Pig-Boy and the Insectorator

by Biff Spork

Chapter 14

Interrogations and the Marseillaise

Zhiv and David hiked to the lake. Both boys needed to unwind. The trout joined them as they swam. The lake's cool waters refreshed them, and they relaxed under the gentle massage of a thousand silky fins. Afterwards, they basked in the sun. When they lay in each other's arms, all worries and cares fled. David buried his face in Zhiv's tangled golden hair and sniffed deeply the aroma of boy and forest. Both boys floated in the mara on the edge of ecstasy. The grumbling of David's stomach brought them laughing back to earth.

In early afternoon, as they walked across the alpine meadow towards Zhiv's cave, three pigs trotted up to them. Zhiv laughed, knelt, and submitted to kisses from the trio.

"These are more of the pigs you rescued yesterday?" asked David, as he scratched one's bristled belly.

Zhiv patted and caressed another. "Yeah, they're heading for the wilderness. They want to get as far as possible from the valley."

As if they understood Zhiv's words, the pigs got up and shook themselves. They cavorted around the boys, leaping and kicking their heels. Then they galloped away across the grassland.

David laughed. "I didn't know pigs could run like that. They're like little pink horses."

"Yeah," said Zhiv. "They love to run. They're just kids, you know, only about six months old."

When the boys arrived at the cave, David retrieved his phone from his pack to check the time. He knew exactly how long it took him to get home and wanted to stay with Zhiv as long as possible. The direction the cave faced and its height above the valley meant he had internet access. He looked at the clock app. There was a notification from one of the animal rights groups he followed. They had posted a video.

"Oh, wow!" said David, and called Zhiv over to look at Melissa Blackstone's video of the pig rescue. When it was over, David looked at the view-meter. It read 16M. There was no end to the comments. A few were negative, or called it fake news, but most were enthusiastic. Zhiv was being hailed as a hero, the new face of the animal rights movement.

David put the phone down. The boys sat in silence on the sun-warmed rock, with the peaceful green valley far below. Each tried to process what the video might mean for their life together.

Zhiv shook his head. "They're gonna be after me for sure, now."

"They don't know where you are. They know you're around Jana Mountain somewhere, but that's all they know. Probably, if you're careful and stay out of sight for the next little while, they'll get tired of looking," David said. He picked up his phone again. The count of views now read 16.4M. The boys lapsed into silence.

"As long as it doesn't stop me from seeing you, I don't care what happens," said Zhiv, after a while.

The boys hugged. Then David said, "This could be good. I was wondering last night how we were ever going to talk to people, I mean, talk to everyone, talk to the whole world, because who listens to a thirteen-year-old boy? Nobody. But now, you're famous. Look, the view meter just turned to seventeen million and it's still climbing. We need to find a way to let you speak to all those people without anybody finding out where you are. Then we can tell them how the animals are feeling, and what they want. People will start to understand what's going on."

Melissa's video was spreading a message to humans, but a similar message was going viral in another way. The rescued pigs browsed beyond the forests surrounding Jana Mountain. They spread the mara's message to other animals. Wild and domesticated creatures for many miles around understood the mara's decision and passed it on. Freedom was possible. It was a good that all could possess if they stood together and resisted mankind's oppression. It was an awakening, a revolution, and it was spreading faster than a wildfire.

A swarm of honeybees pulled David and Zhiv out of their thoughts. They landed on the sunny rock face near the cave entrance, and many came and settled on the boys. It was a welcome diversion.

Zhiv said, "I love these little bees. There's no harm in them."

Another swarm arrived, and another and another. Thousands of bees covered the cliff face. Their triumphant hum filled the air.

David asked, "Any idea why so many bees are here now?"

Zhiv laughed. "I think they're runaways, like me. They don't want to be around humans anymore."

By this time, a thick coating of bees covered both boys, a pleasant and relaxing sensation.

"But we're human, so how come they're giving us this nice hug?" asked David.

"They know we're different, that we respect them. We're in the mara."

"So, the war has begun?"

"Yep, and it's not only the bees. Other animals and insects that have been living with humans are leaving too. They're heading for wild places where they can live without interference from humans."

Zhiv pulled David into a gentle hug, so as not to harm the bees. He said, "Close your eyes and listen to the mara. It's like a huge song of happiness."

David closed his eyes and listened to the torrent of joyful melodies that filled his mind. He was brought back to earth by the alarm app on his phone informing him it was time to leave for home.

"Hi, River," said Pete, as he entered the hospital room. "I'm Deputy McAdam."

River's heart sank. It was David's father, but he didn't seem to be angry. Maybe David hadn't told him what River and Jude had done. His face burned at the memory.

The deputy stood beside his bed. "I was hoping you were well enough to tell me about what happened in the gravel pit on Saturday."

River didn't say anything.

Pete waited, and then said, "It's not every day someone gets bit by two rattlesnakes, stung by a bunch of wasps and pecked by a flock of birds."

"Yeah," said River. "It was bad."

"Well, let's start at the beginning," said Pete. "What were you doing in that gravel pit and who was there with you?"

"Jude Bedford and another kid I don't know. We were just playing around, nothin' special."

"Like, what kind of playing?"

"You know, just joking around."

"Just joking around?"


"What happened then?" persisted Pete. Getting answers from River was like pulling teeth.

"The birds started buzz-bombing us and pecking at us."

"Let's go back a bit. Why were you in the gravel pit? You must have had a long ride to get there, and it's kinda off the beaten track. Frankly, I can't imagine any good reason for going there."

"We were just looking around," said River.

"And then, the birds attacked you?"

"Yeah, and then there were wasps. And then some snakes."

"And what about Jude? Did the animals attack him, too?"

"Yeah, he was getting stung too, and he ran to his bike and rode away. He didn't even look to see if I was okay."

"And the other boy?"

"No, I don't remember anything happening to him. I don't think he got stung."

"You and Jude got stung and pecked, but nothing happened to the other boy?"

"Not that I seen, but I was busy trying not to get stung or anything."

"So, why didn't you get on your bike like Jude and get away from there?"

"I couldn't because those snakes were biting me, and I fell down."

"And what happened then?"

"The other kid came over and told me to lie still while he called for an ambulance. He stayed there and kept me from freakin' out until the ambulance came. Everybody says he saved my life."

"How did he do that? How did he save your life?"

"He called for the ambulance. I don't have a phone and Jude took off and I haven't heard from him since."

"That's all he did, just call 911?"

"No, then he stayed with me, and he took care of me." River's face twisted like he was going to cry. "When I threw up, he turned me onto my side, so I didn't vomit all over myself. Then he cleaned me up and kept me quiet, so I wasn't so afraid. He was great!"

"But you don't know his name?"

"Nope," said River.

"What did he look like — the boy who took care of you?"

"Just normal, you know, like a kid, like a normal kid."

When Deputy McAdam left, River took a deep breath and shuddered. He thought again about what had really happened in the gravel pit. Then those tears, those hard tears, leaked out of his eyes again while he looked up at the ceiling. He didn't want to live with this horrible pain in his heart, but he couldn't see any way to get rid of it.

Sheriff Morgan scanned the sheaf of messages his secretary had delivered to his In-Tray. He had sent queries to other law enforcement offices in the state requesting information about animal attacks on humans in the last month.

Eighteen offices had replied. Most of the incidents were small-scale, anecdotal reports. A flock of sparrows attacked a gardener spraying insecticide on aphid-infested roses. Barnyard chickens had flown at, and pecked a woman collecting eggs. A Doberman pinscher had ravaged its master when he accidentally bumped its tail stub. The tail had been docked the week before. A freshly spayed cat clawed its owner the day after its return from the vet, then ran away. The sheriff had requested reports from the last month. Almost all the incidents took place in the last two days.

There were also two events at CAFOs, large-scale Confined Animal Feeding Operations. On these factory farms, groups of hitherto docile animals — cattle in one case and pigs in the other — had attacked workers. In the case of the cattle CAFO, rescuers attempting to come to the aid of the downed worker were stung by hornets.

After he left River, Pete's next stop was at the hospital's emergency vehicle dispatch center. Ambulance crews gathered there while awaiting calls. The attendant who had treated River at the gravel pit was on duty. Pete introduced himself. He said he was interested in the rattlesnake incident at the gravel pit.

"Can you tell me anything about the other boy, not the boy who got bit, but the other boy in the pit? Like, what he looked like and what he was wearing?" asked Pete.

"Okay," said the attendant. "Good-looking kid, maybe eleven or twelve, but I'm not good at guessing kids' ages. Not a big kid. Longish black hair and lots of freckles. He was wearing green shorts and a green T-shirt that said 'Plant-Powered' on it. He was a good kid — stayed with us until he was sure his friend was being taken care of. There's no doubt in my mind — he saved that other kid's life."

Pete thanked him and drove over to the 911 call center.

"Sure," said the receptionist. "I only have to ask the supervisor — she has to okay any access to the phone log."

With the supervisor's permission, Pete scanned the log list for the previous week. There was a call from David's mobile number on Saturday afternoon.

Pete went home. The smell of fresh-brewed coffee greeted him when he entered the kitchen. Doreen had poured herself a cup and was sitting at the kitchen table.

"Hey," she said. "You're home early. What's wrong? Did you run out of criminals to catch?"

"No, I just needed to talk to you." Pete poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down opposite Doreen. "Is David home?"

"Not yet. He's up the mountain again and probably won't be back till just before supper."

Pete pulled the evidence bag from his pocket and laid it on the table between them. "Have a look at that."

Doreen picked it up. "Looks like somebody's underwear," she said.

"Take it out and look inside the waistband."

When Doreen looked inside the waistband, her forehead wrinkled. "I don't get it, Pete. Why have you got a pair of David's underpants in a baggy?"

"You remember that news story we watched on Saturday night? It was a 'Who Was That Masked Man?' episode. There was a mystery boy, a boy hero who saved the life of a kid bitten by two rattlesnakes."


"It all happened in a gravel pit near Jana Mountain. Sheriff Morgan found these underpants in the gravel pit on Saturday. He gave them to me today.

"So, I did a little digging around. I talked to the boy who got bit, River Jameson. He said he doesn't know the name of the boy who saved his life. When I asked him what the boy looked like, he said 'like a normal kid.' That's a pretty typical perp description from a kid, but in this line of work, you get a pretty sharp sense of when people are hiding something, and River was. So, I went and talked to the ambulance driver. He gave me a good description of the hero kid: good-looking kid, longish black hair, freckles, green shorts and T-shirt — says 'Plant-Powered' on it."

"David," said Doreen.

"Then I went to the 911 call center to see who called 911 for the rattlesnake kid. Their call log shows a call from David's mobile number on Saturday afternoon."

"So, David was the hero kid, he was the kid who saved that other kid's life?"

"Looks like it," said Pete. "Trouble is, there's a lot of other unanswered questions here. River and the ambulance guy say he's a hero, he's a lifesaver, but he just comes home and cuddles up to us like normal. He saved a kid's life and doesn't say anything? And how come he left his underpants in the gravel pit? Jude Bedford, the other kid in the gravel pit, River's friend, says nobody was in the gravel pit except him and River. His story is total BS, but I haven't the faintest idea what really went down between those kids."

"Something that meant David left his underpants there doesn't sound good," said Doreen, "but everyone, including the kid who got bit, says David did everything right," said Doreen. "Is that right?"

"Yeah, I don't know what to do or say. I can hardly tear a strip off David for saving someone's life and not bragging about it, but he's got to tell us why his underpants ended up in the gravel pit, and why those other kids' stories stink to high heaven."

Sheriff Morgan was about to leave for home when the phone on his desk rang. He stared at it. It had been ringing all day since he'd returned from investigating the gravel pit incident with Pete. Most of the calls had to do with that naked boy, those pigs, that video. He even had the governor on the phone wanting to know 'what kind of a show' he was running down there. The agriculture lobby and Pork Producers Association were up in arms. The phone rang again. He picked it up.

"Sheriff Morgan here," he said.

"Well, thank goodness! I've been trying to get through to you all day. Seems like you never get off the phone. Busy! Busy! Busy!"

"I'm sorry, Ma'am. We have had a lot of calls today. What can I do for you?"

"It's me, Mrs. Wilkins, Mrs. Dick Wilkins. My husband got killed by his horses last week."

"Oh, yes, Mrs. Wilkins. I was sorry to hear about that."

"Well, I'm not calling about that. You know his horses ran off after they attacked him?"


"Well, I saw one of those horses today. They're my horses now, and I want you to go get that horse back for me."

"Where did you see the horse, Ma'am?"

"On TV. It was on TV, on that 'News at Noon' show."

"You saw your horse on TV?"

"Yeah, they showed a video of some kid riding a horse, something to do with pigs. I don't know. But the horse was one of Dick's, and now it's mine. I'd know it anywhere, a big gray gelding, got a darker gray spot on the side of its nose."

"Any other marks on it? Is it branded?"

"Yeah, RW brand on the left hip. It's a big horse, a registered thoroughbred, and I'd like it back as soon as possible. I know Dick paid almost a thousand dollars for it last year, and I bet I could sell it pretty quick for the same or more."

The sheriff took a few notes. He assured Mrs. Wilkins the sheriff's office would contact her if they recovered the horse.

"Tomorrow?" she said.

"Oh, I don't think we'll catch up to him that soon, but we'll let you know, Mrs. Wilkins. Goodbye."

David enjoyed the cool breeze riffling his T-shirt as he coasted down the mountain. His mind was busy composing a message for the person who had posted the video of Zhiv and the pigs. Earth-Girl was her online name.

When he arrived home and entered the house, Pete and Doreen were sitting at the kitchen table.

"Hi, Mom, hi Dad," he said, and gave each a hug. "Mom, is there anything I can eat right now? I'm starving. It won't ruin my supper — I could eat two suppers right now."

"Eat this," said Doreen, handing him half an avocado and a spoon, "and go get cleaned up. Supper's ready. All I have to do is put it on the table."

David ran to the stairway and raced up to his room, taking two stairs at a time.

"Let's save our questions for after supper," Doreen said.

When they finished cleaning up the kitchen after their meal, Doreen put an arm around David's shoulder. "Honey, your dad and I want to talk to you. Let's go into the living room and sit down."

They seated themselves as usual on the sofa, with David between his parents. He looked from one to the other and said, "Wow, I must have really screwed up this time."

Doreen hugged him and said, "No, you didn't screw up, but we are going to ask you some hard questions. Pete, why don't you show him the baggy?"

"Okay," said Pete. "David, I'm gonna tell you some things, and then I want you to tell us everything."

"Okay," said David, and took a deep breath.

Pete pulled out the baggy with the underpants in it and handed it to David. "These are your underpants. They were in the Jana Mountain gravel pit where rattlesnakes bit that boy. We know that a boy who looked like you was in the gravel pit with that boy. We know that your mobile phone made a call to 911 to bring an ambulance to the pit." Pete stopped for a moment, then continued, "It seems you saved that boy's life. Your mom and I are so proud of you we're fit to bust, but we're worried, too. We want to know why your underpants were in that gravel pit, and why you didn't tell us that you were there? We want to know what happened."

David stared down at his knees. "I'll tell you everything, but I'm asking you in advance not to get angry and do anything."

After a moment of silence, Pete said, "Sorry, can't promise that. You'll have to trust us."

David took a deep breath. "Okay. I was coming home down the logging road when Jude and River blocked the way. They must have been waiting for me. They made me go into the gravel pit with them. When we got there, Jude put some duct tape over my mouth and took my shoes and socks off, and my shorts and underpants." David noticed Pete's fists clenching and put his hand over his father's hand.

"What was River doing?"

"He was just holding me, so I couldn't get away. I don't think he liked what they were doing."

"But he did it anyway," growled Pete.

"Jude threw my shorts and underpants into the rocks, and they made me take off my T-shirt, so I was naked. River was holding me from behind, and Jude grabbed my penis. River started to argue with him — he didn't like what they were doing. Then some starlings attacked them, and wasps started stinging them. They were jumping around trying not to get stung, and they let me go. I pulled the duct tape off and bent down to grab my T-shirt off the ground. That's when I saw the rattlesnakes coming, and I shouted to warn River and Jude. Jude ran to his bike and rode away.

"I ran over to where my clothes were and put them on. I didn't see my underpants, and I didn't want to waste any time looking for them. I just wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. I saw that River was getting bitten by a rattler. I think what they were doing to me was mostly Jude's idea. River didn't like it. So, I went over to see if I could help him. One snake was still biting his leg. He was in bad shape, lying on the ground and crying. I chased the snake away.

"I knew that you should keep still when you've been bitten by a poisonous snake, so the poison doesn't spread so fast. I told River to do that and called 911. After the ambulance came, I got on my bike and came home."

"Before the birds and wasps came," said Pete, "did those boys say anything? Did they say what they were going to do to you?"

"Jude was talking about sex things," said David. "But they never got to do anything."

"After what those boys were doing to you," said Pete, "you went and helped River like that? You chased a rattlesnake away? You called 911 for help?"

"No big deal, Dad — He was crying and screaming, and I couldn't just leave him there like that."

Nobody said a word for a half a minute.

"Mom," said David, "I'm sorry. I know I said I'd tell you if those guys ever tried anything again, but it seemed to me they got punished pretty good, and I got away without any problem. They didn't get a chance to do anything to me. I'm sure they'll never bother me again."

Doreen hugged him.

Pete asked, "Those boys had bothered you before?"

"Yeah. Once they tried to make me to eat a piece of bacon. That was at school."

"So, you knew them? And they knew you? River knew you?"

"Yeah, they didn't like it that I was vegan. After the gravel pit, River told everybody he didn't know me because I asked him not to say anything about me. I knew you'd get angry if you found out what they tried to do." David kept his hand on his father's fist. He felt like he was sitting next to a volcano. He risked a look at Pete's face. It was not moving, as if it was carved in stone, but it was livid.



"Please don't do anything. I know River and Jude won't bother me again, and I'm okay."

"Why not?" said Pete. "They assaulted you and tried to rape you. It wasn't just a boyish tussle. It was a premeditated attack."

"They're just dumb kids, and I'm sure they learned a lesson in that gravel pit. I'd hate to think that it was me that caused them to be branded for life as criminals."

In a thick voice, Pete said, "They shouldn't get away with this. I don't like it." He shook his head.

"I'm okay, Dad."

"Are you sure? Sometimes with things like this, it takes a while before you feel it. You shouldn't feel bad about it in any way. It wasn't your fault, and you didn't do anything wrong. You understand what I mean?"

"Yeah, Dad," said David. "I don't feel bad at all. It's like it never happened. I was pretty mad about how they were treating me in the gravel pit — it made me feel like one of those animals in a factory farm. It was like I was just a thing, like they could play with me like a toy, but I got over it as soon as the birds and wasps attacked them."

David waited for Pete's answer, his eyes imploring mercy.

"Okay," said Pete. "Much as I want to, I won't do anything to those boys, not officially." Pete paused. "But, I'm gonna go have a little talk with River Jameson and Jude Bedford, later this week, when I've calmed down."

David climbed over into Pete's lap, facing him, and hugged him. "Thanks Dad. You're the best dad. I'm so lucky to have a mom and dad like you guys. Thanks!" He kissed Pete on the cheek, leaned over, and kissed Doreen. Then he sat up straight and said, "Now, if you guys have finished interrogating the prisoner, can I go have my shower?"

When they heard him thumping up the stairs, two at a time, Pete said to Doreen, "He's taking over this house, isn't he? He plays us like we're pianos or something."

"Yeah," said Doreen as she snuggled under his arm. "But it's a great tune, isn't it?"

Though Pete and Doreen didn't hear it, another song was swelling around them, a song as spirited as the Marseillaise.

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