Monday, August 31, 2009
(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.
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.
"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.
"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!"
"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