Prompt: A Celebration.
Word count: 2500
The tiny green blades folded under her weight, spreading out around the form of her foot, their edges brushing her skin and sharing their dewy wetness. She picked up her foot, paused, and replaced it. The same soft contact of wet grass to warm skin sent unfamiliar messages of pleasure all over her body.
She shuddered and cringed as a loud scraping from outside the wooden crate let in more light and exposed an expanse of green she’d never seen before. Putting out her foot again, now not having to crouch in the opening, she was able to stick out her head.
She took another step out onto the grass. Breathing in, she lifted her nose. The wooden crate smelled musty and dense, not unpleasant, but intimidating in it’s strangeness. She held her breath, and then tentatively took in some more air.
Pleasantly confused with the absence of the scent of expected wet, rusty metal, she turned her head right and left and tried again to detect something she knew. There were only gentle whiffs of fresh sweetness she couldn’t recognize. Her ears were flooded with breezy air amid tweets and rustles, completely void of the sterile bangs and choking aromas of her metal world.
She turned to check on the babies, and remembered again that there weren’t any. It was something she never got used to. She would feel them growing inside her and then push them out. Birthing them straight onto the metal grating. Once the pain had gone, like it always did after the last one was out, she’d shuffle her body over to the side as far as the rigid metal bars would allow before the jaggered rust dug inter her skin, so that she could nurse them.
She had tried the first few times to turn and clean them, but there wasn’t enough power in her to force her head round in between the sides of the metal bars around her. She’d given up and hoped they could wiggle their tiny bodies over by themselves towards her for milk. Most of them would get there.
She remembered once trying to get up to nudge one particularly small little baby over so it could feed, but she’d slipped and fallen and crushed two of the others already attached and feeding. She couldn’t even retrieve them from underneath her; the bars around her would just not budge.
It was only the next day when The Boots came in and chased her out while they cleaned the metal grating under her, that they kicked the little bodies aside. She’d been whacked on the head when she moaned and tried to sniff them.
She’d never moved again while nursing, the ache of lying in one position became so painful it made her cry out, but she dared not shift her weight. And those little ones that couldn’t get back to her underbelly to feed became quiet quickly.
Then there was this change. New voices and different Boots had shoved her out into the passage, pigletless again, but no time to grieve like she usually did.
The Boots had forced her out into the blinding light and herded her into a wooden box where they closed her into another tight space she could barely shift in.
Then they’d stopped moving and the one side of the crate opened, letting in that blinding light again, and here she was.
The grass under her feet was dotted with white flowery spots in between the blended palette of green. She put her nose to the soft petals and snorted. A foreign scent of whimsical flutters tickled her nostrils. She sniffed them again. And then again. Sweeter and fresher than the air engulfing her.
She had no idea where she was or what she was meant to do – but it felt good. She came right out the wooden crate and stood still, expecting a blow from somewhere to force her in a direction. Nothing. She took another few steps. Nothing.
She twisted round to look where she’d come from and saw the crate she’d been in and the two Boots next to it. Her initial anxiety in seeing them watching her dissolved when she realised they were not making any kind of move to rush at her and stamp their feet or whack her with those poles they always carried. These ones had no poles – and they just stood there, watching. Their mouths turned up and eyes sparkling.
The Boots she was accustomed to had straight mouths and dead eyes. There was no stillness about them, always rushing and whacking and shoving without waiting for her to figure it out and move on her own.
Realising that she was no longer restricted, she tentatively took another few steps and stuck up her nose again to take in the new world. The grass under her feet accompanied by the fragrance of the outdoors released the waiting catalyst into the brewing excitement and forced her into the air. She landed on the grass and tumbled straight into a roll, and paused upside down on her back. She shot up again and ran as fast her stiff legs would move, in no particular direction.
After another couple of leaps and bounds, she put bare buttocks to prickly grass and rested while taking in the smalls and sounds. The boots were still watching, but they had something they were busy with, and one was coming towards her holding something in his arms. It clearly wasn’t a pole, and he wasn’t rushing at all.
She did a couple more leaps and frolics and stopped again to prick up her ears to a familiar sound. She failed to hold back the urge to check her babies, and stuck her nose in the air to confirm the familiar squeak; tentatively sniffing she stood and grunted, armed with anticipation.
* * *
“Here she comes. She’s not sure of the grass. She keeps picking up her foot and putting it down again. Lift the gate higher, Rick, so she doesn’t have to crouch to come out” said Maria.
“Its all the way up – wait, there. It was jammed on the left.” Replied Rick, as he forced the cage door all the way up with a jarring scrape, leaving the entrance to the wooden crate wide open.
“She’s so nervous. There’s one foot. Come on girl – you’re safe now. Take another step.” Cooed Maria.
“She’s never seen grass before. It’s foreign compared to that metal grating they spend their whole life on.” Said Rick.
“She’s sniffing the air. Why does she keep turning back to look in the crate?”
“I think she’s looking for her babies. Let’s just give her some time to come out and take in her freedom before we let them out.”
“There. She’s out.”
“Do you have your phone in your pocket? We need pictures. It will help with the campaign. If we’re gonna reach people’s hearts we need visuals.” Said Rick.
“It’s here – I’ve already taken a few. They won’t be great but they’re good enough for social media. Her name. Are we sticking with Sprout? Sprout The Wonder Pig? I think it’s apt,” said Maria.
“I like Sprout. The whole new beginnings and second chance and vomit-heart stuff you chicks love so much.” Said Rick.
“It’s not vomit heart stuff plonker. You know, I don’t know whether I should be laughing at your ability to acknowledge that you do actually recognize the intricate weavings of this very emotional situation, but refuse to express your own equally vested involvement just in case someone sees that you are actually capable of feeling.” Ranted Maria, “Or if I should be beating you round the ears in frustration and trying to bring you to your senses in realizing that showing an emotion now and then – especially good ones – are not going to throw you into the ring of pansies, as you call the men of the world who are in touch with their inner selves.” Replied Maria with arms waving perplexed accents.
Rick crumpled his eyebrows and looked perplexed. “What the hell are you on about?”
“Oh my god – she’s running! She just set off like a bat out of hell. And skipping steps and jumping off all fours like a puppy! Have you ever?” laughed Maria, hands on her cheeks and legs poised on tippy toes.
“I’ve never seen a grown pig behave like that. Are you filming this?” Laughed Rick.
“I didn’t get the whole little dance but I got enough. Don’t pretend that this didn’t make you feel all warm and fluffy inside Ricky-boy – I’ve got you figured out. That little upturned corner of the mouth has your secret betrayed. The same little feature was sneaking around when we first set foot on this farm, as it’s official owners. You’re just a fraud. I see right through you.” Said Maria, grinning.
Rick rolled his eyes and busied himself with his escaped shoelace.
“Right. So let’s get the piglets. If she’s this happy now, maybe we should get the vet here in case she overdoses on the ecstasy and keels over from heart failure.”
“Rick, don’t even joke like that.” Maria scolded. “Here, hold my phone and I’ll just lift them out one by one instead of unloading the whole crate.”
“These are the noisiest little babies I’ve ever come across. How does such a tiny little pink lump make so much sound?” Rick took the first piglet from Maria and gently set it on the grass. It fumbled around trying to make sense of the wobbly ground under its feet.
Rick pushed his fingers between his lips and let out a piercing whistle, bringing the dancing sow’s attention from the other side of the fenced off pen to Rick and Maria. She stood still. The whistle had frightened the three little piglets already on the grass and they were squeaking their protest loudly.
Sprout’s ears twitched, she stuck her nose in the air and flattened them against her head. She made another jump and a skip and fell on her back on the grass, rolling over and then perched on her rump while she stuck her nose in the grass again.
“She can’t hear them.” Said Rick.
“Take one to her so she can.” Said Maria.
Rick put palm to piglet belly and lifted it to his chest while he walked over to Sprout. She was still jumping up and squirming in the grass when Rick got to her. The piglet made a squeak and Sprout stopped short and paused, then tentatively moved towards the squeals. She lifted her front legs trying to get at the baby in Rick’s arms and grunted loudly.
Rick put the little piglet on the grass. Sprout nudged it with her nose and grunted again. This brought on a cacophony of squeals from the baby in recognition of mother and milk. Sprout responded with frantic nudging and licking and snorting and sniffing in recognition of her piglet.
She looked up Rick, as if to say, “Where are the others?” and then went back to pushing the piglet around with her nose, while her eyes were wild with excitement. By then, Maria had got to her side with the other five piglets, which she set on the grass. Frantic squawking ensued, as mother and babies were re-united.
“We need to show them the barn so she can nurse them, they must be starving by now. Come piggies, come piggies, this way” Sang Maria.
Maria and Rick picked up the piglets while Sprout snorted and grunted in protest, roughly pushing and shoving to get them back again.
“Come girl – there’s a lovely place for you to lie down. Come on . . . “ cooed Maria in that high pitched voice all woman tend to switch to as soon as there is a baby in close proximity.
“What the hell is that voice you keep using? She doesn’t understand you. You do know that, right?” said Rick sarcastically to Maria.
“Oh shut up Rick. Of course she does. Hey Sprout? Yeeesss, of course you do darling. Don’t take any notice of him.” Said Maria, exaggerating the exchange even more and glaring at Rick with a contradicting smirk.
Rick rolled his eyes. “So when are we picking up the other seven sows? They don’t have piglets, right?” asked Rick.
“Thursday. Two have piglets. Sadly the negotiations in rescuing eight instead of one from the farmer took longer than we thought, so we missed saving the others’ babies.” Answered Maria.
“Bugger.” Said Rick.
“It’s all good, seven sows and fifteen piglets is better than none. And to add to it, we left the farmer on good terms. He seems to be more concerned than most of the others about the wellbeing of his pigs after they’ve served his bacon mine.” Said Maria.
“So steeped in pig swill we shall forever be.” Said Rick. “Not in a million years did I think we would end up on a farm, in the middle of nowhere, with the clouds raining pigs and not a steak or chop or piece of tasty flesh in sight.”
“Hey, going vegan was not forced on you. You decided all by yourself that veggies are easier to look in the eye than murdered cows and pigs. I just supported you.” Said Maria. She winked at him.
“And those sly, well timed remarks about your abattoir visit and all those neatly posted PETA posts about the horror of meat farms had absolutely nothing to do with it.” Said Rick.
Maria grinned and pecked him on the cheek. Rick accepted the advance like he would a cold beer from a friend and kept up the pace towards the barn, until he realised there was an expected reciprocation of the show of affection that he had not replied to.
Maria rolled her eyes just as he met them.
“What? What? I’m carrying piggies here.” Said Rick defensively.
“You’re hopeless, you know that?” said Maria.
“That might be so, but I’m still carrying three rescued piggies through a farm you couldn’t live without in front of a huge smelly sow who thinks we night be going to cook her piggies.” Replied Rick.
Sprout was not impressed and was getting increasingly more forceful with her bumping and grunting.
“Here, this first one, she’s getting really panicky” Said Maria.
They quickly set down the piglets and closed the gate to the first pen in the barn after Sprout had pushed through to join them. More nudging of bodies and squeaking from said bodies, and she settled down on her side on the soft straw for them to nurse.
“Sorted!” said Maria. “One down and six to go. I’m pooped.”
As they stood and watched the piglets greedily taking their fill, Rick put his arm around Maria.
“So, bacon rolls for supper tonight . . . .” Rick didn’t even finish the sentence before Maria walloped him on the back of the head.