For Halloween, we thought we’d do something different. So here is a tale of terror, for only the most grisly and ghoulish vegans to enjoy. Spoiler alert: the real monster is MAN!
I love jelly! Today is my tenth birthday and I am going to eat lots of jelly. Jelly is my favourite food. My favourite flavour of jelly is red, followed by orange. Green is rubbish.
Once at my friend Daniel’s house, Daniel’s mum served us green jelly for pudding.
“I don’t like green jelly,” I said.
“I’m sorry to hear that, Benjamin,” said Daniel’s mum. “Is there anything else you’d prefer to have for pudding?”
“NO,” I said. “Green jelly is stupid, and you’re stupid for having it.”
Later, Daniel’s mum told my mum I had said that, and then my mum told my stepdad, Steve, and Steve showed me the back of his hand, which is what he calls whacking me. It hurt a lot, so I cried, and Steve called me a spoilt brat. He sent me to my room and I drew a picture of him being murdered by ISIS.
Because today is my birthday, we are having a birthday party. All the boys and girls from my class are invited, even the ones I don’t like. But that’s okay, because the party is going to be so much fun. The party is at Braeburn Farm. Braeburn Farm is a huuuuuuuge farm in the countryside. I mean, it’s gi-GANT-ic. And it’s full of fun things to do, like zip-lining, and adventure climbing, and go-karting, and there’s a petting zoo where you can feed lambs and goats and rabbits, and there’s a safari trail which you can walk through and see all the exotic animals like meerkats and tapirs and otters and owls. At my party, we are going to do all of those fun things, and then we are going to eat lots of tasty food, including jelly. Jelly is delicious. Jelly is my favourite. I love jelly.
We arrive at the farm half an hour before everyone else is set to arrive, which is REALLY boring because it means so much waiting around! While we are waiting for all my party guests, my mum sets up the party space with Helen the Party Host who works at Braeburn Farm and is helping us organise My Special Day. Steve isn’t helping, he is standing around smoking cigarettes even though I can see three signs saying No Smoking from where we are. I am trying to help by telling my mum where to put the decorations, but mum doesn’t seem to be hearing me even though I am telling her very loudly. So, I start saying “Mum! Mum! Mum!” over and over as loud as I can, to get her attention. Before it works, Steve flicks me behind the ear really hard. “Shut up,” he says, so I do.
The party space is right next to the petting zoo. From the picnic benches in the party space, you can see all kinds of animals – guinea pigs, rabbits, lambs, goats, pigs. There is one really really big pig who has an entire pen to himself. There is a sign posted on the fence of his pen. It says his name is Ellis, and that he is a Large White pig who weighs over 800 pounds. According to the sign, Ellis has won prizes for being an excellent pig. At the moment, Ellis is at the far end of his pen lying in the mud. I want to see him better, so I start saying “Ellis! Ellis! Ellis!” over and over, quieter this time. Ellis doesn’t notice me.
Daniel and his mum are first to arrive. Daniel and I want to go off and play on the climbing wall but mum says we have to wait for all the others to turn up. I say “That’s not fair!” and Steve flicks me again. Steve is very good at flicking. He has thick, hard fingers, and the skin on his hands is rough.
It takes AGES for everyone else to arrive, but they all do except for Alistair and Sophie who are twins and whose mum had already booked tickets to see Matilda in London for today. Lots of the guests have brought me presents and I want to open them, but mum won’t let me until after we eat, which won’t be until after we’ve done Activities. This makes me upset and I tell her she is as bad as Hitler, who we have been learning about in History. “OI,” Steve snaps, and he pinches me this time, as hard as he can.
While we are queueing to go on the zip-line, I am stood next to Zain and Harris, even though I don’t really play with them at school. We are talking about our favourite foods. This is what my mum calls “mingling”.
“I love jelly,” I say. “What’s your favourite kind of jelly? Green is rubbish.”
Zain and Harris look at each other, then look at me. They are making the face you make when you don’t really know what to say.
“Neither of us eat jelly,” says Zain.
“You flippin’ what?” I say. I open my mouth wide in disbelief.
“Jelly is made out of pig hooves,” says Harris. “I don’t eat it because we’re all vegetarian in my family.”
“And I can’t have it because you can’t eat pigs when you’re Muslim,” says Zain.
I think about this. “So… neither of you have ever eaten jelly?” I ask.
This makes me laugh really hard. I laugh for a long time. I probably laughed for like an hour. “You two are idiots because you don’t eat jelly,” I say.
“That’s mean,” says Harris. “I’m telling.”
But then it’s my turn on the zip-line, and they don’t get the chance to tell anyone.
After the Activities, it’s back to the petting zoo where my party is set up for eating. I am thrilled because this means that soon there will be jelly!
There are 20 kids in my class, and because Sophie and Alistair aren’t here, that means there are 18 of us at the party. 6 goes into 18 3 times, and the picnic benches seat 6 kids each. It’s my birthday so I get to pick which 5 people get to sit with me. I pick Daniel (obviously), and Toby, and Megan who is cool even though she’s a girl because she likes Spider-Man, and Zain and Harris. I pick Zain and Harris because I want to mingle more about jelly with them.
We are sat at the picnic bench which is closest to Ellis the pig’s pen. All of us wave at Ellis, who stays at the back of the pen, wallowing in his mud puddle. He doesn’t pay us any attention.
Then the food is brought out by my mum and Helen the Party Host. There are ham sandwiches and sausage rolls and crisps and chips and it is all delicious. Zain and Harris are given vegetable samosas instead of ham sandwiches and sausage rolls. I say to mum, “Why are they eating different food from everyone else?”
Mum says, “Because they don’t eat ham or sausages.”
“That’s stupid,” I say.
“Benjamin,” snaps mum, “don’t be so rude.”
“I’m not being rude,” I say. “Zain, Harris, I’m not being rude am I?”
But Zain and Harris don’t hear me, because they are looking at Ellis, who has decided to get up at last and join the party. He waddles over to the near side of the pen, and sits right by the fence, looking at us. He has little, black eyes.
“Look!” I say. “Ellis is here! Hello Ellis!”
“Don’t change the subject when I’m talking to you, Benjamin,” says mum. But all of us at the table are looking at Ellis.
“Ellis must be hungry!” says Megan.
“It says on the sign we shouldn’t feed him,” says Toby.
“But it’s my birthday,” I say.
“Don’t feed the pig,” says mum.
Mum gives me a very stern look. It’s the look she gives me before she tells Steve when I do something naughty. I stop arguing and go back to eating.
Steve is talking to Helen the Party Host over by the toilets. He is smiling at her. Steve looks odd when he smiles, like in Finding Nemo when the big shark smiles at Nemo’s dad. It’s like he has too many teeth, and they’re all razor-sharp. Steve puts his hand on Helen the Party Host’s arm. Helen is lots older than me, but she’s lots younger than Steve. She makes the face people make when they don’t want something to be happening.
Ellis the pig is still staring at us. He lets out a little snort, like a half-oink. He is definitely hungry, I think. So, I look to make sure mum isn’t watching, and I take my paper plate with my sausage rolls and ham sandwiches and walk over to the pen. I pick up a sausage roll to put through the fence.
“You can’t give him that,” says Harris. “He’s a pig. Sausage rolls are made of pigs. That would be cannonballism.”
“Don’t be stupid, Harris,” I say. “Sausage rolls aren’t made of pigs, they’re made of sausage. You’re an idiot, Harris.”
I stuff the sausage roll through the gap in the fence and drop it on the ground in front of Ellis. He puts his snout to it and sniffs it, but doesn’t eat it.
“See?” says Zain. “He doesn’t want to eat it.”
“Shut up,” I say. But when I look at Ellis’ face, he looks angry.
Then, mum sees what I’m doing and rushes over to me. She grabs my arm and pulls me back to the picnic bench. “What did I tell you?” she hisses. “If you keep this up, you won’t get any presents. We’ll give them all back, I swear.”
This is when mum sees Steve, still talking to Helen the Party Host, and her face goes as dark as a thunderstorm.
“I’m sorry mum,” I say, “I promise I’ll be good now,” but she doesn’t seem to be listening anymore. She says nothing, and goes away to the table where some of the mums are, drinking wine from plastic glasses.
The moment has arrived; it is time for jelly.
Most kids get most excited about cake on their birthdays. Not me. I have what our teacher, Miss MacCready, calls a “sophisticated palate”. She said this at school lunch when she saw me take the straw from my Capri-Sun and stick it into my satsuma, creating a satsuma-juice-box. So instead of cake, I like jelly. I have had lots of arguments at school over which is better. Everyone else says cake, but I believe it is important to stick to your guns.
There are three big wobbly jellies, one for each picnic bench of kids. There are two red ones and one orange one. No green ones, because my mum knows how yucky they are. My mum and Helen go around all the tables, spooning out jelly into bowls for everybody. Again, when it’s Harris and Zain’s turn to be served, they get something different – fruit salad.
Fruit salad is rubbish.
But I don’t want to get my presents given back, so I say nothing. I wait patiently until it is my turn for jelly. Sweet, wobbly jelly.
Zain and Harris start to talk again about why they don’t eat jelly. “What they do,” says Harris, “is they take all the bones and hooves and ears and skin of the pig and boil it in a big pot. They boil it for so long it turns into goo. The goo is called gelatin. The gelatin is what jelly is made of.”
“Urghh,” says Megan. “I don’t want to eat pig goo!” She pushes her bowl of jelly away.
“Would you like some of my fruit salad, Megan?” says Zain. He shares some grapes and apple slices with her.
While they are talking about this, I am looking at Ellis. I am looking at his small, shiny eyes. I am looking at his snout, which is huffing and puffing like a dog who is about to bark. I am looking at his hooves, which he is scraping back and forth on the ground, as if he is sharpening them. It looks to me – though I know it doesn’t really make sense – as if Ellis knows about the jelly. He knows what it’s made of. And it’s making him furious.
I go to spoon some jelly into my mouth, but something stops me. It’s like I can’t work the spoon properly – my hand trembles, and my lips shut tight, unwilling to accept the jelly.
It becomes too much to handle. “Stop looking at me,” I say to Ellis.
“I’m not looking at you,” says Toby, who thinks I am talking to him. I ignore him and stare back at Ellis.
“I mean it. Stop it. Stop looking at me.”
Ellis keeps huffing and puffing. The Big Bad Pig. He won’t look away, he won’t break eye contact, he just stares.
I stand up out of my seat and yell. “STOP STARING AT ME, PIG!”
Everyone goes quiet and looks at me. Helen the Party Host comes over. “What’s wrong, Benjamin?” she asks. I say nothing.
Ellis keeps staring.
I pick up my little plastic bowl of jelly, and I throw it at the fence, directly where Ellis is sat. It collides with the fence and the jelly splatters through, spraying over Ellis like the blood of his ancestors.
“Benjamin!” I hear mum screech from the wine table. I turn around, and the first thing I see is Steve, flicking a cigarette away without stubbing it out and stomping over to me, his footsteps heavy, and before I know it he reaches me and picks me up by the back of my shirt, pulling me away from the picnic bench.
“What did you do that for, you little s**t?” he says. I am crying now, though I don’t know when I started crying. He shakes me. “Eh? What did you do that for?”
My mum is next to Steve now, and trying to get him to put me down. Everyone else is looking at Ellis.
Ellis the pig, who is charging at the fence.
Ellis, the 800 pound pig, who tears it down like it’s made of paper.
Now he’s free. He’s rampaging through the party. The kids are screaming. The mums are running like headless chickens, trying to get the little boys and girls clear of the beast’s path.
Ellis bites a few of the slower kids, hard, and when he lets go of them they’re bloody and wailing. Helen the Party Host is frantically talking into a walkie-talkie that until now was clipped to her hip. “Code red!” she yelps, “Emergency! Somebody help!”
Steve’s still got hold of me. He doesn’t know what to do, he’s blindsided by the chaos. Just as he charged at me moments ago as I looked at him, unable to avoid what was coming, Ellis is headed straight for him, straight for us, an unstoppable blur of pinkish fat and white hair. He squeals, deafening and high.
Steve is dead! He died in hospital later that day of severe abdominal trauma and internal bleeding. We are all very upset. (Mostly mum.)
Mum went on the warpath against Braeburn Farm and tried to have Ellis killed. So far, they haven’t, but they’ve “permanently retired” him, which means he’s in a private pen where none of the visitors go. Honestly, I’m sort of glad.
Lots of kids from my class ended up in hospital, but Steve was the only person killed. I got banged up the worst – Ellis broke my right leg and my left ankle, and he chewed on my arm for a good two or three minutes before a team of farmhands arrived and wrestled him off me. I’ve been in hospital for aaaages, but they’ve said they’re going to let me go home in a day or two. I’m so excited to go home, because it’s rubbish here. There’s no telly, and the WiFi is so bad I can barely use my iPad. (Mum got me the iPad to cheer me up, once we found out how long I’d have to stay in hospital.) The food is really awful too! It’s even worse than hot dinners at school. That is, except for the puddings. Would you believe that there’s jelly for pudding at lunch and dinner every single day? I love jelly!
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