Pig-Boy and the Insectorator

by Biff Spork

Chapter 15

Empty Hives and A Declaration

Pete and Doreen watched the news together. The lead story was the pig rescue on Sunday and the viral video that recorded it. Several clips from the video were shown. Pete told Doreen what he knew about the boy, his social services record and how he had been missing for a year. After the news, Pete settled down to watch his favorite crime show. Doreen went upstairs to David's room and knocked on his open door.

David looked up from his laptop and invited her in. She sat on his bed near the desk where he was working.

"Your dad and I just saw an interesting news report about a boy who rescued some pigs on Sunday."

"Yeah, it's all over the internet. It's a great video."

"It's him, isn't it? The boy in the video. It's him who can call birds out of the sky. It's his foot in that hummingbird photo, isn't it?"

David turned to face her. "Yeah." He nodded. "It's him. Isn't he great?"

"Sure looks like it," said Doreen.

"You'd love him, Mom. Everybody does, and they've just seen him in the video. If you saw him in person, you'd love him even more; he's just so good and kind. That video's got over twenty-five million views now."

David slid off his desk chair onto the bed beside her. "But we're worried, Mom. With that video out there, people like Social Services will be trying to catch him, and he can't live like us. He has to be free in the forest. So, it's even more important that you keep his secret. Okay?"

Doreen watched and listened to her son with a mother's eyes and ears. She saw how his eyes glistened and heard his voice soften and tremble when he spoke about the boy.

She said, "Would that be so bad? I mean, if he came down here to live like us? He can't be too comfortable in the forest. Are there any adults with him, you know, taking care of him?"

"Mom, he's been living with the animals, just the animals, in the forest for over a year, and he's doing okay. He's happy. The animals take care of him, and you saw him in the video — he looks healthy, doesn't he?"

"Well, yes, but what about school?"

"He knows stuff, he knows how to do stuff that nobody else knows. He doesn't need school."

"Maybe not, Honey," said Doreen, "but I've got another question."

"Sure. Go ahead."

"Okay. When you were in the gravel pit, and those boys had taken your clothes, there were birds, wasps, and snakes attacking, but you don't have any stings, or peck-marks or snakebites. How come?"

"Mom, the animals are taking care of me too. I think it's because they know they can trust me. I didn't realize it until what happened in the gravel pit. They know who their friends are. That boy, he doesn't just talk to birds. He talks to deer, and bears, and cougars, to all the animals and insects. They all know him and love him. As soon as the animals saw I was in danger, they came and attacked Jude and River. Those guys are lucky there weren't any bears or cougars around. The reason I don't have any bites is that the animals weren't attacking three boys. They were defending me."

"Bears? And Cougars?"

"And skunks and turtles and bats and lizards and trout and bees. Oh, Mom, it's wonderful to see him covered with bees or swimming with hundreds of trout swimming around him. When we go to the lake, all the fish that live there start jumping because they're so happy to see him. It's so beautiful it makes me cry."

"Can you tell me his name?"

"I don't know his human name, but the animals call him Zhiv."

"Zhiv," she repeated. "Thank you, Honey, for telling me a bit more, but you know, it's all so unbelievable, I'm worried about you."

"I know, Mom. I mean, I know how weird it is, but when I'm up there in the forest, I'm probably safer than when I'm down here."

"Okay," said Doreen, "but there's something I want you to do."


"We shouldn't keep secrets from your dad, so I want you to think about how you can tell him about that boy. Soon."

"Okay, Mom. You're right. We shouldn't keep secrets from him. It's not fair." He paused. "But I've got something I want you to think about, too."


"Well, you know I'm vegan?"

"Yeah, I have noticed."

"Maybe it's time for you to stop calling me 'Honey.' You know vegans don't eat honey. Honey belongs to the honeybees, and I really like bees. They're very nice when you get to know them."

"When you get to know them?"

"Yeah, I mean, personally."

"Of course." A wry smile crossed Doreen's face. "Okay," she said, "how about 'Stevia?'"

"Oh God, not 'Stevia!' For a pet name, even 'Sugar' is better than 'Stevia.' But why not something more manly? I'm growing up, you know. How about 'Muscles?'"

Doreen fell back on the bed laughing. "No, I'm sorry, 'Muscles' just won't fly. How about 'Sweetie?'"

"Okay, it's good compromise. I can live with 'Sweetie.'"

Doreen sat up. "Don't stay up too late, Sweetie," she said and pulled him into a hug. At the door, she guffawed. "Good night, Muscles." David heard her laughing all the way down the stairs.

"Good night, Mom," he shouted.

David turned back to his laptop and re-read the message he had written to Earth-Girl. He clicked the 'Send' icon and toppled into bed.

On Tuesday morning, David set off for Jana Mountain earlier than usual. He knew he'd have to leave Zhiv by mid-day to meet Earth-Girl that afternoon. The meeting was set for the town library at 3:30. He wanted to arrive early, so he could see if there were any signs she had betrayed his request for secrecy.

As he pedaled, he tried to organize his thoughts about Zhiv and the mara's decision. He knew he should get to know Earth-Girl before trusting her completely. He felt he and Zhiv were playing in a game far out of their league. They knew what the animals felt and thought, but they had little idea of what their opponents wanted or could do, or even who their opponents were. They needed help to understand what was likely to happen and the options they might have. They had thousands of animal friends, but they needed some human allies.

Those thoughts occupied David's mind for most of his ride up the twisting road, but while he climbed ever closer to Zhiv, another concern returned to his mind. As he wrestled his bike across the clear-cut towards his parking spot in the forest, he nodded his head. Today he would tell Zhiv what was on his mind.

Pete's phone rang at the same time as he sat down at his desk in the sheriff's headquarters. The caller ID informed him it was Celia Duffy.

"Good Morning, Miz Duffy. How are you today?"

"Fine, thanks, Pete, though I'm still waiting to hear from you about Sol Mundy. You said you were gonna call me back yesterday, but I didn't get any call."

"Yeah, sorry about that, but I decided I would wait until I had something concrete to tell you. I'll bring it up with the sheriff again this morning and see what we can do about it. To be frank, I don't think there's much we can do. Everyone saw the boy heading into Jana Mountain Park, but it's a big park, hundreds of square miles, and there's no way we can search it all. We have no idea where he went after he rode into the trees. Nobody's seen him, or the pigs, since then."

"He's a runaway, a missing child. You've got to do something about that. He was right there in front of you guys on Sunday, and you didn't pick him up."

"Well, he was in the middle of the river, not exactly right in front of the deputies, where they could grab him. At that point, nobody knew he was a runaway. Anyway, you know, he was busy doing something that needed to be done, something that none of us could do. You might just consider that," said Pete.

Celia snorted. "I'd rather he was playing baseball, or football, or something other than riding around naked and risking his life for a bunch of pigs!"

"I'll talk to the sheriff. He may have some ideas. That's the best I can do right now."

After he closed the call with Celia, Pete walked over to the sheriff's office.

"I just spoke to Celia Duffy again, Sol Mundy's case officer. She wants to know when we're gonna catch the kid."

The sheriff laughed. "If that kid had raped and murdered a dozen nuns before fleeing into the bush, we could do something. It would be easy to get funds enough to hire twenty or thirty men to search that park for a week or two — maybe even hire some helicopters — but look at this," said the sheriff. He pushed his laptop around so Pete could see the web site where the pig-rescue video had been posted. The sheriff's finger pointed to the view meter. It read 42M.

"The world is in love with that kid, and Celia better be careful about what she does and says. When he does come out of hiding, if ever, there's gonna be a lot of interest in why he ran away from her care."

"Forty-two million views," said Pete in awe.

"Yeah, if it keeps climbing like it is, it will soon top the month's most viral video, the one where the cat kisses the dog."

The sheriff shuffled some papers on his desk and handed one to Pete. "Here's something I want you to check out this morning. It's a beekeeper, up the valley. He says someone stole his bees, about twenty hives. I'm thinking it might relate to what we were talking about yesterday — all these animal attacks." He picked up the animal incident reports he'd received from around the state. "And you can look through these when you get back."

In the pig barn, Art Jameson dusted his hands off on his overalls and pushed the power button on the automatic feed dispenser. Then he turned to his oldest sons, twins Ricky and Nicky. "You two finish filling the dispensers in the other pens and let them run until all the pigs have eaten. Then figure out which of them exhaust fans down below ain't workin' properly. Shut the power off and go down into the pit and fix whichever one ain't workin'. You know if we don't get the gas out of there, this whole place is gonna go up like a bomb one day. Be careful — that gas sneaks up on you."

"Okay, Dad," said Ricky, the elder of the twins by 7 minutes.

"I've gotta go pick up River," said Art. "The hospital phoned and said he can come home this morning."

"Feed the pigs. Fix the fans," said Nicky. "We'll take care of it, Dad."

Art went back to the house, cleaned himself up, and changed his clothes for the trip to the hospital. So far, it had been a good morning. The crane operator had got his truck out of the river, and it was at the repair shop. He was happy with the twins, content that they could handle the chores he'd left them. They were a little wild, but they were sensible enough to take care of business.

River was okay, too. He had recovered quickly from those snake bites. Art didn't expect much from River. The kid was too girly, but Art always tried to be gentle with him. The boy had been his late wife's favorite, her baby. He even looked like her. Everything Art did for River was a way of remembering his wife. They'd been good together, and he felt he would never stop missing her.

The phone rang.

Art answered it. It was some kid wanting to talk to River. "He ain't home yet," said Art. "I'm gonna go pick him up now."

"Can I come over and see him?"

"Maybe give him a chance to settle in. Come over in the afternoon."

"Okay," said the kid.

Zhiv was not at their usual meeting place, so David put his clothes in his pack and began climbing towards the cave. He knew he was much earlier than usual and suspected Zhiv was still on his way down. They met after he had walked for fifteen minutes. As they neared the cave, David told Zhiv about the e-mail he had sent to Earth-Girl.

"First, I opened one of those anonymous European e-mail accounts. If she or anyone else tries to track me down, they won't be able to," said David. "Second, I didn't tell her anything about me or you, only that I could contact the boy in the video if I wanted. I said if that interested her, and she would keep it completely secret, I would meet her. I said we should meet in the afternoon at the library. I told her where to sit and what she should be reading, so I can recognize her."

"Wow!" Zhiv grinned. "You must watch a lot of those spy movies to be so sneaky."

"I've watched a few when I didn't have anything better to do. Anyway, I can only stay with you till lunch since I have to meet her at 3:30."

"Darn! I was hoping we could go to the lake," said Zhiv.

"No. If it's okay with you, I want to sit down at the cave and think together about what we want say to Earth-Girl. Last time I checked the view-meter on that website, your video had over thirty million views. That's a big audience. What do we want to say to them? It has to be short and clear. What do you think is the most important thing to say?"

When they arrived at the cave, the two rescued pigs ran up to them. The boys knelt and hugged them. David checked the head wound on the one brother and was pleased to see it was already healing.

Zhiv said, "They're leaving, but they waited for us, so they could say 'goodbye.'"

The pigs snuffled in the boys' hair, and then they trotted away towards the high meadows and the wild mountains beyond.

"I've been thinking while we were walking up here." Zhiv looked serious. "This is too important for us just to say what we think is right. Let's lie down and hug, and try to find out what the mara thinks."

Zhiv and David lay down on their favorite rock, warmed by the morning sun. They embraced and opened their minds to the mara.

Pete enjoyed the ride out to where he'd agreed to meet the beekeeper. Almond trees were beginning to bloom on both sides of the highway, and the air was rich with their sweet scent. He spotted the beekeeper's truck at the edge of the orchard. The apiarist was loading beehives onto his flatbed. He heaved the last one up and began to tie them down as Pete came up to him.

Pete introduced himself and said he'd come to talk to him about someone stealing his hives.

"Well," said the man. "It's a mystery. I don't really know if they were stolen, or vandalized somehow, or something else happened, but they're gone."

"So, what are these?" Pete nodded at the hives on the truck. "I thought the hives were stolen."

"Oh yeah, these are the hives," the beekeeper said. "It's the bees that are missing. I brought the hives here, day before yesterday. Every one of them was full of healthy bees. When I came to check on them yesterday afternoon, there wasn't a bee to be seen. Every hive was empty."

"I don't know much about bees," said Pete. "Does that happen often? They disappear like that? Could somebody take the bees away without their hives?"

"Sometimes bees will leave their hive to swarm for some reason. Maybe they decide they don't like their hive, or there's too many of them, but I've never heard of 20 hives of bees all swarming at the same time. And if they were swarming, at least one or two of the swarms would be nearby, but there's no honeybees in this orchard or anywhere in the nearby bush. They've completely disappeared."

"Maybe something killed them?" suggested Pete.

"Yeah, I thought about that. Maybe the orchardist had sprayed an insecticide or herbicide that killed bees. He said he hadn't sprayed anything new or harmful. I also had a long walk around. There's no dead bees on the ground."

"It's hard for us to consider this as a theft when there's no evidence that the bees were stolen. All we know is that they're gone," said Pete.

"Well, it's not just a few bugs went missing, you know," said the beekeeper. "Those bees were worth about five thousand dollars. If they'd pollinated these trees, I would have earned about two thousand dollars more. And it's only the start of the season. Then later, there's the honey. This almost puts me out of business for this year. It's gonna be hard to break even. This mystery is gonna cost me about twenty, maybe twenty-five thousand dollars altogether."

Pete pulled out a notepad and wrote down the apiarist's particulars and details about the missing bees. "You got any other hives?"

"Up the road about twenty miles, at another orchard. I checked them last night and they were fine. I'm going up there now. You wanna come along?"

When they arrived at the other orchard, the air around the hives was ominously silent. Pete watched in sympathy as the man opened a couple of the empty hives and looked around in the trees. It was like watching a man get beaten and being unable to do anything about it.

Pete expressed his sympathy, and the man said, "It's not just me. If these trees don't get pollinated now, they're not gonna bear the crop they should. If this is happening to other beekeepers, we're looking at an agricultural disaster."

Zhiv nudged David's ear with his nose and pulled him out his dream-like absorption in the mara. "You come up with anything?"

David shook his head. "No, I love being in the mara, but I'm still not able to make much sense out of the messages I get, the images I see."

"Okay, here's what I feel. We've been thinking it's like making a deal. You know, the animals do this and then the humans do that. Then everybody sits down and says, well if you do this, then we'll do that, and they come up with some kind of agreement that solves the problem between them. But that's not the way animals think. It's taken them a long time to come to the decision they've made, and it's not something that's going to go away. Humans have got to change. They have no choice.

"There's no 'You do this, and we'll do that' stuff. The animals have declared war, and it will go on until they decide to end it. People don't know it yet, but they'll discover it soon. Humans and animals have never got along very well. What's changed is that the animals have never united against humans before. What happened to those boys who attacked you is just a hint of what's coming."

"So, I can't say to Earth-Girl, 'Here's what the animals want'?"

"No, all we can do is to suggest a few steps humans can take that may make it possible for peace in the future. It needs to be something simple. Stop eating animals. Stop cutting down the forests. Stop polluting the environment. People know how to do these things, but that's not enough. They have to do them. The time for talking is past. What's needed now is action."

"That's what the animals have chosen, isn't it?" said David. "Action."

"Yeah, and the action is to attack the greatest threat to life on this planet, human beings."

"That's the message, isn't it?" said David.

"Yeah," said Zhiv. "All we can do is try to keep some kind of communication open. If Earth-Girl is good and kind and true, we have a way of telling people what needs to be done."

The boys pulled apart, stretched, and sat up.

"Even though I'm going down soon, I did bring some lunch. You hungry?"


While they ate, David braced himself to discuss the other subject that had been worrying him.

"Zhiv, there's something else I've got to talk to you about."

"Sure, anything. Go ahead."

David's heart started beating so loud he could hear it, and he felt it thudding in his chest. He took a deep breath and forced the words out. "I love you."

"Oh yeah. Me too." Zhiv pointed to the pack. "Is there any more of those corn chips? What did you want to talk about?"

"That's it, that I love you."

"Good. Me too."

"How do you feel about that?" persisted David, as he handed Zhiv a fresh bag of corn chips.

Zhiv tore the bag open. "They're great chips but I wish they were in a compostable package."

"No, I meant, how do you feel about you and me loving each other?"

"David, I've known we love each other since the first minute we met. I mean that, since the first minute. I took one look at you and I thought, 'Well, that's that. Here's the boy I'll love for the rest of my life.'"

"Oh," said David, mollified.

"As for you loving me, I pretty much knew that right away, too. The way you looked at me, the way you talked to me, touched me, listened to me, the way you heard me, the way you see me in the mara and outside. Every minute we've spent together, you've told me you love me. I didn't need you to tell me in words."

"It doesn't bother you that I'm a boy, and you're a boy?"

"Not at all. I love all of you, including that little thing between your legs. Does that bother you?"

"No. I love all of you, too." said David.

"What about my little thing?"

"Yeah, you idiot. I love your little thing too. I was just worried about sex, and puberty, and being gay, and all that stuff."

"Aaaah," said Zhiv. "I don't know much about sex, so I guess it's something we'll have to learn about together. Is that okay?"

"Sounds like fun," said David.

"Should we start now?" said Zhiv.

"Sex? Now?"

"Yeah, since we have to start sometime."

"I don't know exactly what to do." David felt his cheeks burning.

"Neither do I," said Zhiv.

David looked up at him and saw that under his golden tan, his cheeks were scarlet too. "Maybe we should just wait and see what happens instead of trying to force it?"

"Yeah. In the meantime, before you have to go, let's just have a long hug. I need a lot of that." Zhiv fitted himself to David's body. He nestled their erections side by side and pulled David close. "Do you want me to say it?"


"I love you."

"Yeah, say it."

"I love you."

"Yeah," said David. "I love you too."

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