sounded just like the Gwrach y Rhibyn,’ said Rhonwen later, when she’d calmed down and got herself outside a few large port-and-lemons. ‘Mark my words there’s been some funny business going on there. Her and her cats and her blummin toadstool gathering and sep-ar-ate beds so I hear tell—’
“Any rate, the noise got so bad that the rest of the Welsh Jones, the English Jones, and the Jones-Jones congregation felt compelled to take sides. Seeing as this was the Marches it turned into the usual racist brawl: Welsh-English against English-Welsh, with knobs on. ‘Dirty Saxon pigs.’ ‘Stinking Welsh sheep shaggers.’ So nothing new there.
“In the end Vicar sorted it out by knocking a few heads together, and threatening to rub Caradoc’s nose in it. To hex-communicate, throw in the stocks and burn at the stake, to bring down hell fire, or lightning and that big pointy finger, all of the before-said but not in any particular order. And he tacked on those additional names, his, the choirmaster’s, the verger’s, as well as Caradoc for his tad-cu. You know who the Caradoc was I suppose? No? And you the educated ones! Well, well. Anyway, all this was just to assure the poor little scunny he was called upon to receive into the Church of his superior gender. Or so he said. Gwryw. Male. That was the important thing. Yes, indeed.”
“That’s what we round here call a rabbit – or a tiddling little pig. A bad start in life – maybe, but what can you do? That was nearly thirty years ago. Listen, things didn’t get much better before they got a whole lot worse. He had a strange childhood, that Morgan. The things I could tell you. His Mam kept him in girl’s clothes till he was seven, long hair and all. ‘Tydi hi’n ddel?’ they sniggered at school, ‘ain’t her pretty.’ It was a wonder he didn’t end up wired backwards, if you catch my drift. And another thing—”
She was still talking, long after we left.
And what of Morgan now, we ask ourselves?
Well, yes, that’s probably why our silver pin was drawn to him. A Pig, a fledgling Pig. A perfect specimen for the task, we feel. Publicly Morgan’s over-compensating for those challenging early years on a grand scale. Sisters, you know the type: full of himself, aggressively, swaggeringly, embarrassingly male, farting and belching and repeating the punch-lines of filthy jokes; advertising his allegedly high testosterone levels. A sad case. A latter-day would-be Priapus. But in spite of being big and hairy – black foam at collar and cuffs, werewolf tangles on his fingers, and we could lay bets he’s got one of those hearthrug backs, too – it didn’t take much probing to find the chinks in the armour. Morgan Jones-Jones is too chicken to play rugby for a start, or any other hide-threatening sport for that matter, and as for romance, zilch, though he almost believes his own lies on that subject. As far as we can ascertain, most of evenings are spent alone with a DVD.
And he still wears a vest: too frightened of his mam not to. Deep-seated fear of the Mother is often the bottom line in all matters relating to the Pig. Not that we’re blaming her. In a man’s world gain what power you can where you can and when you can. A mam has to do what a mam has to do.
And Caradoc – of course we knew. We might have come down in the world, but we remember most of what matters. First century British king, wasn’t he? An Essex boy, son of Cymbeline, founder of Colchester, though apparently few people still hold that against him. In 43 AD Caradoc organised resistance to the Roman invasion and the onslaught of patriarchy-proper. It was futile, of course. When they’d finished beating the shit out of him, and changed his name to Caractacus for purposes of declension, he fled to Wales. A sad and sunless end. Still, at least he tried.
The earliest known depiction of a pig was probably executed some 40,000 years ago by the cave painters of Altamira, south of present-day Santander, in NE Spain. The Pig, the Boar, is caught in the act of leaping to the attack. He is on the way to being erect. The fore-feet have left the ground. Such paintings were thought to bestow magical powers, both propitiating the victim and giving hunters influence over the hunted.
And so it is.
The hunt closes.
Eliza Granville embarked on a legal career before abandoning it in favour of a Bohemian lifestyle. After coming to her senses some years later, she returned to university – BA & MA University of Plymouth, PhD Aberystwyth University – and began writing in earnest. Her stories can be found in UK, US, and SA magazines, and in anthologies. Of several novels published, the most recent are her Holocaust novel Gretel and the Dark (Hamish Hamilton) and Once Upon a Time in Paris (CentreHouse Press). Granville has long been interested in myths, legends, fairy-tales, and in her writing has combined these tropes with her close study of the post-Enlightenment feminist struggle – all these facets euphorically alive in Curing the Pig.