Pig Whisps

Carl Sandburg January 14, 2019
North American
3 min read
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There was an oyster king far in the south who knew how to open oysters and pick out the pearls. He grew rich and all kinds of money came rolling in on him because he was a great oyster opener and knew how to pick out the pearls. The son of this oyster king was named Shovel Ears. And it was hard for him to remember. “He knows how to open oysters but he forgets to pick out the pearls,” said the father of ‘Shovel Ears. He is learning to remember worse and worse and to forget better and better,” said the father of Shovel Ears. Now in that same place far in the south was a little girl with two braids of hair twisted down her back and a face saying, “Here we come—where from?” And her mother called her Pig Wisps. Twice a week Pig Wisps ran to the butcher shop for a soup bone. Before starting she crossed her fingers and then the whole way to the butcher shop kept her fingers crossed. If she met any playmates and they asked her to stop and play crosstag or jackstones or all- around-the-mulberry-bush or the-green-grass- grew-all-around or drop-the-handkerchief, she told them, “My fingers are crossed and I am running to the butcher shop for a soup bone.” One morning running to the butcher shop she bumped into a big queer boy and bumped him flat on the sidewalk.

Did you look where you were running?” she asked him. “I forgot again,” said Shovel Ears. “I remember worse and worse. I forget better and better.” “Cross your fingers like this,” said Pig Wisps, showing him how. He ran to the butcher shop with her, watching her keep her fingers crossed till the butcher gave her the soup bone. “After I get it then the soup bone reminds me to go home with it,” she told him. “But until I get the soup bone I keep my fingers crossed.” Shovel Ears went to his father and began helping his father open oysters. And Shovel Ears kept his fingers crossed to remind him to pick out the pearls. He picked a hundred buckets of pearls the first day and brought his father the longest slippery, shining rope of pearls ever seen in that oyster country.

“How do you do it?” his father asked. “It is the crossed fingers—like this,” said Shovel Ears, crossing his fingers like the letter X. “This is the way to remember better and forget worse.” It was then the oyster king went and told the men who change the alphabets just what happened. When the men who change the alphabets heard just what happened, they decided to put in a new letter, the letter X, near the end of the alphabet, the sign of the crossed fingers. On the wedding day of Pig Wisps and Shovel Ears, the men who change the alphabets all came to the wedding, with their fingers crossed. Pig Wisps and Shovel Ears stood up to be married. They crossed their fingers. They told each other other they would remember their promises.

And Pig Wisps had two ropes of pearls twisted down her back and a sweet young face saying, “Here we come—where from?”

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