Lula the Pig said she would buy the flowers herself.
“We’re having a party,” she said in a startlingly deep voice, one you might expect from a bear rather than a pig. Her black-and-white fur with touches of mink bristled in the wind. She turned her snout toward the house and trotted away.
“Great heaps of edible flowers that will delight the eyes,” she said over her shoulder while I followed her up a narrow ramp that led from the back yard into the home she shares with her humans, Michelle Jaffe and Barbara Grasso. “Hibiscus the crimson shade of a lily beetle, cornflowers bluer than the palest arctic ice, and violets as purple as amethyst drawn from the red soil of Zambia.” We were in Truro.
“Who is coming to the party?” I asked.
“All the great artists of the Outer Cape,” she said. Lula flung herself onto a burgundy divan. I placed my Panasonic cassette recorder at her hooves.
“We’ll need food,” said Lula. “Mountains of it. Piles of carrots and chopped apples and mashed bananas.”
“How many people are coming?” I asked Michelle.
“No one is coming,” she whispered. “There is no party.”
“I see,” I said. And I did see. One thing I’ve learned from interviewing the pets of the Outer Cape is that they tend to live in their own very specific, often peculiar worlds.
“Everything should be placed conveniently on the floor,” said Lula. A smattering of foam appearing at the corners of her mouth.
“She can get a little foamy when she’s hungry,” said Michelle.
“Has anyone seen my cigarette holder?” asked Lula. “It’s about as long as my tail. Fashioned from the horn of a black rhino. Voluntarily donated, of course. Smoldering Newport in the business end.”
“She smokes?” I asked Michelle.
“Never,” she replied.
“It was a gift from Tennessee Williams,” said Lula.
“And you are how old?” I asked.
“Guess my age,” said Lula. “Go on, you won’t insult me. I’m older than you think.”
I snuck a glance at my index card of pig facts. There’s a pig in Knoxville, Tenn. believed to be 24 years old. Pigs can live to be 15 to 20, but how many get to do that? The average lifespan of America’s 72 million pigs is six months.
“Um, I’m going to guess, maybe, five?” I said.
“She’s two,” said Michelle.
“I’m 81 years old,” said Lula. “I’ve seen it all. I’ve done it all, and still I want more. More life! More food! More art!”
“Art?” I asked.
“Art is simply everything,” she replied. “Art gets you up in the morning. It gives you a lift. It gives you a purpose, a direction, a raison d’etre. Art is victory over chaos. If we didn’t have art to make sense of the horrors of existence, we’d go mad.”
Struck by the zoomies, Lula dashed around the room with tremendous speed and agility. Globs of foam trailed behind her like little clouds as she careened from here to there and around again. When at last she stopped, I offered her a piece of a banana which she devoured without comment.
“Let’s play a word association game,” I said. “I’ll read the names of some famous pigs and you tell me the first word or two that come to mind. Ready? Piglet.”
“Couldn’t tell a Picasso from a Warhol.”
“She is a pig.”
“Very naughty. Marvelously fun at parties.”
“Cotton candy pink.”
“A Hawaiian sunset with a tail,” she said and then yawned. Clearly, there was only one topic that amused her.
“Are you also an artist?” I asked.
“I’ve been a muse for artists my whole life,” said Lula. “Egeli painted me pulling a fishing net out of Provincetown Harbor. Packard captured me sitting in a rowboat near the lighthouse. Hopper painted me staring out a window from a drawing room that had no entrance or exit. Peck painted me nude on the sand, nothing else on the horizon — just me, the water, the sky, and 14 blades of seagrass for modesty.”
“How would you like to be remembered?” I asked.
“A swine who left behind a trail of a thousand masterpieces,” she said, rushing back out to the yard to forage for her flowers.