In the version of the Three Little Pigs
that I’ve been given to read my child,
the first two pigs, after the wolf
has blown their houses down
(“Little piggy, little piggy, let me come in”)
find refuge with their perspicacious brother.
The wolf, for his part, displays
no motivation, only an impulse arrested
from his body’s churning electrolytes
to demolish architectural follies.
He doesn’t chase and corner the pigs.
He doesn’t have a grudge against
the race of pigs, nor is he in the mood
for pig’s knuckles or a nice pig’s-ear taco
or even a simple ham sandwich.
And when he comes down the chimney
of the third pig’s house—the one
he can’t blow down, the one made
of brick, with its dormer windows
tricked out in blue, their trim
decorated with orange daisies—
he suffers for his motiveless malignancy,
in the soup pot waiting for him,
the lid of which has been removed
with a timely flourish, nothing worse
than a scalding, and runs back
to his lair somewhere over the hill.
Everyone has survived their lessons.
Everyone, as in the Last Judgment
of the Zoroastrians, is saved,
even the wolf, today exterminated
across much of the world, and almost so
in the forty-eight contiguous states.
The real story, which is locked
in my desk while I write this encryption,
goes, as you all remember, differently.
In it, the wolf eats the first two pigs,
but the third pig, the smart pig,
the shrewd, shrewd little pig, eats him
in a soup flavored with the turnips
gathered in a memorable prior episode.
Long did that pig rest a pensive trotter
on the windowsill, as he looked down
the dusty road travelled by the wolf.
His brothers were dead, his mother
unapproachable in her grief, and for weeks
the taste of wolf, at once unguent, farinaceous,
brittle, and serene, touched his mind
with a golden fire. In a pig’s eye, he thought,
as his molecules began to recombine …
My son might be ready for this version
of the story. Like most four-year-olds,
he’s precocious and realistic and bloody-minded.
He already knows, for example, that Jack
was nothing better than a common thief,
and has at some point observed
that giants let their fingernails grow,
sometimes to hideous lengths.