It’s not by accident that we’ve never heard of the Four Little Pigs. It’s not a fluke that the story ends with a red brick house and three little pigs dancing in celebration. Neat and tidy with a bow and no questions asked. The tale ends there because that is exactly where Terri wants it to end. And we’re only now coming to know there is a fourth piggie because Terri (not her real name) had grown disillusioned with the story’s false sense of security. She agreed to meet only if her real name and the location is never revealed.
The diner is dark, a haze of cigarette smoke despite NO SMOKING signs littered throughout. Terri waits in the back, already three drinks in, but clear-eyed, able to hold her liquor like most 500-pound swine. A wilted baseball cap sits on the table beside the ashtray. Only after I ensure her that I didn’t bring my cellphone does she allow me to start the tape recorder. She begins to answer questions I never asked.
“A brick house is fine. Really, if it’s the 1920s and the devil himself isn’t chasing you, a brick house is fine.” She takes a long drink and an odd sadness fills her eyes. “But, and this is what I tried to tell my brothers, he will never stop trying to get inside. When we sleep, watch TV, make love, he’s out there looking for a weakness.” She leans forward and bites on her bottom lip. For a pig, there is an undeniable beauty to her. “I’m not lying when I tell you he is a sick motherfucker. As sick as they come.” Her left ear twitches.
He, of course, is Gary Sheer, otherwise known as The Big Bad Wolf. To be fair, charges have never been officially filed against him. Mr. Sheer, when reached for comment claims Terri is simply looking for her fifteen minutes. “I’ve never met Terri. Besides, have you seen her? She’s not my type.” There is a backstory there that Terri does not want to divulge. It’s obvious in her body language. In her tightened muscles. Her shifting gaze.
“What he did is one thing,” she explains, “but it’s what he’s willing to do that keeps me up at night.” She falls back in the booth and is swallowed by thoughts she’s unwilling, maybe unable to share. She orders another drink that is gone before it hits the table. “My brothers are alive, but they aren’t living. Prisoners in their own home,” Terri says. “If he knows where they are, they aren’t safe. You name a database, and he’s all over it. It’s only a matter of time before he pounces. You just wait.”
On top of living primarily off-the-grid, Terri had her entire digital fingerprint erased from existence. “You could call Langley right now, and their answer would be, ‘there are only three little piggies.’ And it’s that way because I took the time to do it. You can’t trust anyone but yourself.” She goes on to list several cybersecurity features I’ve never heard of. Encrypted firewalls. Dark web scrubbing. AI manipulation. Yet she doesn’t own a cellphone and only uses cash. “I could crash the entire fucking network with my Hotmail account.”
She’s tight-lipped when I press for more. About her past. About her as a pig, not just a survivor. “You’ve got to remember, there were 38 of us. At the start, when that sick fuck moved into the woods and my parents befriended him, there were 38 of us at home. Kindness and deceit. That’s how he got us. That’s why I have six different ways to get out of this diner. And you, if I thought you brought him, you’d be dead before your head hit the table.” She’s not lying.
I ask, and hesitantly so, if what she is doing is living. Such cloak and dagger. Moving only by the light of the moon. When was the last time she laughed? Or watched the sunset with friends. Her rounded shoulders fall forward and she taps her hoof on the table. “There’s truth to that. But it’s a truth I don’t have the luxury to analyze.”
We sit in silence for a moment. A family on the other end of the diner laughs. Terri flinches at the sound of the child’s laughter. “There is a place I go that’s safe. It’s only there that I let my hair down and realize there is more to life than running.”
I ask why she doesn’t stay. “Because then he wins,” she says. “And that is not the way this story ends.” She leans down and digs her snout into the ashtray. Then she opens her mouth and eats the cigarette butts. I watch, mesmerized by her everything.
With graceful movement, Terri stands and drops a hundred dollar bill on the table. “If you see my brothers, please tell them this will all be over soon.”
And then she disappears through the haze. Back to her life. If that’s really what it is.