Flickr Photo by Jitze
(Audio to come)
They made their way north in single file, talking only when necessary, listening always. Gradually the traffic thinned and the houses spread out onto bigger and bigger lots. Roscoe supposed it was a good thing they weren't hearing the frightful jabber of the coyotes anymore, but he could tell by Buddy's sense of urgency that they weren't out of danger. Even Rosie seemed to be over her funk, so intent was she on the vast gathering darkness that seemed to be welling up out of the earth, thick as ink.
"Are we almost there?" Roscoe fretted.
"Not too far," Buddy whispered. "But you've got to keep quiet. Don't make a..."
A coyote barked off to the left, a string of plaintive yipes that merged into a nerve chilling howl. Roscoe couldn't tell how far away the predator might be, but it sounded closer than he'd ever imagined possible. An answering call materialized out of the darkness to their right, but farther away.
"Keep moving," Buddy ordered in a gruff whisper. "They're trying to herd us into a trap."
As he spoke he veered left toward the first cry.
"Where are we going?" Roscoe squealed, alarmed that they seemed to be heading straight into the danger.
"The main pack is off to the right," Buddy answered. "The lone coyote is steering us toward them. If we can get past him, we stand a chance. Hearts on Noses is just a hundred yards or so beyond the stream."
Roscoe hadn't noticed it, but the burbling of the brook they'd crossed that morning came to him now, just a short way ahead.
"Why don't we run for it?" Rosie suggested.
"We'd trigger the chase," Buddy answered. "Maybe one or two of us would make it back, not all three. We've got a couple of minutes at most before they close in for the kill. Right now they're trying to improve their chances by angling us closer to the pack. We've got to keep our distance. If we're lucky they won't be able to track of us over the noise of the brook."
Although he was too polite to say it, Roscoe knew Buddy was talking about them. The piglets were clumsy, there was no denying it. Compared to Buddy, who moved like a spirit through the underbrush, they stomped and clomped, tripping over roots and snorting in surprise at every shape that loomed in the night.
"Shhhh!" Buddy chided.
The three of them stopped, peering into the moonlit swath of the brook through a break in the forest.
"When I say run, we break for the farm, got it?"
Rosie and Roscoe nodded, to scared to argue. For what seemed an eternity the piglets stared upstream with no idea what they were looking for or why they were waiting. Then a shape materialized out of the blackness, a sleek, dangerous shape that snuffled the air between them then splashed in their direction along the shoreline.
"Ready!" Buddy signaled. "Now!" he barked.
Roscoe lunged out of cover, charging across the brook. He could hear Rosie splashing along beside him. But where was Buddy? He glanced to his left and saw their friend bearing down on the lone coyote.
"Run!" Buddy roared. "Run!"
For a second Roscoe stopped. Rosie too. But in an instant they knew exactly what they must do. They had to obey their friend. He had tricked them, knowing they might balk at the tremendous risk he was taking to save their lives. But the only chance of survival now was to get to the farm, get help. "Run!" Roscoe squealed fiercely. "We need to get help Sister!"
A chorus of yipping off to their right urged them on, and the piglets resumed their flight, sick at heart for the fate of their best friend. They crashed through the underbrush on the far shore and thundered across the road, then into the field outside the Hearts on Noses fence. "Help! Help!" they squealed.
But the blackness was unmoved.
"Help!" They shrieked.
Then two sounds broke the night silence in the same instant: the insane jabber of the closing coyotes and the "Er-er-er-er-roo!" of Scratch's alarm. What good would Scratch's racket do, Roscoe wondered. Even if they reached the fence, the coyotes would chase them under it and tear them to pieces in the barnyard. They were doomed.
"Keep running!" Buddy howled, catching up and joining their flight.
They had reached the Hearts on Noses property line and were skirting Mr. Trot's pasture. But the coyotes narrowed the gap with every second, a single creature that encircled and exhausted them with its remorseless deadly chase. They'd never make it through the gap.
"We have to fight them!" Rosie said.
"They'll tear us to pieces!" Roscoe wailed.
A sudden frenzy of growling and barking and snapping erupted behind them. Buddy had turned to face their pursuers, risking his life again to save theirs. Neither Rosie nor Roscoe hesitated this time. They turned and joined the fray, biting and kicking as best they could. Suddenly they were together, but alone, each fighting his or her own desperate battle with the invincible enemy whose fangs came at them from every direction.
"We're done for, Brother!" Rosie cried.
Roscoe answered with a defiant roar. But she was right. They were doomed...
A sudden thunder intruded on his grim thoughts. The ground shook. Then all was silent as a huge shadow passed overhead, clearing the pasture fence and landing with a mighty clatter of hooves in the midst of the battle.
"Mr. Trots!" the piglets shouted.
He ignored their greeting, bucking and kicking at the coyotes, sending them flying - even grabbing one by the scruff of its neck and hurling it into the night. In seconds the battle was won. Mr. Trots, snorting fiercely, stood with Buddy, Rosie and Roscoe in the emptied field.
"Told you not to go through the fence," he said.
"But you let us go!" Rosie protested, forgetting he'd just saved their skins.
"But why would you tell us not to go, then let us go!"
"Well," he said thoughtfully. "An adventure isn't exactly an adventure unless someone tells you not to go, is it? Had to tell you not to go, didn't I?"
"But Janice told us not to go," Roscoe pointed out.
"And Mother, too," Rosie added.
"Yup. But it sort of doesn't count when your mama tells you not to do something. And Janice, well she's just as much a mama to you two as your real mama. So you needed an old chomper like me to put the scare into ya. See what I mean?"
They didn't. But the piglets nodded as if they did.
"Find your wild pig ancestors?" he asked.
"No," Rosie said sadly.
"You sure about that?"
Roscoe and Rosie glanced up into those gigantic brown eyes of his, which glinted in the moonlight. He stared back at them and it was as if there wasn't a thing in the universe old Mr. Trots didn't know in his bones. The piglets could feel his knowledge stretching backwards and forwards beyond anything you could ever be sure of.
"N-no," Rosie said at last. "I guess I'm not so sure."
"Didn't think so," he nickered.
Then they heard the back door open and Janice's footsteps hurrying down the deck's stairs. "Rosie!" she shouted. "Roscoe! Buddy! Where have you been!"