23 February 1971

Pig at the party

It must have been February 1971 or 1972, Shrove Tuesday and the carnival party at the Arnold family's home. We were all in costumes, of course. I remember a lot of cowboys and Indians, a couple of princesses, as you would expect, one "Chinese" girl, strange today but cool then. There was also one pig.

I was that pig. That is probably why I remember the party so well.

For days before the party I had pleaded for mercy. I argued that while it may be fun for my mother to send her six-year old son dressed up as a pig, it was not fun for said son. In fact, sending me out like this would seriously undermine my status in the community of children. Besides, we all would be much better served if instead she supplied me with two revolvers, a cowboy hat, and a fringed leather vest. Boots optional.

Unfortunately for me, she had already bought a plastic mask of a pig somewhere in Italy and also pink pyjamas. My grandmother was into the thick too. As a seamstress she had made some unflattering alterations to the pink pyjamas.

Obviously, the idea had not been completely thought through. Even under the best of circumstances I could hardly be expected to spend two or three hours behind the pig mask. And these were not the best of circumstances.

At the party, the sweat in my face would not dry, the sharp edge of the plastic threatened to cut off both my ears, not to talk about the toxic fumes that left me drowsy after a couple of minutes. But more than that. When I took off the mask, all I was was a boy in pink pyjamas with a couple of twisted-up pipe cleaners sticking out his ass.

Manfred turned out to be a good friend though. Upon seeing my predicament, he pulled the tomahawk from his belt and stuck it into the elastic of his beige velour pants. Then he unbuckled his belt and handed it to me. He smiled, and I smiled back. And just like that I became a pig wearing a knife around its belly. Nobody saw the irony.

There was a children's lottery set up in the living room. We drew lottery tickets from a glass bowl, each ticket being rolled up into a tiny little roll and held together by a tiny little rubber band. After that we proceeded clockwise around the living room table to the prize box to learn from Herr Arnold what we had won.

The prize box was a large tray where each item sat in its own little cradle. There were Matchbox cars, miniature figurines, colourful dice, referee whistles, bundles of little Mikado sticks. But the best thing of all, and the first thing that caught my eye, were four little flashlights. They were silver and red and barely larger than the small battery that powered them. Winning one of them would make up for my pig costume, I thought, and for being the only child in pyjamas.

Needless to say, I didn't win a flashlight. Also, needless to say, nobody wanted to swap their flashlight for the blue miniature magnifying glass I had won.

We all hurried into the children's bedroom. It was a sizeable room, but it had a strange shape. It seemed too long for its width. Somebody shut the door behind us, and at the other end, and although it was dark outside, Manfred drew the curtains shut. The lights went off and four little flashlights went on.

And I held on to my magnifying glass. In the dark.

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