One Little Piggy Came Home: A Photo Essay

Jerome Berglund 

            Early in college I made a short film. 

The plot was meant to be loosely adapted from the song Tin Soldier, and I cast a heavily tattooed veteran (Figure 1) to play the lead.  In the story, he surprised an apartment full of college students and swiftly murdered the lot of them.  Then he went about searching their residence, at first cool and businesslike, but then with progressive agitation and unease. 

He was seeking something there, and had difficulty finding it.  Ultimately he located the mysterious item he had been rummaging for, but like the lyrics to the tune, found it wanting, raising more questions than it in fact answered. 

The charm in question he discovered lodged within a balloon, inside the stomach of one of the unlucky tenants, whom he’d recently unceremoniously dealt with so cruelly. 

He dredged it out from her intestines, a scene I simulated with genuine pig guts—which had been purchased from a Farmer’s Market, in an upscale Beverly Hills mall.  I could as easily have staged the sequence with pasta noodles, I realized later, as they look virtually identical. 

The enthusiastic lead and his female co-star—a spunky drama major, whose graphic disembowelment might well have been the most valuable footage a cumulative two hundred grand in tuition expenditures afforded her, stiff and corpsy if she was for most of the entirety, excluding the brief but colorful initial strangulation—were both tremendously good sports about getting their hands and chests dirty, rooting about through, being smeared in authentic hog gore. 

But in the end, the video—shot on cameras our program provided, inexplicably the lowest quality digital handi-cams on the market, perhaps to be sure our masterworks were entirely unusable to us as ‘auteur’ calling cards, prohibited from sharing them outside the school in any capacity as we were, retaining copyright upon all of it our alma mater continues to; the same models David Lynch, in characteristically rebellious fashion, elected to shoot Inland Empire on—terminated with the soldier unwrapping the balloon and finding, not smuggled diamonds, or heroin, or a thumb drive with launch codes, or anything so exciting as that, but rather a scrap of paper (Figure 2) with the words ‘Peace on Earth’ scrawled upon it.[1]

Derivative?  Surely.

Still, that actor had seen something not dissimilar (Figure 3) to this ballad and its adaptation, over the course of his tour in the Middle East.  And in the years to come (Figure 4) we would both find ourselves wallowing through further days of judgment, mornings of bloodshed, before the hateful neighbors and cheating friends (Figure 5) were done with us. (Figure 6)

You don’t need to travel (Figure 7) up any hill to become mired in struggle, get ambushed (Figure 8) for those few treasures you have buried.  Just lean out the nearest window (Figure 9) and listen: the trumpets are distinct, unmistakable.

We both later served some time,[2] (Figure 10) in jails, and out of them, before finding our ways back to El Paso and Minneapolis respectively.  I hope those other bit players each also made it out in one piece, (Figure 11) held together by chewing gum, baling wire, or twine as needed to be.

Better for tin soldiers to have ridden away, (Figure 12) I always say.  

In situational awareness training years later, I would learn about the importance of running the other direction from gunfire, rather than towards it.  They should teach people that earlier in life.

(Photography courtesy of Jerome Berglund. Click on images to see in high resolution)

Figure 1. “Darkman”.

Figure 2. “Fell Down On My Knees”.

Figure 3. “Tempest”.

Figure 4. “One Way”.

Figure 5. “Waltzing”.

Figure 6. “Reaping Time”.

Figure 7. “Migration”.

Figure 8. “Deciduous”.

Figure 9. “Madrigals”.

Figure 10. “No Country”.

Figure 11. “Hit and Run”.

Figure 12. “Desert Rose”.



[1] Hitchcock would call such a bogus trinket a MacGuffin.  $50 grand a year so I can tell you that.
[2] A ‘bit’ you would call it, in the convict vernacular.  Interesting that’s the same word used to describe a stand-up routine in comedy.


Bio: Jerome Berglund is an author and fine artist who cowrote a television pilot which at a festival for them received numerous accolades including best in show. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California’s Cinema-Television Production program, with emphases in screenwriting and philosophy.  Berglund is author to the novel Havenauts and the story collection Dick Jokes.  His short fiction has been exhibited by the Watershed Review, Paragon Press, and the Stardust Review. His poetry appears in Abstract Magazine, Bangalore Review, Barstow & Grand, and most recently O:JA&L. A drama he penned was published in Iris Literary Journal.  Berglund is furthermore an established, award-winning fine art photographer, whose black and white pictures have been exhibited in galleries across New York, Minneapolis, and Santa Monica.  In another life he worked as a visual effects artist for Lucasfilm and Dreamworks, and assisted on set at Lifetime and Comedy Central.  He has the unique privilege of being able to say he was once Minnie Driver’s driver.  Berglund is a committed activist as well, and has been actively involved in the Occupy, Standing Rock, and Black Lives Matter movements, and supported grassroots efforts promoting the Green Party.


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