Why the Donkey Never Runs (Part 9)

“Please,” said the Clydesdale, her eyes to the ground. “Samson is my friend. Please, just let him be. Fergus, go back to the henhouse. Winston, please forgive the cattle dog’s ignorance.”

“Forgive me?” said Fergus. “I won’t have a chicken lord it over me!”

The young hen pecked her head forward at Fergus. She clucked loudly, “Winston is the—”

Before she could finish, Fergus snapped at her and caught her outstretched neck between his teeth. The crowd gasped, and Winston dropped down onto Fergus’s shoulders, flapping wildly and pecking his face with jackhammer ferocity. Fergus snarled, and lashed out side to side with his jaws, trying to latch onto Winston. The pair spun round and round in a flurry of teeth, tail and feathers. Suddenly Fergus yelped and tucked his head down. Winston detached his claws and flapped off the dog’s back; Fergus ran off, his tail between his legs.

Winston watched him run halfway down the hill, then turned back to the young hen lying on the grass. The chief rooster walked up and stood next to her, her feathers stained red around the throat. He bent down and nudged her with his beak; her body was as limp as a wet rag. Winston stood tall and serious, unmoved, it seemed, by what had just happened. He marched back through the stunned crowd and down the hill.

“Lily?” said the cat, who had kept well hidden behind a rock during the violence.

The Clydesdale was occupied with heavy thoughts. “Hmm? Yes?” she said.

“Are any of the horses pregnant?”

“Pregnant? No. Why?” Lily suddenly raised her head and turned to look down the hill, to the eastern side of the farm. “Oh no,” she gasped. Coming up the long, dirt driveway from the front gate was a blue truck.

The animals scattered; all except Henry. He was determined to stay with his friend… and there was something he was supposed to remember about a man with a blue truck. The truck came all the way up the drive way and stopped. A man stepped out, Mr Farrow, and greeted Farmer McGinley. The two men talked for a while; there was some gesturing and scratching of heads. Mr Farrow took a bag from his truck, slung it over his shoulder, and then he and Mr McGinley walked up the north paddock. Mr McGinley scratched his head again when he saw the dead hen lying in front of his comatose donkey. Mr Farrow examined the hen, and then turned his attention to Samson. He was a long time assessing Samson’s condition, using a variety of instruments, but still the donkey refused to move. Henry sat in the long grass nearby, riveted to the spectacle before him. After what seemed an eternity to Henry, Mr Farrow put away his instruments and spoke to Mr McGinley. Mr McGinley dropped his head and scratched his chin. Mr Farrow put a hand on Mr McGinley’s shoulder; Mr McGinley nodded. Mr Farrow took his bag and went back down the hill, while Mr McGinley walked over to Samson and stroked his long nose.

Henry’s tail twitched. He stood up began pacing around. Mr McGinley noticed him. The farmer said something and then sat down on the grass. He made a clicking noise which Henry loved; the piglet ran up to him and jumped in his lap. Mr McGinley sighed, ran his rough hand along Henry’s back then gave him a firm pat on the rump. He continued speaking in a deep, murmuring voice. The piglet put his head down on the farmer’s knee and closed his eyes.

Henry awoke as Mr McGinley stretched his legs. The piglet scrambled onto the grass, a little disoriented after his short nap. Mr Farrow was back, this time carrying a bigger bag. The two men began talking while Henry nuzzled up against Samson’s leg. Mr Farrow unpacked his bag. Henry turned and watched the two men walking toward him and Samson. He squinted, tilted his head and scrunched his snout in and out. Suddenly his eyes widened. He crouched and then sprung up as high as a runt can spring. He raced around the donkey, squealing and snorting, “Samson! The stick! The man with the long stick! We have to run away! Samson!”

 

© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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