As promised, here is the second chapter of HOG WASHED. And again, click here to become a backer for this project and help us publish it!
THE GREAT INDOORS
The next morning, Reggie watched with a new level of interest as Breezy received his weekly grooming from the farmer. He stuck his snout through the pigpen fence and rested his chin on the second rail from the bottom so that he could relax as he watched.
The farmer whistled for Breezy as he held the garden hose over a big washtub, filling it almost to the brim with cold, clear water. Reggie looked down at the mud puddle he was standing in. As Breezy bounded up, barking cheerfully, the farmer rubbed the dog’s furry head, smiled and laughed, and when he scratched Breezy behind the ears, Breezy’s eyes closed, his smile got wider, and his back right leg twitched in time to the rhythm of the rub. Reggie tied to reach up and rub his own head, but his leg was too short. Then he tried twitching his back leg, but he only lost his balance and staggered a few steps to the left.
Next, the farmer motioned with his hand, and Breezy jumped into the tub. The farmer knelt down, put one hand behind the dog’s head, and with his other hand, he scooped up the sparkling water and rubbed it into Breezy’s fur until he looked half his normal size. Breezy stood in the water, dripping all over and shivering a little, despite the warm sunshine. The farmer squeezed a green liquid into one hand, then rubbed it into Breezy’s coat. This was Reggie’s favorite part. Soon, Breezy was completely white, with only his eyes, nose, and tongue showing through the suds.
The farmer kept rubbing and squeezing, rubbing and squeezing, and Breezy was enjoying every second. After that, the farmer took the bright green water hose and let the water pour all over the dog. This was where Reggie cold not help laughing out loud. Breezy the fluffy became Breezy the scrawny. It always amazed Reggie how small and skinny his friend looked at this stage. Finally, the farmer stood, tossed the hose onto the ground, stepped back, and said, “Okay Breezy, fire away!” Breezy then shook like he had been wanting to shake for the last five minutes, and soap flew in every direction, almost as if he had exploded all the love that had just been rubbed into him. Then he jumped out of the washtub like a shot and ran around so fast that all Reggie could see was a black-and-white blur. After a few minutes of watching Breezy roll around in the grass to dry himself, the farmer did something that somehow made Reggie ache with longing- he held open the front door, whistled once, low and soft, and smiled as Breezy pranced inside the house.
Reggie wondered what it was like inside the house. He had heard stories, of course, but he had never been. Pigs were not allowed inside. The dog could go in, sometimes a cat would wander by and be invited, and once the old goat got confused and ended up in the farmer’s upstairs linen closet, but no one had ever known a pig to set hoof inside. Reggie couldn’t even imagine what it looked like in there, but he could imagine what it felt like, because he could hear the sounds. He could hear running and laughter, barking and the playful growling that accompanied the squeak of rubber toys. Reggie thought of the new word he had heard yesterday. I wonder, he thought, is that what love sounds like?
As Reggie listened more intently, he heard another sound coming from a different direction. This one was coming up the dirt road. It sounded vaguely like the farmer’s truck, but not as rattling and clanky. He looked to the left, and saw, coming around the big oak tree, a new thing with four wheels approaching the house. The driver looked a lot like the farmer, only younger. As this new machine came closer, it made a strange honking sound, then dust flew as it stopped abruptly by the front door. The farmer stepped out of the house, arms open wide, smile even wider, and the young farmer unfolded himself from the contraption and embraced the older man.
“Oh,” said Reggie to no one, “so that’s the son.” Breezy came bounding out next, running around the son’s legs five times before they all went back inside. As soon as they disappeared, Reggie was overwhelmed by the feeling of being left out. There they all were, inside. Together. With that love thing. He heard talking. Then laughter. Talking again. He saw the big apple pie that was cooling in the kitchen window disappear. Clinking. Something scraped across wood. Sighs and murmurs of “mmmmm, that’s good.” And Reggie couldn’t take any more. He had to get a look inside that house.
He went over to the shady corner of the pigpen, where the fence met up with the big tree. Reggie knew, and had known since we has a piglet, that if you held your head just right, held your breath just right, and pushed real hard with your back legs, a pig his size could just squeeze through a gap between the last fencepost and the tree, where the ground had gotten soft from rain puddles. Reggie did all these things, felt the gentle scrape and pressure of wood against his belly, and popped through the space, tumbling softly onto the grass on the other side. Although all the pigs knew about this hole, no one ever used it, because why would they? They had everything they needed in the pigpen. Pigs, it was understood, were not a very adventurous sort.
Reggie curved around the big tree and felt the sun shine down on his back as he left the shadows and headed for the house. Many times, he had watched as Breezy had come bounding out what he had called the “screen door.” Reggie had noticed that you could see through it before it swung back and banged against the house. He had just heard that same bang when they had all gone into the house a moment ago, and by the sounds drifting out, he knew that the heavy inside door was still open. Maybe, if he was lucky, he might be able to sneak a look through it and finally see this place he had been dreaming about.
Reggie, as quietly as a pig can be quiet, shuffled up the one small step onto the back stoop and inched his scruffy head closer to the screen door. The sounds and smells that wafted out to him made him a little bit woozy with delight, but soon he concentrated again on looking inside. He had to squint just right to focus beyond the wire mesh screen, but as he watched, the moving shapes began to take recognizable form. The farmer and his son were sitting at a table, talking, nodding their heads, and laughing, all while spooning heaping gobs of ice cream and apple pie into their mouths. Breezy stood between them on his hind legs, tongue hanging out, front paws on the table. It looked to Reggie as if Breezy was as much a part of the conversation as the two men. He nodded at the right times, wagged his tail, and Reggie was pretty sure that he even saw the dog laugh and shake his head at some kind of shared joke.
In a few minutes, the men rose from the table, laid their dishes in the sink, and, still talking, moved into a larger room beyond the kitchen. The farmer lowered himself into a contraption unlike anything Reggie had ever seen. At first, Reggie thought that the farmer had lost his balance and was accidentally falling into the jaws of a big, brown animal’s gaping mouth to be swallowed up, and was about to squeal out a warning, but when the farmer sat down, the thing that Reggie now saw was a chair, welcomed him by popping a small footrest out of its inner parts. The farmer’s son walked to a longer, softer-looking version of the chair. “Where’d you get this couch, Dad?” the son asked.
“Old Lady Perkins was selling it in a yard sale.”
“How much did you pay for it?”
“Well, nothing. She likes me.”
“Hm. You still paid too much.”
The son sat down on it anyway, and what Reggie saw next made time stand still. As soon as the son’s weight settled onto the couch, Breezy leaped into the air and landed squarely in his lap. The son kept talking to the farmer, but while he was talking, he rubbed Breezy behind the ears, dug his fingers into Breezy’s fur and scratched him, and sometimes he just gently rubbed his coat with a gentle, smoothing motion. Breezy looked like he never wanted to move from that place.
So, thought Reggie, that’s what love looks like.