by Margaret King Zacharias
Hi! My name is Petey. Well, that's not my real name. Petey is what Miranda calls me. She takes good care of us all. But I'm the only one she's given his own name. She calls the rest by their numbers.
Here she comes. Oh, no! Not the big bowl of apples!
Miranda's smiling, but her eyes are red and swollen. She always looks sad when she has to bring in the apples. Maybe they're for somebody else?
Her footsteps get slower, and slower. She's coming over to me. She stifles a sob and then she's in my pen.
"I'm sorry, Petey. But don't worry. I'll think of something."
I know I've never been considered "normal," even in this strange place. Miranda says I wailed, instead of squealing, when I took my first breath after I was born.
Some of the doctors wanted to abort me, that very minute, but Miranda wouldn't let them. She knew I was different, right from the beginning.
My real name is PFHHT Number 9. That's "pig for human heart transplant." We live in a special "privately-funded research institute" near the University of Hawaii. We're part of a brand-new experiment, something called "a clinical trial."
"I think they gave you a bit too much, Petey," Miranda told me once. "Too much of the stem cells they implant to grow your hearts. You got the heart of a human, but somehow, you got a human brain, too."
I've heard the doctors talking about my "bulging head," my "abbreviated snout," and my "excessive curiosity, even for a pig."
I don't understand all the big words they use, but I do remember everything they say. Pigs have excellent long-term memories.
I heard Shrill Voice. "She wants what?"
"Mazes. Miranda wants to build an outdoor playground with mazes for the piglets," Booming Voice said.
"That's ridiculous. Why waste the money?"
"It's covered in Miranda's own new grant, Doctor."
"I liked it a lot better when we harvested them right away. No one had all this time to get attached. A playground for piglets? She's insane."
Shrill Voice hates Miranda. She doesn't like us piglets much, either.
"You think it's so easy to find a kind young woman who wants to spend her life in paradise training piglets? She's a highly respected scholar. You saw her latest paper in Science."
"Oh, yes. Quoting another nut at Emory University, and The Nonhuman Rights Project. 'Pigs share a number of cognitive capabilities with chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins and even humans.'"
"You know why we harvest them later now," Booming Voice said. "It's been proven in research with baboons and chimpanzees. Extra growth time and loving care for the piglets significantly improves the heart transplant outcomes."
"But too much of that 'loving care' still comes out of our budget."
"I think it's worth it, especially now that we're moving into the human clinical trials. Pigs understand symbolic language. They recognize each other as individuals. They demonstrate emotional empathy."
"Oh, please! Do you really believe that?"
"They obviously feel joy and affection, as well as pain and sorrow. Pigs have an excellent sense of direction, and they love solving mazes. Miranda's proposal makes a lot of sense to me."
Booming Voice is the Director. He's the boss of this place, so he won.
Miranda built her mazes and we do love them. She takes us outside to play, twice each day, in small groups. She shows us the ocean. We can see it from here, below our cliff top. The ocean is much bigger than we can see now, Miranda says, when you get up close.
She shows us the stars at night. Miranda says the stars are even farther away than the ocean, and they're much bigger than they look, too.
She talks to us in English, but she chants the stories she tells us in her native Hawaiian. Sometimes she dances her stories in a dance called Hula.
Miranda has taught us about the ancestors. They were humans named Polynesian Voyagers, who used the stars for a map to the big ocean maze. They rode on the waves in canoes to discover new islands.
Miranda told us that those Voyagers also brought some of our pig ancestors in their outrigger canoes. They kept them alive, all the way from a place called Tahiti, to help the humans make a good life on our new island home.
Okay, I know they brought us for food. But at least they waited until we all got here. All through the long voyage, we were Tabu.
The piglets here understand what that word means. Practically everything around this institute is Tabu for piglets. It's the first word Miranda has to teach us.
Even after the human ancestors arrived, when the time came to roast a pig, they did it with prayers and ceremonies, and only for special occasions. Miranda says it was a sacred destiny.
My favorite story is the one she tells us about Kamapua'a, the Hawaiian pig god who turned into a fish. He started out as a human being who wanted to be a pig. I guess I'm a pig who wishes he could be a human.
But either way, you have to watch out for Pele. If you cross her temper, she can roast you in less than a minute, whether you're a pig or a human.
Now, Miranda sets down the apple bowl, and starts to dance. She signals that I need to pay attention.
It's the Voyager dance, and she's showing me a map. She's shown me the first part before. This is our home place, in the Ko'olau mountains above Manoa valley. We can see the university buildings down below, when we're playing outside.
Now she's pointing towards the Medical Center in Honolulu. I know that's where the piglets go, when we're old enough to harvest. And there's the dance of the doctors who take out our hearts to help heal the humans.
No. She's pointing to me, and saying, no.
Miranda spins and lifts her hands. When she turns back to me, I sound out the gestures she's making in another language she's taught a lot of the piglets to understand. It's called American Sign Language. The humans use it to talk to people who can't hear sounds.
"Hale'iwa Boat Harbor. Hōkūle‘a, Star of Gladness," Miranda says with her hands. "Arcturus, the bright star I showed you from the playground."
She tells me Hōkūle‘a, a voyaging canoe with the same Hawaiian name as that star, is at Hale'iwa Boat Harbor on the North Shore. It's getting ready for a voyage to a place called Hanalei, on a different island, called Kaua'i.
Kaua'i island is shaped like a taro leaf, she says. It's shaped like a heart, with folded mountains and deep valleys. Their names sounds almost like home. Na Pali and Kalalau.
"You and me. Secret."
I think Miranda is going to help me escape!
So I eat my apples, and go outside with her to do my business. I don't balk when the men arrive at my cubicle with a metal crate on wheels, and shove me inside. I trust Miranda.
I'm the first one loaded into the big delivery van. The men push my crate through double doors, all the way to the back, right behind the driver's seat. It's really dark in here.
I hear the loaders calling out the numbers. Four other pigs are going with me, but I only know one of them. The other three aren't in my playgroup.
All four of them are loaded next, slamming against their metal bars. I can hear them bellowing and I'm feeling upset, too. But Miranda told me to keep quiet, so that's what I'm going to do.
I hear her voice. She seems to be arguing with someone.
"Yes, I am driving the van today," Miranda says.
"Where's Jose?" That's Shrill Voice, stirring up trouble as usual. "You're not authorized to make deliveries!"
"Ask the Director," Miranda says. "Apparently Jose's grandmother died. Or something. Anyway, he can't be here, and the Director's authorized me for this trip."
"What?" Shrill Voice sounds hysterical.
"The ICU at the Medical Center needs four hearts for critical transplant patients. They want them STAT." I can hear that Miranda is starting to lose her patience, too.
The back doors open and a little light comes in. I hear Shrill Voice counting. Why did Miranda say four? There are five of us pigs in this van.
O-o-h. I'm not supposed to be here. I sure hope Miranda doesn't get caught.
"What's the problem? Don't you women understand 'Urgent?'" That's Booming Voice, the Director.
Is he in on this? I don't see how he could be. He certainly doesn't want to lose Miranda. Isn't she --?
"You'll be covering Miranda's duties with the piglets today, Doctor," Booming Voice says, and his tone allows no argument. "She's covering for Jose."
The doors close, but not before I hear a loud shriek.
Miranda starts up the motor, and away we go!
We're moving into Honolulu traffic now. It's getting ugly. Stop, go, stop, go, and at least one pig in here has thrown up his apples. Somebody forgot to do his business outside this morning, too. Ugh.
But I can't really blame them. Even pigs who aren't deformed like me have plenty of common sense. They know where we're headed.
The van stops for long enough that I know we've arrived at the Medical Center. I hear more voices.
"Delivery from Manoa? You're not Jose." It's a man's voice. He must be the medical technician who receives the pigs for the transplants.
"Jose couldn't come in today, so the Director sent me," Miranda says.
"Paperwork? Okay, good. Let's get these pigs unloaded." The man sounds rushed. "OR team's scrubbed and ready."
I feel really sad for my buddies. I know, because Miranda told me, that they'll be put to sleep and they won't feel any pain. But it just doesn't feel right for them to go this way, without any prayers and ceremonies.
Aloha, my friends, I think to myself. Mahalo, for giving your hearts, so these humans can have a chance for life. Aloha. At least I know those words are holy. It's the best I can do.
The doors open and light spills in again. Eight men unload the first four pig crates. They're about to leave when the medical technician comes back.
"I've got paperwork here for these four," he says to Miranda. "But is that one more crate back there, crammed in behind your seat? I'm going to need another release."
I hold my breath.
"Empty," Miranda says. "I'll be picking up a new piglet from a farm on my way back." She slams the doors closed.
"All righty then," the man says. "Have a good day!"
Miranda jumps back into the van and revs the engine.
She waits until we're out of the city traffic and the ride smooths down, before she speaks.
"Great job holding your breath, Petey," she says. "I can always count on you. Now here's what comes next."
I nod to show her I'm listening. I don't know if she's seeing my yes.
Then I notice Miranda's eyes checking on me, in a mirror I can see right in the middle of the van in front. She doesn't have to turn around to see me. I can see her there, too.
One of the things she taught us piglets was how to use a mirror to find food, so I understand how it works.
"We'll be driving for at least an hour," she says. "I can't speed. I don't want to have to explain you to the highway patrol."
Miranda laughs and looks at me in the mirror.
"Someone from the lab might come looking for me, because I'm going to be late getting back. But I don't think so. The Director won't care, and no one else will do the witch woman's bidding. She should be too busy with the piglets to notice, anyway."
Miranda said she's going back. Going back? Isn't she coming with me? I thought we were going to escape together. I don't know anything about riding on a canoe, or how to find Kalalau after I get to Hanalei.
It's almost as if she hears my thoughts. "You know what would happen to the piglets if I don't go back?"
"I'll dance the Kaua'i map for you when we get to the North Shore. And I'll do another dance, too. It's a Blessing ceremony for your journey. Then you'll run as fast as you can and climb aboard Hōkūle‘a."
Miranda built us a big canoe on the playground, right next to the mazes. It's a simple canoe, she told us, not a real one that can travel on the ocean. But all the piglets have fun climbing in and out.
I'm just glad that pigs have good memories. I'm going to have to remember this new maze map, all the way across the ocean by myself, so I can use it when I get to Kaua'i.
"If you need to stop for business, just nudge my seat. I'd rather we didn't have to, though, because it'll slow us down. So hold out, if you can?"
"At least we can air out the van now."
The windows go down, and sweet new air flows in to make the van smell like green things growing and flowers blooming.
When the van finally stops again I know we've reached Hale'iwa harbor. Miranda unlatches my crate and I get out.
I can see Hōkūle‘a at the dock when she points towards the ocean. Even from here, this ocean already looks bigger than I thought it would be. The whole harbor park is crowded with strange humans, too. I'm feeling really scared.
I scramble for a shady corner of the park nearby, that has lots of bushes and trees. Miranda has brought my bowl, and after I do my business, she pours me some water to drink.
"The canoe will arrive at Hanalei tomorrow. Another big crowd will be there, to celebrate Hōkūle‘a. Now let's go meet my friends."
I stay right by Miranda's side as we cross the road to the pier. A man and a woman standing on Hōkūle‘a wave their arms. They jump off together and run over to greet us.
The man kisses Miranda on both cheeks. I feel awkward, and jealous.
"Kai, this is Petey. We came up together to bless your voyage." She says a lot more in Hawaiian, very fast, that I don't understand.
"Aloha, Petey," Kai says. "I'm happy to meet you at last."
Kai 's voice is deep but gentle and calm. I can tell he's not like Booming Voice, always in a hurry.
The woman hugs Miranda. They smile and laugh, and they jump up and down.
Miranda squats and looks right into my eyes.
"Petey, this is Malana. She's my sister, and the cook on this voyage. But don't worry. She not going to roast you. When you make your run to Hōkūle‘a, look for Malana. She'll have your riding basket. Okay?"
Malana also squats down. She pets my head.
"I'll be watching for you, Petey. We have to make this look like a surprise. Kukane, the captain, doesn't know you're coming."
They stand up and she turns to Miranda, "Does he understand 'surprise'?"
"Of course. I told you, he's exceptionally intelligent. Because he's --"
Malana presses her lips together. "Yes. I understand. I've learned your American Sign Language, so I should be able to communicate with him."
Kai turns to look toward the canoe.
"We have to go," he says, and now he sounds like he's in a hurry. "Petey, I'll see you on board. I'll be manning the sails and you can watch me work the ropes from your basket."
He gives Miranda a quick hug. Kai and Malana run back to the canoe.
Miranda bends down and kisses my snout.
"I'm going to miss you, Petey."
Her eyes are making tears, and mine are watering, too.
"But it's the only way. I grew up on Kaua'i. I know Kalalau and Na Pali. If you can get there, you'll have a good chance for a beautiful life, just the way you are."
Then Miranda starts to dance.
Over the sea, rough channel waves, keep your eyes on the wind in the sails. Look to the sunset and watch for the stars to rise tonight. In the morning you'll arrive in a crescent bay, surrounded by rainbows, where the dragon mountain sleeps. When the canoe ties up at Hanalei, Kai and Malana will set you free. Dodge all the humans and run down the pier.
Small roads crisscross through Hanalei. But just one big road. Find the big road. Stay on the big road. Beware of the cars, ignore them when they honk their horns at you. Keep running through town, just as fast as you can. Go mauka left, Petey, mauka left."
I raise my left foreleg to show her I understand, and Miranda smiles.
The road is long and winding, and you'll meet temptation all along the way. You will be hungry, you will want food. Don't eat the taro you'll see from the road. Tabu! Tabu!
Wait. Wait for Kalalau, you'll find plenty wild taro there.
Keep the beaches makai to your right. Don't stop to play or do any business in the sand. Tabu! Tabu!
Run on, keep running until you come to the big black cave, taller than Hōkūle‘a. This cave looks like the end.
Here is a secret. Slip around, outside, behind the cave, and run towards the setting sun. Soon you will find an ancient trail. Follow that trail. Go up, up into the mountains, until you come to the falling water.
Beware the human hunters, carrying bows and arrows. You'll smell them before you can see them. They're searching for pigs who look like you. Hide yourself in the forest as soon as you can.
Keep going through the forest until you come to another river. You can have a drink there, at the shallow edge of the widest river, and you can rest for the night. You've found Kalalau.
But beware the mighty waters that plunge downward from Mount Waiʻaleʻale. Don't ever make your bed too close to any river. Those many waters can overflow their banks. Go back through the forest to higher ground, whenever you make your bed.
Sometimes, in some seasons, those rivers will run slower. But you must wait. Watch. Watch long time. Pay attention. When you know the rivers, and the rivers know you, then you can cross safely.
May you find beauty in Kalalau and holy Na Pali. I wish you joy, and a long life to play, in all the enchanted places you will find to explore.
When you feel lonely, Petey, look up to the nighttime stars. Those stars you'll see in Kalalau are the same stars I'll be watching with the piglets, from Ko'olau.
Find the Star of Gladness. Think of me when you see that star, and you'll know I'm thinking of you."
I hear drums, and voices starting to chant on the pier.
"Now I join the Kahunas for the Voyager Blessing." Miranda kisses my snout one more time, and slaps my flank.
As I start running towards Hōkūle‘a, I hear Miranda's voice following me into the wind.
"Aloha, Petey. Aloha!"
I reach the pier, and dodge through all the people. I start climbing up the side of Hōkūle‘a. But it's so much bigger than our playground canoe.
Oh, no! I've slipped down the side, and now I've fallen into the water!
Hōkūle‘a is already starting to move away from the pier.
What should I do? I could swim back to Miranda. Or I can swim after Hōkūle‘a and try again to get onboard.
Miranda wants me to follow my sacred destiny. I don't want her to be disappointed with me.
I have to swim faster, so I can catch that canoe! I try to take advantage of the current, paddling as hard as I can.
"Pig in the water!" I hear Kai's voice call out. I can see him working the ropes. "We bring a pig?"
"Not this trip." That sounds like Booming Voice. It must be Kukane, the captain.
Kai calls again.
"Pig good luck, any voyage, Kukane."
"I brought the animal baskets aboard, Captain." That's Malana's voice. "We can pick him up."
I swim even harder, now, to show them that I'm strong, and determined, like a real Hawaiian warrior. I want to be good luck.
I'm thrashing through the waves, and I'm getting tired. But I've almost managed to catch up with Hōkūle‘a!
Two young men are watching me from the edge, calling out encouragement. When I reach the canoe, they jump into the water to give me a boost. With their help, I manage to climb in.
Malana is right there waiting. She's holding out my riding basket.
I march straight into it, to show everyone that I know what I'm doing. The men who helped me climb out of the ocean finish lashing my basket to the side of the canoe.
I can see Miranda back on the pier. She's beautiful, with her long dark hair flying in the wind. She's dancing with all her heart.
Because Kai helped me, just like he said he would, I don't feel so jealous any more. Of course he loves Miranda. Everyone does, except Shrill Voice.
I try to feel happy that Miranda is going back to take care of the piglets, even though I'll be all alone now. Their short lives would be even more terrible without her.
And she's turned me into a real Voyager, just like my ancestors; just like Kamapua'a. I'm starting to get excited about my new adventures, but I sure hope I don't ever run into Pele.
Right now, I'm going to enjoy my voyage on this bouncing ocean. I'll practice the maze in my mind, from Hanalei to Na Pali, that Miranda sang for me. I'll remember her dancing, and I won't forget the map.
When darkness falls tonight, I'll find the Star of Gladness.
In the morning, I'll see the rainbows that surround Hanalei.
Mahalo, Miranda, for giving me my chance at life.