The Candidate by Robert Long Foreman
Said Magda to Weird Pig, What are you, atheist?
No, said Weird Pig. Not exactly.
Then what are you?
My goodness. Rarely am I asked to answer such a direct question concerning matters private as this.
Nothing private about faith, Weird Pig.
Weird Pig was running for a State Senate seat, and had put himself in the firing line for interrogations like this one.
This I’ll say, he said. This I will say. I am not a disbeliever in the Lord. I am not a person of the sort you so deftly described just now. I am, however, not a churchgoer.
No, listen. Just listen to me.
I have known it all along.
I’m not an atheist. I’m an agnostic.
It is not the same thing. You are wrong. An atheist has made up his mind about the question of the existence of god.
No question about it.
Will you please listen? An atheist has made up his mind. An agnostic is still searching, is still open to the question. You see the difference?
Magda was a girl from the neighboring farm, somebody’s daughter who probably should have been in school. She was six years old, and there was no one else around to watch or hear them bicker for the three hours they spent carrying on like this. It was like the Lincoln-Douglass debates, for daughters and pigs.
Weird Pig tried to reassure himself, later, that the rest of the campaign trail would be nothing like that, since the daughter girl from the next farm over couldn’t even vote. She was a kid, and had clearly been brainwashed by her yokel parents. Probably not enough omega-3s in the eggs for brain development, he told himself.
Still, it was a debate he had lost. All the polls declared him the loser, and there was no arguing with the polls, said his campaign manager, which was a rock shaped like a regal human head he’d found by the pond.
Weird Pig saw the writing on the wall. It was written on the wall of the barn, facing the highway. It said MAIL POUCH. Underneath that, in small letters, someone had written, CONCEDE NOW, WEIRD PIG.
What could he do?
He went to the local high school, where he addressed an assembly of student supporters (more rocks shaped like heads) and reporters from local news outlets. He said, into a carrot that was supposed to be a microphone, and was kind of shaped like one,
It has been a struggle. These last months have taken a toll on me and my family. We have made sacrifices, so that I could rise in the world and serve the people of this state.
But the people of this state have sent their message to me, and I have responded. I have read the writing on the wall of the barn, underneath where it says MAIL POUCH in big letters. Magda from the farm next door has registered her lack of understanding of the nuanced difference between an atheist and an agnostic. Despite my efforts to explain this difference, she has persisted in her disapproval of me, and this has registered with me and my campaign manager, the head-shaped rock by the pond that bears a resemblance to, if anyone, Gore Vidal.
I want to thank a few people for their help on this campaign. First, the head-rock. Next, my family, who have been somewhat less helpful than the rock, but still okay.
Mostly, though, I want to thank the rock that I found. Without him, there would have been no Candidate Weird Pig.
I am sorry to say this, I am sorry to announce it. But unless Magda from the next farm changes her mind—which, okay, she’s shaking her head, so, no—there will be no State Senator Weird Pig. It just wasn’t meant to be. And I’d like to endorse, for the State Senate seat, Magda from the other farm. She has run, with a rock of her own, that she found, plus that doll she carries with her whose name I can’t recall, a flawless campaign. World class stuff. Good luck, Magda. You will need it.
Now, thank you very much for your support. I’m going to go spend some time with my family, if you know what I mean. God bless farming, and God bless America, if God exists, which I’m not sure he does. Okay.
Robert Long Foreman is from Wheeling, West Virginia. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared most recently in Copper Nickel, Juxtaprose, Booth, River Teeth, and the 2014 Pushcart anthology. He is The Cossack Review’s Fiction Editor, and he is writing Weird Pig: The Novelization. You can find him on Twitter @RobertLong4man.