Why the Donkey Never Runs (Part 7)

Atop of the hill, Henry sat and finished his apple core and waited. He looked up the paddock, toward the stables; there was no movement at first, but soon the horses wandered out. No donkey. Henry paced back and forth; he took a long, probing look at the willow tree; he turned and looked up at the stables again. Behind him the far-off bleating of sheep told him Samson should have been here by now. The piglet turned toward the pine forest in the east, and saw a bright golden sliver emerge above the trees. He blinked, and squinted, and watched as the sliver slowly grew. A wide, wonderstruck smile stretched across his little face.

Henry trotted back down the hill and then up the paddock to the farmhouse. As he arrived, he saw Mr McGinley by the front door, putting on his gumboots. Mr McGinley turned and stood with his hands on his hips, facing the north paddock. After a minute he scratched his head, turned and headed for the barn. He whistled, and Fergus crawled out from his kennel, yawned, and ran after him. “Fergus,” called Henry. The cattle dog shot Henry a cold glare and ran past. Henry sighed. “Sleepy head,” he said.

The piglet strolled by the front of the farmhouse. It was quiet. He went to Fergus’s kennel and stuck his head inside. It smelled different to the pigsty. He continued on and came to the big cardboard box. Henry stood on his hind legs, hooked his front trotters over the edge of the box and looked in. On an old woollen jumper lining the bottom of the box, the cat was lying on her side, curled around her sleeping kittens. She looked up at Henry. He smiled. After watching the kittens for a while, he noticed there were only four. “Where is your other baby?” he whispered. The cat said nothing; she rested the side of her head on the fleece. Henry saw a tear in her eyes as she closed them. He left the cat and the kittens and walked down toward the henhouse.

The chicken yard was acluck with mother hens chatting and young chicks playing. Henry liked the sound, and wondered why more farm animals never came by to listen. He smiled as he passed through, and a few chicks wished him a good morning. Behind the henhouse he trotted down the hill and then slowed down. He looked around and sniffed through the tall grass, back and forward until he stopped in a wide clover patch. On the sodden ground he found the half peach he had seen there the previous day. To his disappointment, someone had beaten him to the fermenting meal; only the peach seed remained. He picked it up in his teeth, sucked on it then spat it out. He placed a trotter on the seed and pressed down. The soil gave way. Henry giggled and pressed down further, until the seed was completely submerged. He stared at the ground in wonder, expecting the seed to pop back up.

A splash, followed by a string of smaller ones, drew Henry’s attention to the dam. The dam! Of course! He sprinted down the hill and around the back of the water’s edge. With mounting excitement he raced up and hurled himself off the high bank. A mother duck flapped back and quacked in anger as the piglet plonked into the water beside her with a loud slap. Her ducklings giggled and ruffled their feathers as icy water showered down on them. Henry’s head bobbed up and he squealed with glee, putting his new-found swimming skills to work. Round and round he circled the family of ducks, much to the young ones’ amusement. After a few minutes he swam to the water’s edge and climbed out.

Henry smiled knowingly as he watched a trio of geese fly overhead. He shook himself off and looked about. Up the hill in the north paddock he saw a familiar shape. “Samson!” he cried, and ran up to see his friend. “Samson, Samson!” yelled Henry as he came up the hill. “You weren’t at the big round hill this morning. Guess what—I saw the sun peek over the trees. I saw the sunrise!” Henry slowed as he neared the donkey. Samson remained as he was the previous evening: unmoving, with a frozen stare of fright.



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