Pig-Boy and the Insectorator

by Biff Spork

Chapter 19

Soccer and Sex

David and Zhiv's daily activities had formed a pattern. The boys met when David parked his bike, then they trotted upward along a direct route to the plateau and the lake. After a swim, they breakfasted on whatever David had brought and Zhiv had foraged. Then they lay down in each other's arms and drifted in the mara for an hour or two.

David heard the mara better every day. He was learning to communicate with the creatures he met there, including Zhiv. The first time this happened, he and Zhiv opened their eyes at the same instant, and Zhiv exclaimed, "You brought a ball?"

"Yep. It's in the pack."

"It's a small, red beach ball," said Zhiv, without releasing David or looking in the pack.

"Yes!" David grinned. He was proud he had succeeded in sending a message to Zhiv through the mara.

Zhiv pulled David into an even tighter embrace. "We'll never be apart now. I mean, together like this is best, but even if our bodies are apart we can meet in the mara."

"I really like being able to breathe," gasped David.

Zhiv loosened his grip. "What are we gonna do with the ball?"

"We're gonna play with the ball!" David leaped to his feet. "C'mon, let's go run around in the meadow."

Despite a long series of hot, bright days, the grass in the meadow was still lush and green. Bees visited the pink clover blossoms and white daisies scattered there. A few rescued pigs rooted in the turf at the edge of the copse. Escaped goats and sheep grazed with their wild cousins, a half-dozen mule deer.

David put the pack down, took the ball out and kicked it into the air. Then he ran after it. "The point of the game is for you to try to get the ball away from me," he shouted. "You can't use your hands. Only feet."

They pursued each other around the meadow, darting and dodging to control the ball, and shrieking insults and threats when they failed. The pigs looked up from their grazing and watched. David, in possession of the ball, ran towards them. One of the pigs trotted forward to intercept him and nosed the ball out of David's control. Then the pig galloped, using his nose and feet to keep the ball in front of him. David yelled and raced after the pig. Zhiv sprinted across and stole the ball from the pig, but another pig had followed the play and butted the ball away from Zhiv.

The boys ran until they were out of breath, then squatted at the edge of the meadow. The pigs had begun to play against each other.

"It's not fair," panted David. "They're so fast. They can run faster than we can."

While they watched, a big billy goat launched himself in pursuit of the pigs and the ball. Other pigs emerged from the trees at the edge of the meadow. The newly arrived pigs observed for a few minutes, then joined the game. More goats and some sheep got involved.

David looked up and down the field. "We could make goals at each end of the meadow and split the animals into teams, one for me and one for you."

Zhiv shook his head. "Goals are too complicated. There's trees at both ends of the meadow. If you get it into the trees, that's a goal."

The boys ran into the field and seized the ball. The pigs, goats, sheep, and a large German shepherd dog all waited expectantly.

"Let's pick teams." Zhiv pointed. "You go stand over there."

Zhiv concentrated for a minute, and then shouted, "I'm taking the pigs. You can have the rest of these losers."

The pigs bunched up behind Zhiv.

David concentrated on the other animals and imagined them beside himself. To his secret delight, they gathered around him.

Zhiv tossed the ball into the air. They all rushed for it. The pigs got the ball first and fled down the meadow towards David's goal area. The big billy intercepted. Then the game turned into a free-for-all with whoever got the ball running in any direction.

"They're great players," puffed David, when he and Zhiv had again been outplayed and outrun, "but we haven't managed to communicate the idea of teamwork and scoring goals."

"Nope, it's pretty well every man for himself out there, but I like their game better than ours. Get the ball and run like crazy. If someone else has the ball, chase them as hard as you can. It's a great game — no goals, no winners, no losers."

"You're right," said David. "The big billy goat is good, really good."

"Yeah, so's that pig with the brown spot on his forehead. His ball-handling skills are excellent."

"The rabbit really surprised me. Those fakes — he looks like he's going one way then he goes the other." David folded his arms over his knees and hunched forward to put his chin on his arms. "And fast! If he was bigger he'd rule the field."

"How about another swim, then we go down and have lunch at the cave?" said Zhiv.

"Yeah, I'm already starving."

They ran to the lake. The trout joined them for a leisurely swim.

"Bring another ball tomorrow — I bet these fish would love to play," said Zhiv. The rainbow colors of the trout flashed in the sun as they jumped around and over the boys.

Sometimes the horses met them as they left the copse, and they would ride. David grew closer to Whem and found he could ask the black stallion to go where he wanted and to start or stop, though the horse usually decided what they did. Sometimes after a gallop, the horses grazed and the boys lazed on their broad backs as if they were reclining on couches. One day, David lay back with his head pillowed on Whem's rump.

"David, look!" called Zhiv.

Zhiv was standing up on the gray's back. He held one arm out in an orator's gesture and proclaimed, "To be or not to be. That is the question!"

The gray looked around, then took a step forward. Zhiv tottered but regained his balance.

Whem turned his head and eyed David.

"Okay, okay, okay!" said David and got to his feet on the black's back.

"Just bend your knees a bit and stand on the bum," said Zhiv. "It's wider there and easier to keep your balance."

When David felt secure, he held out his arm and intoned, "Friends, Romans and countrymen! Lend me your ears!"

The horses walked and grazed. The boys remained standing. Zhiv held out his arms and balanced on one leg. David applauded and shouted, "Now lift up the other leg, too!"

When they reached the edge of the meadow, both horses whinnied low and shook their heads, their way of saying the day's ride was over.

"It's like we're in a circus." David slid off the black's back.

"Yeah, they're training us pretty good," laughed Zhiv.

One afternoon, the boys collected armfuls of ferns to enlarge Zhiv's bed in the cave, so it was big enough for two. David had brought up a couple of old blankets. When laid on top of the ferns, they made a comfortable bed.

River was shooting hoops in the driveway of his house. He was bored. Aaron was down at the pig shed with Evan and Willie. The old man was asleep. All he did these days was drink and sleep. He had bought a case of vodka and kept it beside his bed. He wasn't shouting and crying so much now, but his silence was almost as bad. His face was thin and bony, and he hadn't shaved for days. He smelled moldy.

"Hey, Man, how's it hangin'?"

River turned and saw Jude riding his bike into the driveway.

"I don't want nothin' to do with you." River concentrated on the hoop and launched the ball. "Just bugger off!"

"River, I just come over to tell you I'm sorry. I'm real sorry you got bit by those snakes, even though it wasn't my fault." Jude laid his bike down and walked toward River.

"I could have died," said River. "No thanks to you!"

"I know, Man. I been feeling bad about it ever since. That's why I come to say I'm sorry, but I'm just so afraid of snakes, I didn't even think about what to do. It's like an automatic thing with me to run when I see a snake. It's a folio, I think, something I don't have no control over."

"It's a phobia, not a folio."

"Yeah, well I got one of them, anyway. I mean, if you got a snake, even a little garden snake, and put it down in front of me right now, I'd have to run. No choice."

"You mean a garter snake."

"Yeah. Whatever. Any snake."

"And since then, you never even phoned to see if I was okay. You got a phone phobia too?"

"It's because I was feeling so sad about not doing something about those snakes. I thought you might be pissed off at me. I mean, I understand if you are, even though it wasn't my fault. I mean, you can't blame me because a rattlesnake bit you. That's what they do. It's natural. But I'm real sorry those rattlers bit you, River. C'mon, let's be friends again."

River stared at Jude. "You know why I'm standing here? Because David, that kid we were treating like dirt, he helped me. He called the ambulance and stuck around until it came. He saved my life."

"Yeah," said Jude. "Whatever." He focused on a bird flying overhead. "Who knows, maybe he's not gay. What do I know? You got anything to drink? It's hot today, and it's a long ride to get here."

"Nobody asked you to come." River retrieved the ball and pointed to a garden hose coiled beside the garage. "There's the hose, if you're thirsty."

Jude walked over to the hose, turned the tap on and drank. River was dribbling the ball.

"Let's play HORSE," said Jude. "Just to prove I'm really sorry, I'll let you win. C'mon!"

"You couldn't beat me if you tried," said River.

Jude stole the ball, then passed it back. "I'll even give you first shot."

River was the better shot and won three games in a row.

"Shit man, you got the golden touch," said Jude. "Thanks for playing with me. I really been missing you. Are we okay now?"

River sat down on the ball and looked at Jude. "I dunno, Jude. I got a lot of crap to work through right now. I think we're done. You and me ain't good together. We end up doing stupid things, bad things. I need some time to figure out what I've got to do."

"Sure, Man. Whatever you want."

"Don't bother coming over here. I'll call you if I've got anything to say to you."

"Okay, Man, but don't leave it too long. I really miss you, and I want us to hang out together."

"Yeah." River stood and tucked the ball under his arm. "See ya around."

Jude watched him walk toward the house. "Fucking asshole," he muttered as he mounted his bike. "I fucking ride all the way over here to say I'm sorry, and he just tells me to fuck off. Bastard!"

On their third day searching for Sol, Hector and Celia met at Hector's campsite much earlier than they had planned. They had spent the first two days exploring all the marked trails in the park. On the third day both had begun exploring higher up, away from the marked trails. Frightening experiences with animals had brought them back to the campsite. It wasn't yet noon.

"It was right here." Celia pinpointed a location on the map of the park. "I was heading up towards the plateau from the Northwest Trail. Then, suddenly there was a bear, a black bear, ahead of me. I heard it growl before I saw it. I backed away real careful. It didn't follow me but kept looking at me. As soon as I got out of sight, I started to run and ran all the way back here."

"How do you feel now," asked Hector.

"Oh, I'm fine, now. I mean, the bear scared me when I saw it, but it didn't seem to want to attack me. It was like it just wanted me to go away."

"Yeah," said Hector. "That was pretty much my experience too, only it was a cougar in my case. After I left the Northeast Trail, I continued upward. I'd only climbed about two hundred yards when I heard the cougar. They make a scary noise, not a roar. It's not really what I would call a snarl, but it's loud and angry. It was lying on a rock above the incline I was climbing. Like you, I stopped and started to back away. I thought I might go around it. As long as I was returning the way I came, it just sat there eyeing me. But when I started to move off to one side, it stood up and snarled again. It was clear it wanted me to go down the mountain, not try to go around it."

"So, what are we going to do?"

"Actually," said Hector, "I'm pretty happy that we were both chased back by animals, especially those animals. When Sol rescued the pigs, a black bear and a cougar were with him. Today when we were searching for Sol, a black bear and a cougar turned us back. We were trying to get to the plateau, up beyond the tree line. Those animals stopped us, and that makes me think Sol is up there, on the plateau. I have some ideas about what we can do next, but I've had enough running around in the bush for today. Anyway, I need to go into town this afternoon for some supplies and to follow up some leads." Hector made two marks on the map where the bear and cougar had blocked them.

"I need to do some shopping, too," said Celia, while Hector was re-folding the maps. "I'll make supper tonight — vegan. You've been feeding me well the last couple of nights."

"Why, thank you, Ms. Duffy. I'll be sure to be back in time."

"You're welcome, Dr. Sanchez. I'll see you at six-thirty, then."

Zhiv and David each threw an armful of ferns onto the bed they were making. Zhiv spread the ferns out evenly. "This is gonna be fantastic to sleep on. When you can stay overnight, we can sleep here together."

They looked at the bed.

David threw himself down on top of the blankets. He crawled under one. "We could try it out now." He stretched and yawned. "C'mon! It feels almost like a real bed."

Zhiv joined him under the blanket, and they reached for each other.

As they pressed together and kissed, David felt waves of sweetness sweep over him. Wherever his body touched Zhiv's, it hummed with pleasure. Zhiv writhed and wiggled in his arms, and both of them moaned wordlessly. They moved together, ever more frantically, without understanding what they were reaching for. The pleasure mounted, then it burst. They convulsed against each other again and again.

Later, Zhiv opened his eyes and stared into David's. "Wow!"

"Yeah. Wow!" said David. "I think that was sex. We just had sex!"

"It was the best feeling ever." Zhiv lifted the blanket and looked down. "But we peed all over each other."

They separated and threw the blanket back. "It's not pee," said David. "It's gooey and slippery. It must be semen. That's the stuff that makes babies. If it gets into a woman, I mean. With us, it won't make babies."

"We're covered with it," said Zhiv. "I guess there's not enough time to run up to the lake?"

"No, I've got to go, but we can rinse off in the stream on the way down to my bike."

They embraced.

"I love you so much, Zhiv. I can't believe how much I love you. It's like I'm drowning in an ocean of happiness." David pulled Zhiv closer. They grappled, rolled around together, and laughed.

Hector parked beside a sign that read, 'Jameson Pork Producers,' and got out of the cab of his camper. Then he unlatched a gate and walked into the yard. A boy sat on the front steps of the house.

"Hi," said Hector. "I'm looking for River Jameson."

"That's me."

"Hi River. My name is Hector Sanchez." He held out his hand, and River shook it. "I'm doing research on animals that attack people. I'm interested in what happened to you in that gravel pit a few days ago. Will you tell me about it?"

"Okay. What do you want to know?"

"First, I should ask your parents if it's okay to talk to you." Hector looked toward the front door of the house.

"My mom's dead, and my dad's asleep. You definitely don't want to wake him up. Don't worry. He won't care if I talk to you."

"Sorry about your mom."

"Thanks. It was a few years ago."

Hector got out a voice recorder and set it between them. "There were three different kinds of animals. Is that right?"

"Yeah. First it was birds, starlings, I think. Then the wasps started in on us. And last was the snakes, rattlesnakes."

"So, what were you doing? Did you disturb any nests or anything. You got any idea why those animals attacked you?"

"No," said River. "We were just playing around. You know, just chucking rocks around and exploring,"

"You and another boy, Jude?"

"Yeah, me and Jude. There was another kid there, but I don't know his name."

"So, the starlings attacked first?"

"Yeah, and then the wasps started to sting us. We were so busy swatting at the wasps and trying to bat the starlings away, we didn't notice the snakes."

"How many snakes?"

"I only remember three, but there could have been more. I didn't notice them until the first one was real close. Before I could jump away, he'd bit me. I fell down and he let me go, and that's when the second one struck. They're really fast. Another one was heading for Jude, but he run away and got on his bike."

"What happened then?"

"I don't remember much. The other kid called 911 and kept me from jumping up and running around. The next thing I remember is when they put me into the ambulance."

"So, after the snakes bit you, the starlings and the wasps didn't bother you again?"

"Nope. Everything just got quiet then." River pulled up his pant legs to reveal the wounds.

"Wow!" said Hector. "Both legs. That must've hurt a lot."

"Still does." River let his pant legs drop. "The doctor said it'll be a week or two before they're back to normal."

"Your friend, Jude — that's Jude Bedford? Is that right?"

"Yeah, that's his name. No use talking to him, though. He'll just tell you the same thing."

"You're right, River, but it's always useful to get another witness' story. Sometimes people notice different things. What about the other boy? Did he get pecked or stung or bitten?"

"I dunno. I don't think so."

"That's odd, isn't it? I mean you and Jude got bitten and pecked, but that other boy didn't. Not at all?"

"I don't know for sure. I don't remember."

"Do you remember anything else I should know about what happened to you? It's important, so that we can understand and maybe do something, so it doesn't happen to anybody else."

"No, I already told you everything that happened." River stood up.

"Sorry, River. I'm just really interested. I've been studying how animals and people get along, or don't get along, for years. What happened to you is unique. Birds, insects and reptiles all attacked you at the same time — I don't think that's ever happened before to anyone."

"Yeah, it was weird," said River.

As Hector drove towards the Bedford Poultry Farm, the third boy in the pit intrigued him. Why had he not been attacked? Why did nobody seem to know who he was?

Jude's mother called upstairs for Jude to come down. He sat with Hector at the kitchen table.

"I already told that cop all I know. I dunno why you're asking me to tell it again."

"You're kind of special, Jude. My field of study at the university is about animals attacking people. It happens lots of times, but in all the records I have, going back hundreds of years, there has never been anything like what happened to you. You were attacked by three different kinds of animals at the same time, and you survived. You're an amazing kid, and I want your story!" Hector set his voice recorder on the table and nodded at Jude to begin.

"Well, we were in the gravel pit, you know, me and River. That's River Jameson. We were just looking around, you know, like exploring. Suddenly a whole bunch of birds started flying at us and pecking at us."

"Wow!" said Hector. "That must have been scary. They could have pecked your eyes out. What did you do?"

"Well, we just batted them away as much as we could, but they kept coming back, stabbing at us with their beaks. I was trying to bat them away from us, so they wouldn't peck River or me. I told River we should get out of there."

"Good advice!"

"Then the wasps came and started stinging us. That was enough for me! I said, 'C'mon, River, let's go.' I wanted to get out of there, but River's real stubborn."

"Then I saw the snakes comin'. I said, 'Look out, River!' I tried to scare the snakes away so they wouldn't bite us. But River was already running for the road. He didn't care about me getting pecked, or stung, or nothin'."

"I don't understand. River ended up in the hospital with two rattlesnake bites. Yet you're saying he ran away."

"I dunno. I guess he musta come back or something. Maybe he came back for the bike I loaned him. Or maybe those snakes bit him before I scared them away. I dunno. Those wasps chased me all the way home."

"What about the third boy?"


"You know, the third boy in the pit with you. What was he doing?"

"Oh, that McAdam kid. He wasn't no help at all. He just ran off like River did. I'm lucky I got outta there alive."

"The Mackim kid, did he get bit?"


"You said his name, but I didn't get it. Mackim?"

"No. It's McAdam, David McAdam."

"David McAdam. He was right there with you, and didn't get bit?"

"I can't remember exactly, but I don't think so. He's a sneaky kid."

"What makes you say that, that he was sneaky?"

"He musta seen the snakes before us because he said 'Look out,' so we looked at him, and he run off. He distracted us so he could get away, and the snakes would come after River and me. He left us there with the snakes. He was only interested in getting away himself."

"You're right, Jude. That's sneaky! You remember anything else about him?"

"He's weird! That's all."

"You're a brave boy, Jude. It's a miracle you survived. Lots of people wouldn't have made it out of that gravel pit."

"It was nothing special. I tried to help those guys, but all they was worried about was themselves."

"Some people are like that," said Hector.

Jude nodded, "Yeah."

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