Henry went through the tomato patch, through the colonnade of leafy green stems bound to wooden stakes. The plants bore fat round tomatoes, red and ripe, and the temptation to stop and eat almost overcame the little pig. He put his snout down and pressed on. At the bottom of the short slope near the farmhouse, Henry looked out upon what appeared a vast sea. The western side of the farm was flat and bare, except for a row of avocado trees at the north end, and it was now almost entirely flooded. Near the western fence, the pigsty was raised on a low hill and remained just above water. Perhaps the pigs had seen the kittens. Henry sighed, and then stepped out into the water. It was moving fast, running down to the south end of the farm, but it was shallow, only just above Henry’s knees. By leaping rather than running, he found he could travel through it quite quickly. The cold water splashed up in his face and sloshed beneath his belly as he landed after each jump, and halfway to the pigsty the fun finally distracted him. With squeals of delight, Henry splashed around, rolled over, stomped his feet as he marched in circles, and then laid on his back with his snout above water, letting the water rush over him. It took an earth-shaking peal of thunder to jar him back on track. “Oh no, oh no,” he said, leaping once more toward the pigsty. “The kittens. I have to find them. They can’t swim like I can.”
The pigsty was muddier and sloppier than ever, and the pigs were enjoying it. They seemed not to notice the rising waters around them. “Henry!” called the biggest pig. “If you’ve come for dinner, you’re too late. Ha! The farmer fed us early today, and we’ve eaten it all. Ha-ha!”
There were grunts of laughter all round.
“I need your help,” said Henry, poking his misshapen snout through a gap in the old timber slat fence.
The pigs looked curiously at one another. “Help” was almost a foreign word to them.
“The kittens are lost, and I need to find them before it rains too much. They can’t swim like I can.”
“There he goes with the swimming again,” said one of the sows.
“Have you seen them?” asked Henry.
“The kittens. Have you seen the kittens?”
“Why would a kitten come to the pigsty?”
“They are lost,” said Henry. “They could be anywhere. Have you seen them?”
An exceptionally fat spotted pig raised his head from the mud in which he was almost submerged. Beneath his floppy ears, two beady, suspicious eyes fixed on Henry. “Why are you so interested in kittens?”
“They need help,” said Henry.
“Told you he was mad,” said another pig.
The biggest pig walked over to the fence and leaned down. “I know where the kittens are,” he said.
“Really?” said Henry, with a wiggle of his tail. “Where are they?”
“You must listen very carefully,” said the big pig. “Put your ear to the gap here, so I can tell you.”
“All right,” said Henry. He turned his head so his ear was toward the big pig.
“Come as close as you can,” said the big pig. “Press your face right up against the fence, as hard as you can.”
“Yes, okay,” said Henry. He pushed the side of his face hard up against the timber and concentrated with all his effort. “I’m listening.”
“Now pay attention,” said the big pig.
He took three steps back, put his head down and charged. As he rammed the fence, Henry flew back and tumbled down to the water’s edge, where he laid motionless. All the pigs in the sty laughed. After a few moments, Henry snorted and kicked, then rolled over and forced himself up onto his feet. There was a searing ache in his cheek, and his thoughts swirled like leaves in the wind. He blinked hard and shook his head.
“Ha-ha! I got him good!” laughed the big pig.
© 2021 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED