I have a special relationship with my mailman. His name is Paul and his unflagging exactitude is noteworthy. I live in a building owned by my sister and brother-in-law and for a while, all three apartments in that building were rented by members of my family. All three mailboxes had “Holt” on them, which could have led to some confusion, but Paul is a stickler so our letters and bills were never mixed up. I don’t know much about Paul, really, but he is a constant and reassuring presence in my life. And I feel like he knows me, that somehow his knowledge about which magazines I subscribe to and how many wedding invitations I receive might translate into some deeper understanding of my psyche. We exchange the usual pleasantries when I see him and sometimes he rings the doorbell with inquiries. (“Who,” he asked me the other day, “is this person?” about an addressee whose name he didn’t recognize. I explained that it was a friend who is staying with my sister for a month.) Nothing escapes Paul’s attention. The United States Postal Service is lucky to have him in its employ.
And because of my relationship with people like Paul, Craig Hartglass’s “Pigs” really captured my imagination. “Pigs” was an unsolicited submission that arrived in my inbox last fall without a cover note or author bio. Its strong voice hooked me from the very first paragraph and when I passed the story on to other readers, we all agreed that this belonged in One Story. “Pigs” is about the relationships we have with the people we don’t really know. The connections–however limited–we make with the people we see regularly at the gym, the library, the coffee shop or the bank often make up for deficits in our lives. These strangers become regular players in our imaginations and landmarks on our personal maps. Sometimes these relationships are the most stable ones we have. Our marriages may unravel, our parents may die, but if the same barista is steaming our milk, everything seems manageable. And in this digital age,when so many of our connections are made online, the prosaic face-to-face exchange assumes added meaning. In this story, a relationship that is entirely transactional (between a bank teller and a regular customer at the bank) evolves over many years. We never see these two people interact outside the bank and we never know their names. Author Craig Hartglass offers no neat conclusions, but his keen observations about these characters evoke two full lives. Read this Q&A with Craig Hartglass and feel free to share your comments about this story.