It was that early in the morning it was still dark. I crouched down on all fours and peered into the General’s house. I could just make him out laying sprawled on one of his gigantic sides taking up half the pig ark, and beside him the shapes of three other pigs.
My first thought was to wake the lazy pigs up, bang on the tin roof and yell that I had breakfast and it was a lovely morning and what on earth were they still doing in bed? But I didn’t. I did the opposite. Without thinking, I crept in.
I crawled through the straw careful to avoid bumping into the sleeping group until I was behind the General. Then I lay down next to him, put him arm over his shoulder, and spooned into a cuddle behind him.
It was warm and the air smelled of fresh straw and that kind of musky scent of pig. It’s not unpleasant. He wriggled a bit as he got used to my body behind him, and then fell still.
I felt small in that way you sometimes feel small when you look up at the stars on a really clear, really dark night. Small not because it seems so big, but small because you feel so close and kind of surrounded. Small in the comforted sense of the word.
I guess I did feel comforted. Since my first pig Kylie died, I’d become really good mates with the General. We kind of hung out together, nothing excessive, just when I went down to feed I’d spend a bit of time with him. I liked to tell him what’s going on with everyone on the farm, and I swear he likes to keep up with the gossip.
Laying there listening to the General and the three snore and shuffle about in their sleep, it was like I was a kid again and having a sleep-over with my friends. I thought of the last sleep-over I had before reaching the age where it became un-cool, probably about nine or ten. I thought about camping trips with the school. I thought about—wooh! One of the pigs let out the most violent wind that smelled like it had been trapped for some considerable time in the folds of Satan’s underpants. Yep, just like camping with the school.
Outside it was beginning to get light. I’d come down early to feed so I could get on with the day. I stroked the General’s side. I had loads to do, loads to be getting on with. I stoked him some more. I should get up. I let my eyes slip closed. My last thought before I drifted off to sleep was that I really, really shouldn’t have closed my eyes.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
I grabbed my head and ducked.
“Simon!” Debbie yelled.
Confused. Banging. Lots of noise, keep down - hang on, where am I—oh.
I opened my eyes. The pigs had gone. I was alone in the ark. In the doorway Debbie stood staring in. She didn’t look happy. I struggled up onto my knees and smiled. “Morning,” I said.
She rolled her eyes and looked like she wished she’d had the presence of mind to bring a rolling pin. “I’ve been worried sick,” she said.
Beside her the General poked his head around the opening. I gave him a look like, you could have woken me!
“And you needn’t look so pleased with yourself,” she told him, swiping him on the neck. He made a Mm sound and wandered off. Looking back she said to me, “you left a sack of feed outside. Between the four of them they’ve scoffed nearly all of it. Simon, it’s nine o’clock!”
I rolled back into the straw. “I can explain,” I said.