Why the Donkey Never Runs (The Final Part)

The little piglet spent another rainy night in the sty, sheltering alone and cold under the water trough. Before daybreak the chief rooster crowed, but Henry didn’t go to the big round hill to watch the dawn. The sun rose unnoticed behind a blanket of grey. As morning continued, the rain stopped, and sunbeams began piercing and dissolving the clouds until it became a fine day. Henry took advantage of the warmth and recovered some of the sleep he missed out on through the night.

Around midday he woke up, well rested. The other young pigs were swarming around two bucketfuls of food scraps Mr McGinley had just dumped over the sty wall. It was custom that Henry, the runt, would wait until the others had eaten their fill (which was considerable) before dining himself, but today he didn’t. He looked for a weak point in the scrum of piglets, and then barged his way in to the food, managing to wolf down some potato peelings and an apple core before his siblings shunted him out. Undeterred, Henry pushed back in and snared a whole corn cob by headbutting the piglet who grabbed it first (this was standard swine dining etiquette).

After his meal, Henry climbed the pigsty fence and trotted up to the north paddock. Samson was gone. Henry looked down toward the farmhouse; the blue truck was also gone. He wandered down the hill. When he came to the dam he waded in for a swim, a practice he would continue daily. He then trotted up to the farmhouse. Lily was around the side of the house, standing beside some old barrels. Henry had never seen her there before. He walked over to Fergus lying in his kennel. “Hello Fergus,” said Henry. The cattle dog lifted his head, winced and opened his good eye. “Wow, you’re eye looks bad,” said Henry. “Did you scratch it?”

“What do you want, runt?” growled Fergus.

Henry waited a moment. He looked up at the north paddock. “Samson is gone,” he said.

Fergus grinned and snickered. “Not all of him.”

“What do you mean?”

Fergus sat up and turned his head inside his kennel. He turned back with something between his teeth. He dropped it in front of Henry. “Ha-ha. A tasty little souvenir from your friend.”

Henry shook his head in confusion and stepped back, staring at the souvenir: Samson’s left ear.  “You shouldn’t have done that, Fergus,” said Henry. The piglet began breathing heavily and grunting. “You shouldn’t have done that to Samson.”

“Get used to it, runt. A dog has to eat.” Fergus’s eyes lifted above the piglet. “Speaking of which…”

Henry turned around and saw the Winston marching up from the chicken yard. He strode right up to the farmhouse, and strutted back and forward. Fergus stood up and stepped out of his kennel. Henry backed away. The chief rooster stopped and faced the cattle dog, just a few feet from him. The rooster gave a threatening cluck, raised himself up and ruffled his feathers. “That eye looks nasty,” he said.

Fergus crouched and growled.

Winston thumped his beak into the ground twice with lightning speed. “If you like,” he said, “I could give you a matching one.”

Fergus snarled and barked. Winston stood tall and stretched his head up, then flapped his wings and crowed—at that close range it was like an explosion. Henry fell back, Fergus shuddered. “I’ll blind you, dog!” clucked Winston.

Fergus lunged, and Winston turned and ran. Henry had never seen the chief rooster run; he was amazed at his speed. He ran along the front of the farmhouse and disappeared around the side. Fergus closed in as he tore around the corner in pursuit. There was a thump, coupled with a short, loud yelp. Henry waited a moment, then walked apprehensively along the front of the house. There came a frightened whimper, followed by a tremendous thud; Henry felt the ground shudder beneath his trotters. The whimper ceased.

From around the corner Winston stepped out. Henry jumped a little in surprise; Winston peered at him. “This is not the place for pigs,” said the rooster.

“Is… Is Fergus… all right?” asked Henry.

“Don’t worry about the dog,” commanded Winston. “Go back to the pigsty, and don’t come around the chicken yard anymore.”

Henry lowered his eyes and stepped back. “Can I… still swim in the dam?”

Winston gave Henry a curious look, and the hint of a smile. “Swim? Sure. Swim in the dam all you like. But stay away from the chickens. Now turn around and go home.”

Henry turned and trotted away past the farmhouse. He could see, down in the south paddock, the big round hill towering like a castle, and the young willow tree swaying in the wind.

The End.

 

© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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