The farm had never seen such a deluge. The little pig kicked and kicked, despite it seeming at first like he was getting nowhere. Lightning flashed just north of the farm, and a second later thunder resounded through the sky. Beneath the water, Henry’s front trotters worked as fast as a boxer’s fists, back and forward, back and forward. Strong winds began to blow, and the water became choppy. A small wave washed over the porcine raft; the kittens clung for dear life, and Henry snorted water from his snout. “Hang on!” he called. Harder and harder he kicked, while the kittens meowed in despair, and the water washed all four of them further downstream. With the thumping of his heart matching the galloping of his little legs, Henry pressed on, until at last he noticed a dim light in a window—the farmhouse was getting closer. His head bobbed forward, trying to get another inch nearer safety. Another wave washed over his face; he blinked the water from his eyes and kicked on, starting to feel an ache in his hams. Lightning flashed once more, and Henry saw the farmhouse. “Oh no,” he said, then grit his teeth and charged with new vigour. Though there was now only a short distance between the pig and shelter, the current had dragged him further than he had realised, and soon he would drift past the house. No other small animal on the farm would have had a chance: the other pigs could not swim half as well as Henry, the dog was too young and not yet strong enough, the sheep hated water, and the chickens would have been washed away before they knew what was happening. Even the Clydesdale would have had a hard time wading across that tide. There was no swimmer on the farm like Henry. And had he not been carrying the weight of three kittens on his back, he would certainly have made it.
The little pig swam on as fast as he could, but the water moved faster. Soon the light in the window was lost in the rain, and the huge silhouette of the farmhouse melted into the haze. He kicked against the current until he could not even guess where it was. The kittens meowed in fright as the flood sped the animals down the short slope behind the house. They splashed into calmer waters and drifted once again. “What will we do now?” cried one of the kittens.
Henry relaxed his legs and floated. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Maybe there is high ground somewhere else.” He turned himself around to look ahead. The sky lit up for a split-second, and Henry squinted into the distance. “Look!” he cried. “The willow tree.”
In the south paddock nearest the house, a big round hill stood higher than any other point on that side of the farm. At the top of the hill grew a young willow tree. Henry knew that tree well. He knew its odd smell and the way the bark felt when he rubbed his skin against it. He knew what it looked like up close, and what it looked like from afar. He knew the way its leaves hung, and the way they swayed in the wind. Wherever he was on the farm, he could tell which way it was to the willow tree, and often did tell, whether the other animals had asked or not. He knew just the shade of red that coloured the willow at dawn and in the late afternoon on a clear day, and he knew the particular glimmer of its leaves in the moonlight. And whenever it rained, Henry would look to find the willow tree, and raise his head and nod when he did.
Thunder rumbled. Henry kicked again, and a sharp pain shot up his left leg, right up to his rump. He grimaced and stretched his leg, then aimed his snout for the willow tree and went on kicking.
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