Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Pigs Might Fly (10/31/13)
By Jack Taylor
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If you met Ralph you’d never forget him.
Ever met a person like that? Someone who sticks in your brain like a fly to flypaper? Like gum to your shoe? Like a grape stain on your best white Sunday shirt?
Still remember, don’t you?
Ralph was different than most people I know. I wouldn’t dare comment on his glasses, the chicken-feet spreading from the edge of his squinting eyes, the deep furrows above his brow, or the reddish tufts that clung to the undersides of his chin. He was fairly invisible until he opened his mouth.
He transformed skepticism into art form. Sarcasm into a cat-a-nine-tails. Slang into the king’s English. He made doubting Thomas look like a passionate believer.
He mesmerized me, terrified me, intrigued me and humoured me all at once. I spent nine years sitting at the work station next to his before I caught on.
Ralph was responsible for our software development and he used his tongue to slice and dice everything that was brought to his attention.
Someone would bring a product to his desk and he’d use every verbal form of humiliation he could think of while examining it. The other developer would cringe. The individual would be left defending their product and making incredible claims. Ralph would add a few more comments and then state ‘yeah, and pigs can fly. Take it to Ingram.”
‘Take it to Ingram’ was my signal to take one last look at it to see if we could find value in it. Sometimes I did. If it was completely hopeless Ralph would trash it without a second thought. ‘Pigs can fly’ was Ralph’s way of saying that the impossible had happened. He saw potential to be impressed. He just didn’t want anyone else knowing that.
It was a dreary Friday in November when Ronnie started dropping by Ralph’s desk. She wasn’t exactly a poster girl but there was something about her that kept you looking back for more.
She would walk by his desk and drop off a pamphlet and a Mars bar or a homemade cookie. Ralph usually had the candy bar or cookie in his mouth when he opened up the paperwork so I was never sure what he was mumbling about when he looked at it. Whatever Ronnie left usually went in the trash.
I raised my eyebrows. He muttered, “God stuff.”
I asked, “Me – her?”
“When pigs can fly,” he said.
Two weeks before Christmas, I was trudging up the inside stairs after being at Starbucks and I heard Ronnie and Ralph talking on the landing above me. I pasted myself to the wall and made like a fly listening in. She was as sweet as honey and he was about as lemony as they come. The conversation had something to do with the latest thing she’d left behind and it only lasted a minute before they got into the elevator.
It was the New Year when I saw Ronnie sauntering her way over to Ralph. Usually Ralph ignored her but this time he stood and smiled as she approached with another treat. He took the small book she gave him and flipped through it. She stepped close and pointed out something on one of the pages. He read it and then uttered his famous line. “When pigs can fly. Take it to Ingram.”
She looked past him and caught my eye. A hook harpooned my heart. She walked away for a month.
Then she was back. This time the Mars bars and cookies came to my desk once a week. Also the paperwork which turned out to be stories of people who had amazing things happen when they followed Jesus. She would never stop – only leave them on the edge of my desk as she walked by.
The last Friday of May I couldn’t stand it anymore. Ralph had given me the signal that there was potential in this and I’d read it all carefully. It was distracting me from my work.
As Ronnie approached on her usual rounds I got up and nodded my head for her to follow me. We sat in the cafeteria and began to talk. And talk. And talk. Day after day after day.
It took two years but one day I stood at the front of a church with Ronnie and gave her my vows. When we shared our big kiss I turned to Ralph standing nearby. “What do you know?” he said. “Pigs can Fly!”
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