Pig-Boy and the Insectorator

by Biff Spork

Chapter 21

Hypnocrids and Wiggles

There was no answer to the doorbell when Jude rang. River's bike was leaning against the side of the garage, so he must have been at home. Why wasn't he answering the door? It irritated Jude because it had been a long ride. He had not phoned because he thought River would hang up. Being there in person would make it harder for River to be unfriendly.

Jude figured if he kept after River, he could get him back as a jerk-off buddy. He was easy to push around. He rang again, but there was no sound of life inside the house. As he rode back toward the highway, he saw the lane leading to the Jameson pig barn. Perhaps River was doing something down there. At the barn, he didn't see River, but there was a man on a ladder with a paintbrush.

"Hi, is River around?"

"No, he ain't. Can you bring that can of paint up to me?"

Jude climbed the ladder and held out the paint can. The man dipped the brush and painted over a couple of letters in a sign.

"MACHT FREI." Jude sounded the words out. "That's weird. What does it mean?"

"It's an insult, a dirty insult. It's those bastards who don't like people trying to earn an honest living raising animals, for food, so people don't starve. They sneaked in here at night and painted this sign."

"Yeah." Jude nodded and held the can out for the brush to dip again. "Last month some of them snuck into our chicken barn and took some video. Next thing we knew, it was all over the internet, and people were moaning and crying about our chickens."

"You Frank Bedford's boy?"

"Yeah, he's my dad." Jude held the can out again. "I don't understand those people. I mean, they like to eat chicken, but they get all weepy if they think the chickens are unhappy. They got their mouths full of chicken and tears rolling down their cheeks. They're just hypnocrids."


"Yeah, hypocrints. They're talking out of the side of their mouth. My dad says they're terrorists. They're undermining our freedom. If we want to eat chicken, that's our business. Ain't nobody gonna make him eat beans if he don't want to."

Art looked around and down at Jude. "Hey, it's nice to meet a kid who's got his head screwed on right. I'm River's dad. What's your name?"

"Jude, Jude Bedford, sir. I'm pleased to meet you, Mr. Jameson."

"Pleased to meet you too, Jude. Let's get down and move this ladder over, so we can finish painting over this last word."

"Hey, River gave me some of those prairie oysters you made. The deep-fried ones. They were really good. Thanks."

"You liked 'em?"

"Yeah, they were great, kinda crunchy and juicy."

"My boys get tired of 'em."

"If they had to eat chicken every night, they might think different."

"You eat a lot of chicken, I guess."

"Yeah. I like it okay, but those little pig nuts were something else."

"You should come over and help out when we're castrating the piglets. You could earn a little money and take home as many of them oysters as you want."

"Yeah, that'd be great, but I don't know how to do it."

"It's not hard. Just pop 'em out and cut 'em off. It's like picking cherries. River used to help us, but he got so he didn't like it. He said the squealing bothered him. The piglets do scream bloody murder."

"Oh, that wouldn't bother me none. Chickens ain't exactly quiet when you're wringing their necks, so I'm pretty used to that kind of noise." Jude held the bucket out for the brush. "I was real sad to hear about Ricky and Nicky."

"Hey, thanks. They were the best boys a man ever had." Art's voice choked in his throat. "Nicky ain't ever gonna be right again. Fucking pigs! I hate 'em!"

They climbed down, stood back, and surveyed the front of the building. Art cleared his throat and spat. "Damn! You can still see it, like a ghost sign. I'm gonna have to give it a second coat."

"That's too bad. It should be them who painted the sign who have to paint over it."

"Yeah. But the police ain't interested in that. They'd rather be handing out speeding tickets." Art tapped the cap onto the paint can and wrapped the brush in a plastic bag. "Hey Jude, thanks for your help. If you wanna throw your bike in the back of the truck, we can go up to the house. I'll give you a bag of those testicles to take home. The freezer's full of 'em."

"That's great, Mr. Jameson. I love those things!"

A honeybee landed on the tip of David's nose. He shifted his position and opened his eyes.

Zhiv pulled him closer. "I feel so good sitting like this — should we have a wiggle?"

David giggled. "A wiggle? What's a wiggle?"

Zhiv blushed. "You know, what we did yesterday, when we wiggled together and squirted that stuff all over each other."

David smiled. "A wiggle! That's the best name for it that I ever heard. A wiggle! I wanna do it again too, but I feel kinda shy doing it out here with all these people around. It looks like half the mara's here. I'd rather do it in our bed in the cave, maybe after lunch. Then it can be only you and me."

"Yeah. You're right. It's a private thing, but I like it a lot. Do you think we can do it every day?"

"I don't know." David kissed Zhiv's neck. "We'll have to look into that."

David stood up, and Whem walked over to him. "Let's go for a ride." Whem knelt. The gray walked up and knelt for Zhiv.

When the stallion trotted, David felt as if every bone in his body was shaking out of its socket. He was happiest when Whem shifted to a canter. The increased speed produced a light breeze that cooled him. Whem changed gears then and galloped. The steady thump of hooves hitting the grass punctuated the noon heat. They circled the meadow twice, but it was too hot for a long run.

The horses stopped to graze. David lay on his back on Whem and laughed with pleasure at the blue sky above.

"David! Look!"

Zhiv had succeeded in a headstand on the gray's back. David clapped. Zhiv folded himself down, and the boys slid off the horses' backs. They said goodbye to the horses and strolled across the meadow with their arms around each other's shoulders.

"I've got a big tub of rice and beans in my pack. And for dessert, we have my second favorite sandwich, peanut butter and banana. How about we graze through all that and then have our wiggle?"

"What a great idea!"

Hector looked away from the powerful spotting scope on its tripod. The boys disappeared into the trees at the edge of the meadow. Celia lowered her binoculars.

"I've never seen a wolverine before," said Hector.

"That animal like a small bear?"

"Yeah, they're rare this far south. They have a reputation as particularly ferocious predators. And to see one resting like that, beside deer, goats and rabbits — it's incredible."

"All those animals, lying at peace around those boys, like they wanted to be close to them — it's like a dream." Celia rubbed her eyes. "The pigs nuzzled them."

"And there were two boys, not just one."

"The blonde boy is Sol. I don't know who the black-haired boy is." Celia looked down at her hands, then up at her companion. "Oh Hector, the butterflies! All those butterflies fluttering around them. There were butterflies on their heads and shoulders, and they accepted it, as if it was normal. That was the most beautiful thing I ever saw!" Celia spoke slowly as if she were waking up from a deep sleep.

"I feel the same, but for me it was when they galloped around the meadow. They didn't even seem to be holding on, just floating on the backs of those horses, and then they stopped, and that black-haired boy threw his head back and laughed." Hector looked up into the sky. "He looked so fearless and joyful."

"And the way they held each other, the gentleness of their caresses — they may only be kids, but I've never seen such loving behavior, such tenderness." Celia's voice caught in her throat. "What are we going to do? Hector, what are we going to do?"

Hector looked over into a face filled with distress and knew that his own mirrored it.

"This is terrible," said Celia. "We have to do something, but anything we do is going to destroy what we just saw. And what we saw was so beautiful, it would be worse than a sin to destroy it."

Hector looked over Celia's shoulder. A surprisingly large mountain goat poked at the stony incline with a front hoof. He grunted and lowered his head to display sharp, black horns. "Don't look now, Celia, but we have company, a mean-looking mountain goat."

"Yeah, there's an angry bighorn ram coming up behind you, too."

"I bet if we just head back down the way we came, they're not gonna bother us."

Pete waited at Hector's campsite for a half hour. Then he tried to phone Hector again. He heard Hector's phone ringing inside his camper. Pete liked the professor. He had felt an immediate rapport when they first met, and Pete wanted to get to know him better. He scribbled a note and left it on the camper door.

While Pete drove back to the sheriff's headquarters, he thought about the blonde boy, Sol Mundy. He recalled Evan Large's regrets about the events that led to the boy's disappearance. Pete again was struck by how familiar the story seemed. Then he remembered Sol's reaction to the pig shed. It was the same as David's when Pete had taken him fishing. It was an intense identification with the suffering of animals. Sol was a vegan, and David was too. Sol seemed to be living up on Jana Mountain, and David liked to spend a lot of time up there.

When Pete got back to the office, he checked Sol's file. The boys were born in the same year. David had just turned thirteen, and Sol would be thirteen in a few weeks. He remembered David's question, "What if it's a boy?" Pete examined all the coincidences again. Everything fell into place. He knew what he had to do.

The stack of animal incident reports had grown while Pete was out at the park. The most recent reports were worrisome. They seemed to be random. They were not attacks on humans in defense of an animal. They were simply attacks on humans. In town, two high-school boys were playing catch in one boy's back yard. Suddenly a raccoon leaped from a tree onto one of the boys. It bit and clawed him on the face before fleeing. A pensioner walking his dog was stung over a hundred times by hornets. A man chopping wood outside his lakeside cabin was badly mauled by a bear.

Other parts of the state described attacks by swarms of hornets, wasps and bees. There were many of these. Authorities in some areas had advised parents to keep children indoors, though there were no reports of attacks on children.

Reports from more distant areas included several in Spanish, from Mexico. There were also reports from Canada. Whatever it was, it was spreading rapidly.

Most of the incidents involved wild animals, but domestic animals seemed also to have become less tractable. A dairy farmer attempting to remove a new-born calf from its mother was badly butted and trampled by other cows. Two riding stables experienced events when hitherto docile horses had kicked clients. One of the horses, a gelding, had kicked his would-be rider in the groin with extreme force. This damaged the man's scrotum beyond repair. Doctors had to remove what little remained.

In the southeast, alligator attacks on suburbanites were breaking records. An alligator lurking in a golf course water hazard killed a caddie. A congregation of the reptiles had snatched two canoeists from their canoes. They dragged the victims underwater. Rescuers had recovered the partly consumed remains of one body.

When they had eaten the last sandwich, the boys grinned at each other.

"Time to wiggle!" cried Zhiv. They raced for the cave entrance.

Later, David said, "That was so good, even better than yesterday."

"Mmmm. I love wiggling."

David rolled over onto his back. "You know when I told you about those boys who bullied me in the gravel pit?"


"One of them, River Jameson, has come to see me a couple of times. He's the one who got bit by the rattlesnakes. He said he was sorry for what he did and asked me to forgive him. He actually got right down on his knees."


"He seems like a nice kid now. He acts like he wants to be my friend, but I don't know if I trust him. He wants to come up here with me."

"Does he know about me?"

"No, he doesn't know anything about us, or the mara or anything." David rolled onto his side to face Zhiv. "He decided to become a vegan, but that was only a couple of days ago. My mom likes him. What should I do?"

"I can't tell you what to do. You're much better at thinking than I am. But I can tell you what I would do. And I can tell you what I think about bringing someone else up here."

"Go ahead, please."

"Okay. You know how in the mara everything is true. You can't lie in the mara. You can't pretend to be something you're not. What I would do is get real close to him, then go into the mara, and try to see him there. Try to feel him there."

David scratched his head. "You can do that, but…"

"So can you," said Zhiv. "You're just about as strong in the mara now as I am. If he's changed, if he could be one of us, you'll be able to tell."

"What about bringing him up here? What about you? What about us?"

Zhiv pulled David into a tight embrace. "I know I'd be perfectly happy if I never saw anyone besides you, but we need friends too. Maybe River could be the first. I like his name: River. That's nice."

"Can he share everything with us? What if he wants to wiggle?"

"Oh! Yeah! I never thought about that. I don't know. I can't imagine loving anyone the way I love you, and wiggling is part of that. I've never thought about wiggling with anyone else."

"Me neither, but it wouldn't be fair to him if we wanted to wiggle and he did too, and we just told him to sit outside by himself. I don't know if I want to wiggle with him, but I don't want to be mean like that either."

"Let's not decide now. There's no rush. Sit with him in the mara, maybe two or three times. Sit with him until you get a clear feeling of what he's like inside, but don't tell him anything or bring him up here right away. Maybe let him see Kek or Lilili. They're good judges of what a person is like."

"That's a good plan. I knew you would have a good idea."

"Now let's see if we can have another wiggle. C'mon, kiss me. I love it when you kiss me. Then I'll kiss you all over. Then we can wiggle."

"We only have about an hour…"

"We'll have to rush it a bit then. Let's get started."

Hector and Celia talked it through as they made their way back to the campsite. They agreed that neither of them would reveal what they had seen that afternoon. They also agreed that they wanted to contact the boys and talk to them, maybe help them if they needed anything. The boys clearly had an extraordinary relationship with animals — almost the exact opposite of what was happening everywhere else. Hector wondered if they could offer any insight into the rising number of hostile animal incidents. The main problem was how to contact the boys. Neither he nor Celia was able to come up with a way to do that.

Hector read the note Pete had left on his camper door.

"It's from Pete McAdam. He came out here to see me today. He says he needs to talk to me, and it's important. He invites me to come to his house and have dinner with him and his family tonight."

"Oh." Celia's face fell. She had been looking forward to her date with Hector. After what she had seen that day, she wanted to be with Hector that night.

"Hey, you know Pete. There's no reason we both can't go. It's not some kind of formal thing. Let me give him a call and make sure it's okay. If not, I'll meet Pete tomorrow, and tonight, you and I will find a restaurant with some good food and a good bottle of wine."

Hector retrieved his phone from his camper and called the deputy. Pete assured him that Celia would be very welcome.

Hector said, "Pete, I always like to warn people that I'm not a very good guest. I'm a strict vegan. I don't mean you have to cook something special for me, just that I only eat vegetables or plants." He waited for the uncertainty that usually followed this disclaimer.

Pete laughed. "You'll be in good company then, Hector. This is a vegan house."

"Wonderful! I've been vegan for years and Celia's been vegetarian since she was a girl. It's great you're vegan, Pete. See you at seven."

"Hi Mrs. McAdam. Is David home?"

"Hi River. No, he's not here yet, but come in. You wanna do some more cooking while we wait for him?"

"That'd be great!"

"We're gonna have company for supper tonight, so I have to cook more than usual. I hope you can stay for supper too?"

"I don't wanna be any trouble. I been eating here a lot."

"River, you're trying to be a vegan. I know that's hard for a kid, so I'm happy when you can eat here with us. Anyway, it helps us get to know you better."

"Thanks. It's nice for me to get to know you, too. I really like it here. You got a nice house."

"Thank you, River. Okay. You already had guacamole here and hummus. There's another kind of dip I often make called baba ghanoush. I already did the first part, but maybe you can do the rest. These are roasted eggplants. I want you to peel them and mash them into this bowl."

Doreen laid out the other ingredients. River stirred them in while Doreen told him the amounts needed.

"What's this?" River held up the jar of tahini.

"Tahini. It's like peanut butter only it's ground up sesame seeds instead of ground peanuts."

When River had mixed in the last ingredient, Doreen handed him a spoon. "Okay, now taste it and tell me what you think."

David came into the kitchen and hugged Doreen. "Hey, River."

"Hi David." River licked the spoon. "That is so good!"

"Baba ghanoush! My favorite!" cried David. He reached a finger towards the bowl.

Doreen pushed his hand back. "No fingers in the food. We're having guests tonight for supper."

"River's a kid, not a guest. He's like us."

River blushed.

"Yeah," said Doreen. "But there's some other people coming that your dad knows from work. We're not gonna be eating till later, around seven-thirty, so you and River can share this, until then." She handed a plate of pita bread and a bowl of the baba ghanoush to David.

"C'mon, Riv! Let's skedaddle outta here!"

'Riv!' thought River, and smiled. He followed David as he ran up the stairs, two at a time.

David dropped his pack and flopped onto the bed. "I'm beat. This hot weather is too much. Even with an e-bike, I get tired of pedaling. We should have got something to drink from the kitchen. What's up with you, River?" David pulled his shoes and socks off.

"I took the bus to the mall today and got some information on e-bikes, but I still don't know much about them. I thought maybe you could tell me the best kind to buy." River dug some e-bike makers' information pages from his pocket.

David sat up. "River, you're a dream come true. Last night you asked me about veganism, and tonight, here you are asking me about my second passion, e-bikes! Okay, here's a deal: you go downstairs and beg my mom for two glasses of her iced tea with lots of ice cubes. I wanna jump in the shower. By the time you get back, I'll be cleaner and cooler. We can talk about e-bikes and other stuff while we demolish this baba ghanoush. Okay?"

River thought, 'other stuff?' as he went downstairs. He wasn't worried. He always felt good in this house.

Five minutes later, he returned with two glasses beaded with condensation. David was standing naked, looking critically at a pair of skimpy shorts. He held them up for River's inspection.

"What do you think, River? I want to wear as little as possible but still be socially acceptable."

"Just my opinion, but those shorts are too small to wear with guests. Find some that are longer and add a T-shirt."

David donned the satiny, lightweight shorts and laid out a longer pair and a clean T-shirt. "These shorts will do for now. I'll change when we go down for supper." He strolled over to the window and opened it as wide as possible. "I love this upstairs bedroom, but it gets so hot in summer." He turned to River. "You can take off your T-shirt if you like. You'll be more comfortable, and I won't feel like such a nudist. Okay?" He downed half of his iced tea.

River shucked his T-shirt.

"I'll tell you a secret," said David. "If you take off your shoes and socks, too, you'll feel a lot cooler.

"You're right." River flexed his toes. "It lets the air get to the tootsies."

"The 'tootsies!'" David snickered and sprawled crosswise on his bed. "Okay, c'mere with your tootsies, and show me those e-bike pamphlets you brought."

David put the last pamphlet down and looked at River. "You're a little bigger than I am, and you've got more muscles, but there's not really much difference between us. All these bikes look pretty good, but I still think the best is the same as I've got. It isn't the cheapest, but I really like it. It's got a big battery, so you can ride it for a long time without worrying you're gonna have to pedal it home without any power."

"Thanks, David."

"So, are you gonna buy one, or what?"

"I hope so. I've got some money saved up, and maybe I can get the rest from my dad."

"Hey, after supper we can go for a little ride. You can ride my e-bike and see if you like it."

"That would be great."

They finished the baba ghanoush in silence.

David put the empty plate and bowl on his desk. "I said I wanted to talk to you about some other stuff."

"Yeah, sure."

"You ever see that series, 'Star Trek?'"


"I mean the old one, the original one?"

"Yeah. My brother, Aaron, is a trekkie, and we watch them together sometimes."

"Sometimes Spock does a thing — the 'Vulcan mind-meld.' He joins his mind to someone else's mind."

"Yeah, I saw one like that. He kinda puts his hand on someone's face."

"I know it's weird, but I wanna try that with you. I don't mean the hand on the face part but just the mind-meld."

"Whatever you want to do, David, I'm okay with it."

David pushed the pamphlets to one side. "Okay, Riv. Scooch over here right up close beside me so we're touching all along our bodies. C'mon, put your arm around my neck, like this. Get comfortable. I want us to lie like this for ten or fifteen minutes. You okay?" He tapped his toes on the top of River's foot.

River tapped back against David's toes. "Yeah. I'm okay." For River, to be so close to David like this was like the fulfillment of a dream.

"Okay. Just close your eyes and drift. Focus on where we're touching, what it feels like. Don't try to make anything happen. Just watch the pictures in your mind come and go."

River slid a hand inside his shorts and adjusted the erection that had swollen up from so much skin-to-skin contact with David. He sneaked a glance at David, afraid that he might have noticed.

David smiled at him as he eased his own erection upright. It made a bump in the silky shorts he was wearing. "Don't worry about that, River. It happens. It's natural. It's a good sign that maybe we can mind-meld. Now close your eyes, and watch what you see and feel in your mind."

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