Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Segment 11

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!"

~The End~

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Segment 10

(Start Video for Reading)

Roscoe was still deciding whether to fight or fly when the shrub shook mightily and the shadow emerged, taking the shape of a large dog with black fur and tan markings.

"Buddy!" he and Rosie cheered.

The shadow grumbled and shook himself violently, trying to dislodge the twigs and leaves stuck to his coat. "Don't 'Buddy' me," he grumped. "I've been tailing you two from one end of Maple Ridge to the other for the better part of the day. I've been soaked in streams, chased by human urchins, threatened by people whose garbage cans you've knocked over and almost squashed by I don't know how many cars..."

Ignoring his tirade the piglets clustered round their best friend and nudged him happily.

"But this last stunt!" he howled. "Now that was the dumbest thing I've ever seen - even for a a couple of pigs who haven't got one whole brain between the two of 'em!"

Of course Rosie and Roscoe could always tell what Buddy was really feeling by the irrepressible movements of his tail. If he sounded grouchy, but his tail wagged - as it was doing at that particular moment - it meant he wasn't grouchy at all. He was just pretending, to make a point. So they cuddled up until he broke down entirely and began licking them happily, laughing as only a dog can.

"Thought I'd never see either of you again," he whooped. "The looks on the faces of all those humans..." he gave up trying to describe the scene at the supermarket, content for a moment to sit and let the piglets settle down.

"But why were you following us?" Rosie asked.

"Because you were lost."

"But how did you know we were lost?"

"Because one of your friends at Hearts on Noses told me so."

"Mr. Trots," Rosie said, annoyed. "Scratch," Roscoe guessed.

"And one or two others I could name," Buddy said. "But we haven't got time for gabbing. Night's coming on and we've got to get back to the sanctuary. The adventure's over now. We've got a long way to go."

"How can it be over?" Rosie objected. "I still haven't found any wild pigs, Buddy. I'm not going home 'til we've found our wild cousins."

"Don't know about wild pigs," he said, raising his muzzle and sniffing the air. "But there's some wild things out there that I do know about, and you won't want to meet 'em. They come out at night time."

Rosie stared defiantly.

Roscoe shivered. "What kind of wild things," he quavered.

"Well, they're my distant cousins, if you really want to know. But I wouldn't introduce you to them because unlike me, their bite is definitely worse than their bark. In fact, they don't really bark at all... more like yipping, the sound they make."

"Coyotes?" Roscoe shuddered.

"Yep. They're around. I can smell 'em even if you can't. They'll be out as soon as the sun sets, and there ain't a critter around that's as hungry or sly as a coyote."

"Rosie!" Roscoe pleaded. "We have to go."

"He's just bluffing," she sniffed.

Roscoe looked at Buddy's tail. It hung limp between his hind legs, like a flag on a windless day. Following Roscoe's glance, Rosie read the sign as well. There was no doubt about it: Buddy wasn't kidding.

"But if we go back now I'll never get to see my wild ancestors!" she wailed.

"I'd guess more than one of your wild ancestors made a meal for a pack of Coyotes, Rosie," Buddy said matter-of-factly. "There's nothing meaner or smarter, believe me. They're my kin. I know how they think."

Rosie's head hung low and her ears drooped. She sighed until all the air had come out of her. Roscoe nudged her cheek consolingly. Buddy licked her gently.

"All I'll ever be is a farm pig," she moaned. "Just a stupid barnyard oinker!"

"Don't talk about my best friend like that," Buddy growled.

She tried to smile, looking up at him nose to nose. But her head sank again, as if it was to heavy to hold upright. And when they moved off at last, Rosie lagged behind so that Roscoe and Buddy had to keep checking over their shoulders to make sure she was still with them.

"She knows it's not safe," Roscoe fretted, feeling guilty. "We have to go back."

"That doesn't make it any easier, my friend. Not for her. She probably has a touch of the wild in her blood, and that must make the sanctuary feel like a prison sometimes. Can't worry 'bout that now, though. We do have to get back."

He glanced westward, to the point where the sun was sliding behind the rooftops. They were nowhere close to the open fields that surrounded the Hearts on Noses Mini-pig Sanctuary. It would certainly be dark before they arrived home. That would have been frightening enough, but what made matters even worse was a sound that came to them from a long way off, north, over the rooftops in the same direction they were headed. It was a terrible sound, a crazy sound, the sound of lunatics laughing.

"Coyotes!" Roscoe shuddered.

Buddy trotted on grimly, not saying a thing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Segment 9

(Click for Audio)

They snuck between the parked cars, making their way as close as they could to the supermarket entrance. "How are we going to get in there without being seen?" Roscoe wanted to know.

"We could walk on our hind legs and pretend to be humans," Rosie suggested.

They snickered.

"Seriously?" Roscoe persisted.

"Only one way I can think of, Brother," Rosie said matter-of-factly. "The lightening strike."

"What does that mean?" he said, not liking the sound of it.

"It means that on the count of three, we charge through those doors, grab whatever we can to eat, then charge back out again and make our getaway. We'll be out'ta here before they know what hit 'em... One!"

"But Rosie, this is crazy!"


"Rosie, we're going to get caught!"


Rosie trotted out of hiding, making a beeline for the supermarket entrance. Roscoe groaned, hesitated half a second, then galloped after her. It didn't matter that her plan was desperate, he couldn't let his sister plunge into danger all alone.

They had reached the sidewalk, grunting with the effort, their hooves clicking on the hard pavement, before they were spotted. "Oh my God!" a woman shrieked. "Pigs!"

Suddenly all eyes were on them. Rosie and Roscoe didn't stop, but they could feel a sort of electrical charge building as dozens of human eyes focused on them. For a few seconds the startled shoppers froze, but then a wave of sounds followed them into the store: laughter, shouts, more shrieks.

"This isn't good!" Roscoe panted.

"In, out, fast!" Rosie commanded.

As soon as they reached the main aisle, though, the piglets skidded to a stop, Roscoe almost bowling Rosie over. "Wow!" they gasped. Stretched out before them were mounds of apples, heaps of bananas, potatoes, corn, beans, broccoli... more food than they had ever seen in their lives. Neither of them knew where to begin.

Then it dawned on Roscoe just how silly their plan really was. Here they were, in the middle of cornucopia, but they had no way of carrying any of the groceries, and they certainly couldn't hang around the bins munching. Already the clatter of human footsteps was approaching. "What are we going to do?" he cried.

"Get moving! Grab what you can!" she ordered, dashing over to a basket of tomatoes and snarfing down as much as she could, then darting a little farther up the aisle, where she found a tasty display of baby potatoes. Roscoe wolfed down some apricots and a couple of kiwis before he had to flee the posse of humans on their tail.

The mob seemed to Roscoe like a living, thinking beast. "Go around that way!" someone shouted. "Block that aisle!" another voice commanded. Everywhere they turned, humans appeared to steer them in the opposite direction. The swarm closed in, cutting them off, narrowing their options.

"Run!" Rosie squealed.

They clattered toward the end of the main aisle, sliding around the corner in a panic. They were greeted by a couple of clerks in aprons, one waving his arms frantically, the other armed with a broom. They had no choice but to flee down the next aisle.

"Keep going!" Rosie squealed. "Run for your life, Brother!"

He knew exactly what she was thinking: if the mob blocked off the other end of this narrow aisle, the piglets would be trapped. Their pursuers would close in from both sides armed with mops and brooms. There would be no escape. Roscoe propelled himself forward, urging every ounce of speed out of his churning legs. But when they were two-thirds of the way down the aisle a human appeared to block the way. Then another. And another.

"Don't stop!" Rosie screamed. "Charge!"

She was right. He knew she was right. Roscoe surged forward, shoulder to shoulder with his sister. He squealed fiercely, plunging headlong into the gathering blockade. Some of the humans stumbled backward, frightened by the piglets wild momentum. Others stood their ground. Hands grabbed at Roscoe. He wriggled and squirmed and kicked, fighting for his freedom. Rosie fought hard too, bulling her way through the gauntlet of shouting humans. Dizzy and disoriented the piglets stumbled out the other side.

"Come on Rosie!" Roscoe yelled, righting himself and dashing toward the store entrance.

Sunlight! Roscoe had never been so joyed to see the blue sky overhead and feel the cool air on his skin. They fled the way they had come, out of the parking lot and into hiding behind the houses across the street. They didn't stop for a long time, making their way through back yards and alleys as far as they could from the shopping centre and its crowd of humans.

"That was close," Rosie said sheepishly.

Roscoe agreed, but kept his snout shut. There was no point rubbing it in: Rosie had almost got them caught with her crazy scheme. In fact, the whole adventure had been her idea and Roscoe had to wonder how it was going to end. They'd been too excited for the last couple of hours to think of the shadow that had followed them across the brook. But Roscoe knew it was still out there, and that even if they had eluded it for a little while, it would find them...


The piglets froze, shivering as if their veins were suddenly pumped full of ice water.

"Woof!" the summons came again.

Roscoe wanted to run, but couldn't. His feet were rooted to the lawn they'd been cutting across. He twisted his head round, scanning the hedge behind them. There, in the very spot they'd just pushed through, he could make out a pair of dark brown eyes and the black nose of a very large animal. For a second his heart constricted. It was the shadow. It had caught up to them at last.

Next: Segment 10

Friday, September 25, 2009

Segment 8

(Click for Audio)

It took a long time, and a lot of sneaking, peeking and dodging for the piglets to trace their way to the place where the shopping bags came from and the humans got their food. At the main road they turned right because left led back to Hearts on Noses.

"That can't be the direction the bag-lady came from," Rosie reasoned.

The farther away they went, though, the harder it was to stay hidden. More and more houses crowded up to the road; they had to cross busy intersections, waiting for the traffic to stop then trotting to the other side and dashing for cover. If they hadn't been starving, they would have holed up and waited for nightfall. But their stomachs urged them on. They needed to eat.

Roscoe discovered another thing about being wild: hunger. Animals that lived off the land had to spend just about every moment of every day thinking about food. There was no Janice Gillett wandering the streets of Maple Ridge with buckets full of treats to offer. Wild animals had to scavenge and hunt for their meals.

He turned these thoughts over in his mind. And the more he thought about it, the more worried he became. If we're this hungry, he figured, then just about every wild animal must be hungry too. And if all the wild animals were ravenous, they must be looking just as hard as he and Rosie for something to eat. "What do all those wild animals feed on?" he wanted to know.

"What?" Rosie asked impatiently. She had been keeping an eye on the street, peeking out from behind a hedge.

"What do wild animals eat, Rosie?" Roscoe repeated nervously.

"I don't know. Mushrooms, maybe. Grass if you're built like Mr. Trots or a goat or a cow. Leaves? That's what we have to figure out, Brother. I don't think we're going to be able to do this every time we want a meal. It's too risky."

"I'm not talking about animals like us, Rosie, that feed on plants and such. I'm talking about the coyotes, and cougars, and bears. What do they eat Rosie?"

She looked at him strangely, as if she didn't understand his question. "Don't know," she said. "I'm only interested in what I need right now, and I think it's in this direction." She pointed her snout south and trotted off, annoyed.

Just then a big truck rumbled by, it's trailer painted up like a huge billboard. "Look!" Rosie gasped. Roscoe stared, wide-eyed at a tomato three times as big as him, a lettuce that could feed a whole herd of elephants. Peppers, cucumbers, radishes, carrots...

"Come on!" Rosie cried, trotting off after the truck.

They didn't have to go far. Just a block down the road, it swung into a driveway. The piglets watched from across the street as it lumbered to a stop, turned around and backed up to a huge doorway.

"This is it!" Rosie whooped. "The place where the humans get their food."

To the right of the loading bay, the roadway led into a gigantic parking lot full of cars. People hustled about, some pushing carts stacked with bags and bags of groceries. Others waddled along, plastic bags dangling by their sides. There was no doubt about it, Roscoe agreed. Humans came here to get their food. "But I don't think anyone's going to hand over a bag of goodies to a couple of stray pigs, Sister, do you?"

"Well," Rosie said, determined, "if people won't give us what we need, we'll just have to figure out a way to take it, won't we?"

Roscoe couldn't argue the point. But still, he felt it was wrong what they were planning to do, and that they would get into deep trouble for it. His tummy rumbled loudly, though. Rosie grinned.

"Is that your answer Brother?" she said.

He supposed it was.

Next: Segment 9

Friday, September 18, 2009

Segment 7

(Click for Audio)

"I'm hungry."

Roscoe hadn't noticed the gnawing in his belly. He'd been too busy running and hiding and keeping his eyes peeled. But now that Rosie mentioned it, he suddenly realized he was hungry too. Really hungry. "What are we going to eat?" he wondered.

Rosie pointed her nose upwind and snuffled. She grunted unhappily. "Nothing in the air," she said. "We're going to have to go scavenging Brother. There's got to be someplace wild pigs get their food. That's the first thing we have to figure out. Right?"

When had he ever agreed to go wild, Roscoe muttered. The simple solution would be to point their plump bodies back toward Hearts on Noses. They'd missed the morning feed, but Janice would be so happy to see them, she'd whip up something special. Mmmm, Roscoe sighed, imagining fresh leaves of lettuce, bunches of carrots, chopped apples, whole cobs of corn.

"Let's go!"

His delectable vision wilted as the two of them pushed through the underbrush and broke into the open. Suddenly Roscoe was aware of a new fear that had taken hold of him: the fear of humans. The piglets stayed out of sight as much as possible, making their way up ditches, along side roads and through back yards. They'd always been nervous of strangers. What sensible animal wouldn't be? But away from Hearts on Noses that nervousness ballooned into an inescapable terror. They mustn't be seen. And if they were spotted, they must move quickly to avoid capture. Playing with the children in a public park had been a mistake.

Was that what it meant to be wild? Being afraid of everything! It seemed to him there were shadows everywhere now, invisible shadows gliding alongside them, making them shiver like an icy wind.

"Smell that?" Rosie said.

Jolted out of his fearsome reverie, Roscoe sniffed at the sultry air. "Yech!" he cringed. What he smelled was something like rotten eggs, only worse.

"It's coming from over there," Rosie pointed her nose toward the driveway of a nearby bungalow. "Let's go look."

"Look for what?" Roscoe objected.


"That's not food, it's garbage, Rosie!"

"Beggars can't be choosers," she informed him.

They made there way up the drive, alongside the house. Next to a side door in the carport, stood a metal container, it's lid skewed by a bulge of black plastic. "It's coming from there," Rosie said.

"And it can stay there as far as I'm concerned," Roscoe grumped.

Ignoring him, Rosie snuffled round the base of the container. It wobbled when she poked at it with her snout. "Okay," she said. "Lunch is about to be served." Stepping back a couple of paces, she charged, rearing onto her hind legs and shoving the can hard with her front hooves. It toppled with a crash, its lid rolling halfway down the drive. The plastic bag flopped partly out, but remained sealed.

"Come on!" Rosie bossed.

In no time she had torn it open, spilling its contents onto the pavement. Appalled, Roscoe watched as his sister pawed through the trash. What did she expect to find? Janice had garbage cans too. Nothing even close to edible ever went into them. No self-respecting pig would go looking for a meal in there. He was about to say so, when the side door to the house was suddenly yanked open, and a burly human thrust his head into the carport.

"Hey!" he bellowed.

Rosie and Roscoe high tailed it out of the drive, back onto the street.

"Stop!" his shouts pursued them. "Come back!"

But they didn't listen. They charged down the street, cut through a yard a couple of houses down and kept right on running until they couldn't hear his angry cries any longer.

"So what now?" Roscoe panted, when they felt safe enough to stop and rest.

"Don't know," Rosie admitted. "But we've got to eat."

Roscoe's stomach growled in agreement. They moved on, not wanting to remain in one place too long. Creeping behind hedges and fences, they made their way back toward the main road, where they thought there might be more chance of finding food. "Maybe some passing human will throw something edible away," Rosie reasoned. Roscoe couldn't think of a better plan.

They were close enough to hear the sound of passing traffic, when something caught Roscoe's eye, something that made his ears perk up and his mouth water. "Hey look!" he said, pointing toward an elderly woman walking along the opposite side of the street. In each hand she carried something Roscoe recognized immediately: plastic bags. Out of the top of one of them poked a long loaf of bread and what looked like a luscious bunch of spinach.

"Let's follow her!" Rosie said eagerly.

"No!" Roscoe cut his sister off. "We have to go to where she's coming from, not where she's going to."


"She's coming from the place where the humans get their food." he explained. "She must have turned left off the big road. So we have to trace her route back and look for other humans carrying bags. Find out where they get their supplies, and we might be able to get something to eat too."

Rosie stepped back and stared at her brother admiringly. "Roscoe!" she grinned. "You're a genius."

"No I'm not," he flustered. "I'm a hungry pig, that's all."

She laughed, brushing up against him fondly. "You should brag a little bit from time to time, Brother. You're smarter than you look."

The compliment warmed him inside. Rosie was not one to say anything she didn't mean. He didn't have long to enjoy the glow though.

"Come on," she said. "I'm starving."

Next - Segment 8

Monday, August 31, 2009

Segment 6

(Click for Audio)

A strange thought occurred to Roscoe as they pushed through the underbrush, getting farther and farther from the mini-pig sanctuary, Janice and everything they'd ever known. "Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself."

"What!" Rosie griped, impatient and out of breath.

"Nothing," he answered quickly. He hadn't intended to think it out loud, and certainly didn't want to encourage his sister's wandering. But the notion kept repeating itself, looping round and round in his brain. What did it mean? Why was he thinking it just then, when they were getting deeper into what Roscoe knew was trouble.


"Huh?" Rosie had startled him with her sudden command.

"Humans! Kids!"

The babble of the brook was little more than a memory now, and other sounds were beginning to emerge from up ahead. Roscoe swiveled his ears forward and listened. He'd met children at the sanctuary once or twice. Human piglets were much like piggy piglets, full of energy and enthusiasm, darting from one end of the compound to the other, squealing and chasing anything that moved, making all the adults laugh one second then frown the next. Their unmistakable shouting and laughter rang out in the woods.

"Let's go!" Rosie said.

Although he knew they were plunging even farther in the wrong direction, Roscoe followed eagerly. The shadow that had been stalking them near the stream, and which he was certain had followed them to the other side, would be driven off by the sounds of play and laughter. Just a quick peek, then they could go home with a real story to tell.

Rosie picked up her pace to a brisk trot. Suddenly they broke into a clearing. Ahead lay acres and acres of rolling lawn, shaded by towering cedars and Douglas firs, whose trunks seemed to Roscoe like the legs of ancient, protective giants. They spotted the source of all the shouting and squealing up ahead, and both the piglets stopped for a second, amazed.

There, in the middle of the clearing, stood a strange contraption of metal and rope. Children climbed all over it, some perched at the very top, others inside, still others ran round and round the base, making the thing spin as fast as they could. It reminded Roscoe of the tree Janice had put up in the house last winter, only this one was decorated with brightly dressed children instead of shiny balls and tinsel.

"Yahoo!" Rosie shouted, charging across the rolling lawn to join in the fun, Roscoe following as fast as his legs would carry him.

"Awww! They're so cute!" "Oink, Oink." "Le'me see!"

The children swarmed off the merry-go-round and surrounded Rosie and Roscoe. Hands stroked the bristles on the piglets' backs. Rosie and Roscoe wagged their tails excitedly, signaling they wanted to be friends and play with the human pack.

"Lisa, get away from those animals!" an adult at the outer edge of the crowd grumped.

"But Mom!"

"I said get away. They're filthy. Who knows what kinds of diseases they might be carrying. I'm phoning the SPCA."

Pouting, the little girl named Lisa pushed her way out of the crowd.

None of the other parents seemed concerned about their children playing with Rosie and Roscoe. Most of the kids lost interest quickly though, and returned to their spinning Christmas tree contraption. A few stayed behind, fascinated with their new companions.

"Whew! That's a little better," Roscoe said. "I thought for a second we were going to be trampled."

"I like this one," Rosie said, nudging a quiet little boy, who sat on the grass in front of her. "If I got to choose, he would be my human."

Her human seemed to know that quick motions and loud sounds made Rosie and Roscoe nervous. He spoke softly. Of course they couldn't understand his human gibberish, but they could tell he was saying 'It's okay. I just want to be friends,' so they moved a little closer, grunting in reply.

"Mom," the boy said. "Can we take them home?"

His mother sat down on the grass beside him, stroking Roscoe's snout and tickling behind his ears. You could never tell with humans. Some were friendly, others mean. Young as they were, the piglets had learned that much from visitors to Hearts on Noses. This mother and son were obviously of the kinder sort.

"No, Jeremy," the woman said, and though he couldn't understand her words, Roscoe detected the sadness in her voice. "But I think I know where these little guys have come from, and if you ever want to visit them, and all their brothers and sisters, and all their friends relations, I'm sure that could be arranged."

The boy looked unhappy, but didn't object.

"In fact, Jeremy, you could volunteer to help out at the sanctuary. It's just up the street and I'm sure they could do with some help. You're a good worker."


"Yes. It's called the Hearts on Noses Mini-Pig Sanctuary. I bet we could have them do a presentation for your class. Do you want me to phone and find out?"

Jeremy nodded. If he couldn't have his own pig, at least he could learn about them and be around them. "They're really smart, Mom," he said.

"Oh yes," she agreed. "As smart as dogs. They make very good pets. But people sometimes buy them, then get tired of them. That's why the pig sanctuary exists - to take in all the mini-pigs people buy, then abandon for one reason or another. If it wasn't for the sanctuary, who knows what would happen to those poor animals..."

Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a truck, which pulled up in the parking lot. Jeremy and his mother glanced over, distracted by the murmur of the other parents.

"Over there!" Lisa's mom directed the SPCA attendant. "Aren't you going to get a lasso or something to catch them with?"

"Pigs are very intelligent and very skittish," the woman answered calmly. "They'd figure it out in a second if I started at them with a bunch of gear."

"Let's get out of here," Rosie said.

"Huh? Why?"

"Because I don't like the looks of this. That human's walking the way Janice does when she wants to get us back in our pens. She's come to get us."

"And bring us home?"

"Don't know and I'm not waiting around to find out."

Rosie edged away from Jeremy and his Mom.

"But we want to go home, don't we Rosie?"

"No we don't!" she snapped. "Not until we've found the wild pigs."

"What if there are no wild pigs?"

"No wild pigs?" Rosie echoed in disbelief. "Don't ever say that Roscoe!"

"Why not?"

"Because if there's no wild pigs, there's no such thing as freedom. And if there's no such thing as freedom... well..." she couldn't describe what she was feeling, but Roscoe sensed a fear in Rosie deeper than his own fear of the shadow that had been tailing them. A fear like being locked up with not even the hope of ever escaping. He shivered.

While they'd talked, the SPCA attendant had approached to within a few feet. She was a caring person, Roscoe could tell, but he edged away, too, following Rosie's lead. His sister needed to find what she was looking for, which meant they could not allow themselves to be captured, not even by a friendly.

"Let's go," Rosie shouted.

Squealing, the two of them wheeled and ran, stampeding past the merry-go-round, then veering toward the park gate.

"Stop!" Jeremy called after them. "She won't hurt you!"

Roscoe felt bad, abandoning Jeremy like that, but had no choice. Rosie wanted to find her wild pigs, and he had to figure out why. Why wasn't it good enough to have all their siblings and friends at the sanctuary as companions? Why did they need to look for something that might not even exist?

A car honked, driving by.

"We have to get off the road," Rosie panted.

They veered right, clattering across the pavement then diving into some brush on the other side. They kept on running, bulling their way through the thicket until they were deep in its tangled core.

"I think we can stop now," Rosie gasped.

Roscoe didn't say it, but he knew they had to stop. He couldn't run another step. He wished he could sprout legs like Buddy's, and run ten times as fast, ten times as far as a pathetic little piglet. But it was no good wishing for something that couldn't be. Besides, even the fastest runner wouldn't be able to outpace the shadow, he suddenly realized. You might be able to forget about it for a while, but the shadow would always catch up to you. You couldn't get away.

Next - Segment 7

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Segment 5

(Click for Audio)

"Okay. We can go back now."

Rosie wasn't listening. She picked her way through the forest outside the sanctuary fence, moving farther and farther away. Every few steps she would pause, press her sensitive nose to the earth and snuffle inquisitively. High above the leaves rustled their secrets, talking to the wind. A Stellars Jay chided noisily.

"Rosie!" Roscoe grunted. "You said just a romp, then we'd go back."

"Haven't finished romping yet," she replied.

"We're going to get lost."

"No we're not."

"What if somebody sees us?"

"Quiet," Rosie ordered, tilting her head and rotating her right ear toward a sound that interested her.

Fearing the worst, Roscoe focused both his ears in the same direction, listening intently. Frightened as he was, he had to admit it was exciting being on the outside. His whole body tingled. The slightest puff of wind raised the bristly hairs on his back; his nose twitched incessantly, analyzing every molecule of air; his ears could pick up the sound of a leaf falling even before it hit the ground...

"Water," Rosie said.

Roscoe could just make it out too - the sound of water gurgling and splashing. He'd never heard water that way before. It hissed, when Janice squirted it out of their garden hose, and drummed when it hit the bottom of an empty bucket or drinking dish. But this was definitely a playful sound.

"Come on," Rosie commanded. "Let's take a look."

They darted across an opening, their hooves clattering on the hard surface of a paved road, then back into the trees on the other side, pushing on through the underbrush. The babbling got louder with every step, until they burst through the resisting shrubs, tumbled down an earthen bank and landed on their backs with a loud splash.

Roscoe squealed loudly, thinking surely they'd blundered into a trap.

Rosie squealed too, but with laughter.

"What's so funny!" Roscoe objected.

"You," she said. "You're afraid of your own shadow."

It was true, Roscoe thought sadly. Rosie was far braver then him. If it wasn't for her, they'd never have ventured outside the sanctuary, and they'd never have any stories to tell, except the same old story as everyone else.

"Wow!" Rosie cried out.

He followed her over a gravel bar to the edge of the flowing brook. Now the burble was so loud it blocked out everything else. They'd never seen so much water flowing so fast and so noisily. Rosie waded into the stream until the cool water tickled her belly. Then she drank. "It's good," she announced. "We've made a very important discovery, brother," she said.

"What's that?"

"Water doesn't only come out of a hose. There's plenty to drink for a wild pig."

"We're not wild pigs, Rosie," he protested.

"How do you know?"

The question stumped him. How did he know? "Because we grew up inside the sanctuary fence," he answered at last. "Janice has given us everything: food, water, shelter, fresh straw."

"But we can become wild pigs, can't we?"

Roscoe stared at her, amazed. "I don't think you become a wild pig, Rosie," he said thoughtfully. "I think you're born that way. Just like Buddy could never be a wild dog; and Mr. Trots could never be a wild horse; and Scratch could never be an eagle..."

They laughed at his joke about Scratch. But Roscoe still felt a bit funny, thinking what life would be like for a wild pig. A part of him shivered for fear; another part tingled with excitement, and he couldn't decide which part of him was telling the truth.

"Shhh!" Rosie said urgently.


She was listening again, this time to the forest behind them. Roscoe tuned in too. A twig snapped deep inside the brush. Leaves swished, as if they were brushing against sleek fur. Something was moving inside the woods, and it took the shape of a dark, sliding shadow inside Roscoe's imagination.

"Let's go!" Rosie whispered.


"We can't," she said. "Whatever that is, it's between us and the sanctuary. We'll have to go the other way, and circle back when we can."

There was no point arguing. Rosie was right. They trotted upstream, moving as quickly and quietly as they could, then fording the brook and scrambling up the far bank and into the forest on the other side. Like a real shadow, the thing stalking them followed... or was Roscoe only imagining it?

Fear, he thought. That was part of being a wild pig, too.

"We're going to find them," Rosie said suddenly.

"Find who?"

"The pigs, Roscoe," she answered fiercely. "The wild pigs. We have to find them."

Next - Segment 6