The Pig’s Final Swim (Part 2)

    Tink… tink, tink… The first raindrops tapped the henhouse roof, drawing Henry’s attention from the peach tree. His eyes widened. Up the hill he trotted, curious at the swirling grey clouds moving through low through the air. He trotted right past the henhouse and into the chicken yard, where he stopped and gasped. Under a black horizon, a haze smothered the lower paddocks, and bright light flashed in the clouds. Thunder groaned in the distance; the little pig backed up a step. A thick flutter of wings surprised him, and a sharp kick knocked him off balance. He stumbled and turned around, then quickly lowered his head. He watched the long, taloned toes step toward him.

 “What are you doing here, Henry?” said the chief rooster. “The chicken yard is not a place for pigs.”

 “Yes, I know,” said Henry. “I’m sorry, Winston. I was watching the sky, and I didn’t see where I was going.”

 “Leave now,” said Winston.

 The little pig nodded. As he backed away, he raised his head and then stopped. He looked left, then right, then spun around in a circle, his curly tail wiggling. “Where are the chickens?” He looked at the rooster.

 Winston peered at him, then stood tall and ruffled his feathers. “The chickens are in the henhouse.”

 Henry’s head tilted, and his snout wrinkled. “The henhouse?” he said. He looked up. “Silly chickens, it’s not night-time, it’s just dark because of the clouds.”

 “The chickens are in the henhouse,” said Winston, “because a storm is coming.”

 Henry turned and looked toward the south. “I’ve seen storms before,” he said.

 “Not like this, you haven’t,” said Winston.

 The clouds over the sheep paddock flashed; a jagged lightning bolt shot down like a great crack in the sky then vanished. Henry jumped back.

 “You can’t stay here, pig,” said Winston.

 Henry turned and faced him. “Oh, yes. Okay.”

 The rooster stretched his head high, flapped his great wings twice then tucked them back at his sides. He looked toward the darkness. “Find some high ground,” he said, then turned and marched back to the henhouse.

    A cool wind howled up the slope, rattling the horse yard gate against its chain. Looking over, Henry saw something moving in the long grass, and he ran down for a closer look. As he neared, he heard a soft wheezing among the long, bending grass blades. He crouched low and followed it, hoping to spring out and surprise whatever it was. It was Henry who got the surprise. Out from the long grass by the fence emerged the black and white cat. She was hunched over and limping, and her ribs bulged through her thinning fur with each rapid breath. Henry stumbled back onto his rump and huffed. When the cat saw Henry, she meowed and hobbled toward him. She was old now, and rarely ventured far from her cardboard box up at the farmhouse.

 “What are you doing at the horse yard?” said Henry.

 “My kittens,” she panted. “They… haven’t come back.”

 “Well, it’s not night-time yet,” said Henry. “It’s only dark because of the clouds. When it’s really night they’ll come back.”

 The cat stood right in front of him and raised her head, almost pressing her nose against his. “I have to find them… before it rains.”

 “Hmm, well, it’s already raining a bit.”

 The cat’s eyes filled with fear. She shook her head. “It is going to rain all night, Henry. Can’t you feel it? So much rain. Soon, water will cover the paddocks.”

 “The paddocks?” Henry’s eyes bulged.

 “My kittens are small, and they cannot swim like you can.” She laid a paw on Henry’s shoulder and raised herself up on her hind legs to look down over his snout and into his eyes. “If I don’t find them… they will be lost in the water.”

 Henry trembled. The cat stood back on all fours, took two steps then collapsed on the grass, wheezing shallow breaths. Henry watched her for a moment. The cat struggled and failed to get to her feet.

 “I can help you get back to the farmhouse,” said Henry, “and then I’ll look for your kittens. I’m good at finding things.”

 The cat raised her head. “I can get back to the house on my own,” she said, in almost a whisper. “But find my kittens. Please.”

 Henry watched her another moment. A fat raindrop fell right in his upturned nostril, and he snorted and shook his head. He looked up and saw the black clouds were now above him. Lightning flashed and thunder cracked like a gunshot. Henry squealed and took off down the hill, as fast as his stubby legs would take him.

© 2021 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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