Sasha Debevec-McKenney

So I was watching Babe last night, you know, the movie where the pig herds sheep?And I can’t stop thinking about the people in the crowd at the sheep herding competition,who saw the pig herd sheep—I mean, go re-watch the movie, you can seesome of these extras are giving the performance of a lifetime, their lives changeon their faces—they’ve just seen something truly remarkable, something Truly Remarkable.Like, imagine you’ve been going to sheep herding competitions your whole life;you grew up doing it, your father did it, his father. And now you want your grandsonto herd sheep, it’s only right and natural, and so one Sunday you take him to lunch at your favorite diner, and you tell your favorite waitress you don’t need another refill, and then the two of you drive out to the sheep herding competition, and you sit smuglyon the benches, knowing exactly what to expect. And then the pig comes outand herds the sheep. It’s almost as if—and you feel crazy for thinking this—the pig is actually talking to the sheep? Your face opens. Your world changes.What sporting event could ever top this? One weekend your grandson invites youto his football game, he never got into herding sheep after all, and that’s fine,because you love him, and he scores the final goal, and the team lifts him upon their shoulders, and the whole time you’re thinking, well, this isn’t as impressiveas when I saw that pig herd sheep. It’s merely the truth! You’re proud of your grandson,he’s got a scholarship for the fall, but he’s a human being who speaks Englishwho was been taught, in English, how to score goals. It objectively isn’t as impressive.Nothing is. You used to love the bacon and tomato sandwich at that diner:the bacon was thick, the black pepper was freshly ground, the salt flakes were fat.But it’s not as good as when you saw the pig herd sheep. I don’t think they use freshly ground pepper anymore, you say, to your grandson,I mean, the sandwich is still good but it isn’t—as good as the time we saw the pig,he finishes. He makes eye contact with the waitress. Talking about that pig again,Gary? she asks, dropping the check. You pay the check. You kiss your grandsonon his cheek. He leaves for school tomorrow. You promise yourself you will relearnhow to be impressed by your life. You will try to see something every day thatcould, possibly be better than seeing the pig herd sheep. You go to the grocery store.You buy white bread, name brand mayonnaise, and thick cut bacon.You thank God that it is tomato season. You remake the sandwich from the diner,exactly the way you liked it. It isn’t even hard. The sandwich is perfect.You’re impressed by yourself, and by your innate ability to make a punchlineof the world right back. You laugh out loud into your empty kitchen.

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Sasha Debevec-McKenney is a poet who studies the presidents. She is the 2020-2021 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. She received her MFA from New York University, where she was the 2018 Rona Jaffe Graduate Fellow. She was born in Hartford, Connecticut.

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