That afternoon, Henry roamed around to the front of the farmhouse to see the cattle dog, whom he considered his best friend. The cattle dog considered the young runt something of a plaything, similar to how the cat would view a dead mouse. Beneath the eaves at the front of the farmhouse was a narrow paved area, where sat a large cardboard box, and a kennel as old as the house itself. In front of the kennel, on a ragged horse blanket, lay a sleeping Red Heeler. “Hello Fergus,” said Henry.
With visible reluctance the cattle dog opened his eyes. He stretched out and yawned wide. “Ah, hello young Henry,” he said. “My goodness, you’re getting almost big enough to eat.”
“Ha-ha! You can’t eat me, Fergus,” said Henry, and he ran up and barged into him, nuzzling his snout into Fergus’s stout, fuzzy neck. The cattle dog recoiled in disgust. He lifted his head and sat up, and Henry fell onto the blanket in front of him. As the piglet flailed about on his back, Fergus clamped his jaws gently around Henry’s belly and lifted him up. “Wee-hee!” squealed Henry. Fergus closed his jaws tighter. And tighter. “Ow, Fergus,” grunted Henry. “Ow! Fergus, that hurts. OUCH!” Fergus dropped Henry onto the blanket, and the piglet rolled over and got to his feet. He limped about for minute and then tried to look round at his side. “Ow,” he grimaced. “You play rough sometimes, Fergus. Am I bleeding?” Two bright red dots marked Henry’s flank where the Fergus’s fangs had punctured the skin.
“No, you’re fine,” he said.
Henry walked out onto the grass in the sunshine. He laid down on his side, stretched in and out like an accordion three times and then stood up again. He watched a large green bug float overhead. Henry mumbled something, and the bug dived down and landed for a second on his snout, before flying away. Henry giggled and shook his head. Fergus laid his head down between his paws and shut his eyes. It was a warm afternoon, and a friendly breeze drifted across the front of the farmhouse. Fergus, weary from the morning’s work, relaxed his body and sank into his blanket. The soothing hand of rest settled upon him, guiding him to the edge of sweet slumber, then gently— “HEY FERGUS, LOOK AT ME!”
The cattle dog lifted his eyelids to see the piglet racing around in wide circles. After the fifth lap, Henry stopped and stood panting in front of Fergus, watching him with hopeful eyes. Fergus closed his eyes and tried to sleep. “I’m a really fast runner,” said Henry. “Almost as fast as you, Fergus. Maybe one day I could herd the cows. You know, every morning I race Samson, and he never catches me.”
A smile crept across Fergus’s face. He opened his eyes and sat up. “Well, I’m surprised, Henry,” he said. Henry stood to attention. “I thought you would have noticed,” said Fergus. “Hmm. Very interesting.”
“What? What is it?” said Henry. “Tell me, Fergus.”
“Well, it’s just… you know why Samson never catches you, don’t you?” After a short silence Henry shook his head. “The donkey never runs. Haven’t you ever noticed?”
Henry squinted at the ground, then looked up and tilted his head. He looked back at Fergus. “No,” he said. “I never noticed. Samson really never runs?”
“Never,” smiled Fergus. “You know, he’s working with Mr McGinley on the north hill this afternoon. You should go and ask him why he doesn’t run.” Henry looked over toward the north hill. He stood staring for a minute. “Henry,” said Fergus.
“Huh? Yes?” Henry looked at Fergus.
“Go and ask him,” said Fergus, with a nod.
“Yes, okay,” smiled Henry, and he ran off like a flash—past the farmhouse, down the slope toward the dam, and then up the hill in the north paddock.
Over the brim of the cardboard box, the old cat peeked her head. She watched Henry scurry away, and then she turned to Fergus. “You should leave that piglet alone,” she said.
“Just worry about your kittens,” growled Fergus.
The old cat widened her eyes and set a sharp-clawed paw upon the edge of the box. She poured herself out and over the edge; five small black and white kittens tumbled out after her. As she slunk away down toward the henhouse, one kitten stopped to look back at the cattle dog. Fergus bared his teeth and growled; the kitten turned and ran after her mother. Fergus laid down once more and went to sleep, smiling to himself.
© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED