We all saw what happened behind the bleachers that cloudy night. What started it all I mean. Jack Robinette and his clique of beer-drunk flunkies hunched over something, yapping like retarded hyenas.
I looked away, which was what we all usually did when our paths crossed. It was better that way. Fewer black eyes and bruised egos. I did catch a glimpse of pink before I turned my attention elsewhere, though. And I heard a muffled noise, like a teapot trying to blow off some steam, but not quite able. We walked on, forgetting the gang of fools.
The band was marching around on the field, ruining "Hail to the Blue" and the crowd was busy not paying attention to them. I knew several of the band members and felt a passing sort of sympathy for them. They only had each other and everyone else hated them. I only discovered much later that they didn't care. Having only each other was enough for them.
I passed by Frank Plinkton as the first tiny raindrops started to fall. As usual, he was dressed out in his best pressed uniform, badge and firearm shining. Mr. Plinkton was proud of his job and loved all of the students he was paid to protect. We waved and he waved back, sauntering over toward the concession stand. He was a good man, sort of an institution at our school. He had compassion, would overlook certain transgressions if he liked you. And he liked everyone.
We sat down on the home side and stared at the cheerleaders while the band finished making noise. I looked over at the scoreboard and saw we were tied at 14 at the half, which was kind of what I expected to see. North Gwinnett had a pretty good football team and always gave us a good run. A long slow rumble rolled in from the east then and everyone sort of glanced that way briefly and made whatever comments people make to each other when that happens.
A whistle blew and amidst a crackle of hand clapping and grunts, the two teams lumbered back onto the field. Some puddles were beginning to form in the grass and I noted with some amusement that a few of the players gingerly side-stepped them as they made their way to position.
The second half kick-off was a short one. Kevin Wright had topped the ball somewhat and it shot end-over-end down the field, landing well short of the thirty yard line. I saw him curse himself and make his way toward the ball. Number thirty-one on the Tigers almost caught the ball but it slipped from his hands.
I thought the noise I heard next was the whistle calling the play dead, as I'm sure most people did. It went on a little too long though and was the wrong pitch. And it had an urgency to it that was somehow disturbing. A pink blur crossed my field of vision then and the noise followed it. The rain was coming down a little harder by then and it was hard to tell what the pink thing was. It was running out toward the line of scrimmage.
I put together that it was a small pig then. A little pink, corkscrew-tailed swine that was glistening in the rain like it had a coat of Rainex on it or something. It was making its way furtively toward a cluster of the players, who were just starting to notice it. They just stood there at first, trying to make sense of this thing. Then understanding dawned on them and they began chasing the piglet. It was a fun thing to watch, all these muddy and crowing football players chasing after the squealing little guy, falling all over each other.
The pig was wet and greased with something and it popped free any time a player got a handhold. This comedy carried on for maybe five minutes, until the players got tired or disinterested. The rain was coming down in buckets now too and a lot of the crowd had decided to pack it in. We got up and started to make our way to the concession area where we wouldn't be soaked when the shots rang out. Five of them in quick succession, muffled slightly by the sound of rainfall and people mulling. The squealing stopped immediately. I turned toward the field in time to witness Frank putting away his piece. There was complete silence then save for the rain. No one moved. They just stared first at Frank, then at the dead piglet on the field. Then back at Frank.
I left that night feeling a little empty inside, violated somehow. It shouldn't have bothered me but it did. And it bothered more than me I suppose. I never saw Frank again and there was never any explanation for what he did. None of the faculty or staff ever talked to us about it.
We named the piglet Lightning because we thought we needed to do something for him. By the last year of high school Lightning was sort of like a glue that held a lot of us together. And he brought more people together over time. Strange how things like that work. I went back to my high school the other day and saw that there was a small bronze statue of Lightning on a pedestal next to the front steps. It was well-cared for and shined brightly in the sun.