crazy! Fifteen-year-old Masi Burciaga hauls bricks to help build a giant
pyramid in her neighborhood park. Her neighborhood is becoming more of a ghost
town each day since the lard company moved away. Even her school closed down.
Her family’s bakery and the other surviving businesses may soon follow. As a
last resort, the neighborhood grown-ups enlist all the remaining able-bodied
boys and girls into this scheme in hopes of luring visitors. Maybe their
neighbors will come back too. But something’s not right about the entrepreneur
behind it all. And then there’s the new boy who came to help. The one with the
softest of lips. Pig Park is a
contemporary Faustian tale that forces us to look at the desperate lengths
people will go to in the name of community–and maybe love.
back into the drawer and slipped into the kitchen to turn the vent out toward Pig
Park. The smell of cinnamon and butter escaped into the street.
being a Burciaga—meant it was my job to keep the kitchen spotless and to do any
other number of things from bringing in the mail to answering the phone.
crumbs—minus the ugly stepsisters and the singing mice.
Masi?” my dad asked.
under hot water and scrubbed hard, scratching at it like it had the kind of
itch that requires a good dose of calamine lotion. I tried not to think about
nothing but an old box of recipes. He liked to say that the bakery, like most
of Pig Park, sprouted in the boom and shadow of the American Lard Company. The company
had even donated land right in the middle of everything for the park our
neighborhood was named after. That’s why our neighborhood got named Pig Park,
because pig fat made lard and lard had more or less made our neighborhood.
Hundreds of company employees lived and worked here. They ate and shopped here.
We baked twice a day just to keep up. That’s until the company closed down, and
people left with the jobs.
big wigs at American Lard explained away how our good old Chicago neighborhood
got left behind. My dad said that just meant they didn’t think they were making
enough money. So they packed up their jobs and took them some other place—like
a whole other country.
Lard made somewhere other than America.
drawer that with no one to buy the bread, the bakery would close down for good
too. We would end up leaving Pig Park like everyone else.
in Pig Park my whole entire life. I still had a few friends left. So—even after
everything—I couldn’t wrap my head around the bakery closing and us leaving
also. It kept me up at night, wondering about tomorrow and the day after. Maybe
I would never see my friends again. My family lived upstairs now. Maybe we’d
end up homeless.
think like that, to leave the worrying to him and my mom, but—I just couldn’t
help it. I couldn’t help it about as much as I couldn’t help breathing or just
being me.My dad tied an apron around his waist, rolled his sleeves up and
grabbed hold of the masa resting on the counter. Sweat dampened his shirt
across his thick broad back. He pounded down on dough the color of dirt clay.
and dried my hands.
sang along to that old song, “Amorcitoooo Corazon.” I imagined him making his
way down a cobblestone road on a bike—balancing a big basket of freshly baked
rolls on his head—belting out the song like in one of those old black and white
movies they used to play in the park to bring the neighborhood together.
makes me feel like I am all wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket,” I said. It made me
think of how it was before, when things were good and my dad sang all the time.
like it made him think of it how it was before too.
from the oven and put them on the counter to cool. There was no ginger in the
pig-shaped treats, just homemade molasses that made the cake-style cookies look
like ginger bread when they baked. I grabbed one, broke off a piece, and put it
in my mouth. It was perfect—warm, plump and moist on the tip of my tongue.
dad said. I’d spent almost every summer of my life in what felt like a 350-degree
kitchen. I wanted to spend my summer with my friends outside the bakery for a
change. I wanted a chance at being fifteen and “normal.” I wanted to make
his apron and threw it down on the counter. I listened for my mom’s footsteps
on the stairway.
treat into my mouth. Something had to happen.
Claudia is the author of The Smell of Old Lady Perfume (Cinco Puntos, 2008) and Pig Park (Cinco Puntos, 2014). She grew up in sunny El Paso, Texas where she learned that letters form words from reading the subtitles of old westerns with her father. She now lives and writes in Chicago.