Mr McGinley stooped down and tried to catch Henry, but the piglet was too fast. He darted in and out between the donkey’s legs, back and forward and around in circles, squealing the whole time. It was only when he tripped and fell that Mr McGinley pounced and caught him, gathering him up in his arms. Henry kicked and threw himself into every contortion possible, but Mr McGinley held him fast. The little pig continued to squeal, warning Samson to flee.
Mr McGinley carried Henry back about ten metres from the donkey, and Mr Farrow gave him a nod. Mr Farrow, his long stick in hand, approached Samson. He stopped a few steps away from him, directly in front, then raised the long stick until it was horizontal, extending from his shoulder toward Samson’s face.
“Samson!” squealed Henry. “Samson, the stick! Run away, Samson! Run away!”
The stick in Mr Farrow’s hands clicked, and in the same instant Samson blinked. In the look in Samson’s eyes, perhaps perceptible only to Henry, the donkey seemed to return from wherever he had disappeared. He turned his head ever so slightly before a mighty crack thundered. Henry instinctively shut his eyes. He felt a thump, heard a hideous groan, and then the rapid beat of hooves on turf. Henry found himself in the grass, fallen on his side. He stood up, ears ringing, and looked about. Mr McGinley was running toward Mr Farrow, who had been knocked over and was now sitting up with the long stick still in his hand. Samson was gone. Henry spun around and saw him, galloping away across the hill. The donkey was running.
Henry stared wide-eyed, at first in disbelief, then in ecstasy. “Samson! You’re running!” The piglet leapt, then skipped, then rolled on his back laughing. He stood again and watched with wondrous joy as his friend raced away. Henry spun around and raced down the hill. “Wee-hee! Wee-hee!” He ran down the paddock, past the dam and up toward the farmhouse. He sprinted past Fergus’s kennel, where the cattle dog was sulking and nursing a badly injured eye. “Wee-hee! Fergus, Samson can run! He can run and I can swim!” The overjoyed piglet never broke stride, turning from the farmhouse down to the stables. He careered by like a tiny pink police car with its siren wailing. “Wee-hee! Wee-hee! Samson can run!” He shot past the chief rooster, who was perched on the stable fence, talking to Lily the Clydesdale. Lily held her head low and nodded as she listened, and pawed the dirt with her enormous hoof. Up from the stables ran Henry, across the dirt driveway, through the chicken yard—”Wee-hee!”—down the hill behind the henhouse and around the back of the dam. He sped up the bank and dove in—splonk! Around and around he swam—the only thing happier than a pig in mud was this pig in water.
After a minute, Henry paddled over to the edge of the dam and climbed out. He hopped about in a sort of jig, singing as he danced:
“I can swim, swim, swim, swim, swim, swim, swim,
And Samson can run, run, run, run, run.”
Henry shook himself dry then ran back up the north paddock to celebrate Samson’s milestone with him. He found the donkey about a hundred metres from his earlier position near Mr McGinley’s infant orange trees; Samson was now standing still again, this time facing the north fence. Mr McGinley and Mr Farrow were walking carefully toward him; Mr Farrow was carrying his stick. Henry passed the two men and ran up behind his friend. “Samson, I’m so happy,” he said. “You ran! You were so fast. I told you it was fun, didn’t I? Do you like running? Samson?” Henry trotted around in front of the donkey and looked up at him. The piglet shuddered and backed away. “S…Samson?” he whispered.
The fur on the left side of Samson’s face glistened with flowing blood. A deep gash ran above his eye, up to where his left ear had almost completely detached; it flopped against his face, held by a shred of skin. The donkey stared ahead in a trance. Mr Farrow approached; Mr McGinley remained at a distance. Mr Farrow, with quick, controlled steps, came up alongside Samson, paused and raised his long stick again toward Samson’s head. Henry crouched in the grass and braced himself for another thunderclap. Crack! Samson’s head swung sideways and the hefty beast collapsed on the ground in an unnatural position. He laid motionless, his jaw hanging open and loose. Mr Farrow lowered his stick, and he and Mr McGinley stood over the donkey. Henry rose and went over to his friend. Samson’s left eye was a black crater.
Being so young, the piglet had seen less death than most farm animals, yet even he knew Samson was gone. He didn’t entirely understand it, but he knew it.
He crept up beside Samson and laid down by his nose. Mr Farrow turned and walked back across the paddock. Mr McGinley waited for a while in silence, looking down at Samson and shaking his head. Then he turned and left too. For an hour Henry laid there, curled up next to his friend. Black clouds closed in from the west, casting an early darkness over the farm. Henry stood up, nuzzled Samson’s nose with his snout, and walked away across the paddock, down behind the farmhouse, back to the pigsty.
© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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