The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs

At the turn of the millennium Tom Baker, whose stint as the BBC's Doctor Who was perhaps the only reliably attested instance of an alien from another planet actually being played by an alien from another planet, published The Boy Who Kicked Pigs. It is a short tale but a merry one, concerning a thirteen-year-old boy named Robert Caligari, who lives at 7a Vampire Close and kicks pigs and worse. Robert starts with Trevor, his irritating sister's annoying piggy bank, but graduates to kicking other people's pork chops and even their bacon butties. As a result of some unpleasantness caused by his addiction to pig-kicking, Robert eventually conceives a dire malevolence towards the whole human race and suffers painful and horrific consequences.

The tale is profusely illustrated by David Roberts, whose spidery line drawings treat the reader to such depictions as "Robert as a little devil with two thirds of his mother" and "Robert having an evil thought" and "Down, down, down went the innocent horse, and death watched and waited". The horse had been shot in the buttock with a crossbow (which Roberts, presumably for artistic purposes, inexplicably transmogrifies into a longbow). "The horse on Sandway bridge took the arrow in its arse to heart," Baker's narrative tells us. "It reared up as if it wanted to fly away. It was an amazing sight, with the arrow in its bottom. It looked like a nightmare unicorn."

The horse and its rider plunge off the bridge on page 67 of the thirteenth of June and cause a massive traffic pile-up whose every horrific detail, including thirteen blazing vicars, is brought to Robert Caligari's helpless ears by a pair of moronic radio newscasters. The agony lasts until page 107, whereupon the rats arrive. There may be some who would not, all in all, consider The Boy Who Kicked Pigs a particularly uplifting story, especially as its own first page claims it as "a story of undiluted horror".

Between this advertisement and the start of the calamity on page 67, the reader is treated to a brief but entertainingly digressive history of Robert Caligari's early years including, besides his pig-kicking activities, various other childhood joys such as the slow poisoning of his sister Nerys and the pushing of a pensioner under a bus. In addition, there is a convincingly circumstantial account of how Robert's street, Vampire Close, came to be so named, and a slightly creepy affair involving a telephone call, a tarantula named Bluebottle, and a rather indistinct man named Martyn who flirts with the voice of doom. Of all parties to the business, the tarantula is by far the most appealing. The Boy Who Kicked Pigs is a touching and appealing story of childhood, full of charm, originality and homicide.


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