Updated: Oct 27, 2019
When the laughter died away, they looked around at the surrounding dense forest. The light was dimmer than in the orchard and a chill came over Charlie. He looked up and saw his coat hanging in the branches and his hat was long gone. He hugged his arms together, seeking warmth.
“Where are we?” he asked. “I’m c-c-cold.”
Walter glanced through the brush and worry began to creep into his expression. “This is Sans Soucie Forest. They say it is haunted with the spirits of a hundred animals. I used to sit in the field at night and listen to the scary sounds emanating from here.” Then he buried himself in the comfort of the leaves.
They took a quiet breath and a head suddenly popped up from underneath the pile! Beady little eyes and big floppy ears tousled about in the leaves causing Walter to jump backward and roll down the huge mound. Charlie wasn’t going to be left behind so he rolled down after him.
“What was that?” Charlie asked, rubbing his head and knocking the dry flakes out of his hair.
“I don’t know,” Walter shrugged.
They could hear rustling coming toward them from under the pile, but before they could jump up and run, the head popped out again. It was a pig with a patch over one eye, earrings in its ears, and a blue bird tattooed on its shoulder. “It’s a pirate pig!” Walter exclaimed.
“Hi, I’m Pippin! Have you seen my truffle treasure?” Pippin sniffed the air with his enormous snout. Whiff, whiff. He rummaged through the leaves snorting and grunting.
Walter and Charlie looked at one another and puzzled at Pippin’s odd antics. They’d never seen a pirate pig who ate truffles. “We don’t think we have seen any.” Walter said.
“What are truffles?” Charlie asked. He remembered meeting Pansy in the barn. She had mentioned something about truffles, but he never got a chance to ask what they looked like.
Pippin raised his ears with a big smile and his earrings jingled like bells on a sleigh. The air was filled with the smell of sour mash and mud. Walter’s eyes watered as the intense odor radiated from Pippin and Walter moved upwind from the pig.
“Why, truffles are little balls of the most delicious treats in the forest!” Pippin said. “They grow underground and I love to eat ‘em!”
“Oh, yes!” hidden voices chimed. Then two more pigs popped up. “Will y’all help us find them?” they sang in unison.
Charlie dug into the soft dirt and felt three spongy balls tickle his fingertips. He cupped them gently and pulled them up. The three pig’s eyes got huge at the sight of the truffles. They bounced around, celebrating the sweet aroma that filled the air. Charlie tossed each pig a truffle and they gobbled them down. When they finished, they rolled over onto their backs and Charlie rubbed their tummies.
Satisfied, Pippin rolled back over and took a deep breath before flopping down causing a flurry of leaves to leap into the air. “Ah, truffles are amazing,” he signed.
Sporting a friendly smile, he inquired, “Your new to the forest, aren’t you? Why are you here?”
“I think we’re lost.” Walter said. “Can you help us get back to the farm?”
“Farm… Pippin, weren’t you from a farm?” one of Pippin’s friends asked.
Pippin’s smile slacked and his gaze drifted. “Yeah, I once lived on a farm. It was warm in the winter and plenty to eat. I remember the goats and the chickens and there was a lizard who guarded the kitchen garden,” he recalled with a sad tone in his voice. “One day I got out of the pig pen and caught a whiff of yummy truffles which led me deep into the forest. I roamed around lost for a long time and then I met you guys!” He pointed at his sidekicks. They were black and furry where Pippin was much larger and pink. “These are Poppy and Paula, my buds for life! They’re not pigs, like me. They’re javelinas. They saved me and helped me learn to live in the woods.” Then a thought occurred to Pippin: “Hey, you can join our crew and we can teach you how to live in the woods, too! The forest is full of treasures, like yummy truffles and silky mud.”
A cold wind blew across the group and Pippin’s ears jingled. “Night will be falling soon,” he said. He couldn’t help but think back on the warmth of the farm, especially the hot apple juice. Still, the exciting thought of Walter and Charlie joining the crew mellowed his longing for home. Besides, he thought, “I’d miss Poppy and Paula.”
A song bird began to belt out an evening tune and it yanked him out of his conundrum. Everyone froze. Robin always heralds the setting sun. Her song evoked a sense of dread in the party because they knew it signaled dusk was approaching.
She sang, “The sun is falling, the sun is falling! Soon it will be dusk. Dusk is coming and soon it will be dark!”
It was a tune Walter knew well. As a young pumpkin living in the field, he heard Robin’s songs all day. He knew her morning song and her noon tunes. He knew when she started her evening song that it wouldn’t be long before it would be pitch black and she would start her night-time lullaby. Each night he fell asleep to her lovely voice.
“Her voice, her voice!” he said. “This gives me an idea.” He began to bounce again and soon he was high enough to catch her attention.
She paused long enough to say “Hi, Walter! What’s up? Why are you bouncing so high?”
Walter fell downward before he could answer.
On his next upward bounce, Walter said “Robin!” Then he quickly explained their predicament before falling to the ground once more.
“Ah, ha!” she sang. “Stay here and I’ll go get help.” She leapt into the air, swooped down and grazed Charlie’s head before flying off.
“Robin is going for help.” Walter said to the others and they snuggled close together for warmth as the sun fell through the trees.
They sat waiting and waiting. It seemed to last for hours and they shivered in the cold. The brush was dense where they lay. The light from the sun retreated from their nest and it got darker. Charlie was scared and he looked for comfort in Walter’s eyes when he saw a glint of light emanate from the underbrush. The glint grew to a glow as he looked for the source of the light. Through the trees it floated and he jumped up to get a better look. Then he called out, “Over here, over here, we are over here!”
A shrill, “Baa! Baa!” Sounded from behind the light.
“Missy... Missy, is that you?” Walter said.
“Yes, it’s me! Oh, Walter the whole farm is out of their mind with worry.” Missy the Lamb said. “Robin came with news of your location and I knitted these two wool sweaters for you to get warm, baa, baa. The others are coming to help and we will get y’all home, baa, baa.” She pulled two fine sweaters off of her back and they slipped them on. Then she snuggled up to the three pigs to keep them warm with her thick wool coat.
“Thanks, Missy. This is the warmest sweater I’ve ever felt.” Charlie said as he gave Missy a hug then kissed her little black nose. Missy fluttered her eyelids, blushed, and made a shy squeak.
The sound of hooves yielded a massive brown cow pushing through the underbrush balancing two mugs of warm milk on her head.
“Margret,” Walter sighed with relief. Behind her the goats carried apples, the chickens had crackers, and Moose the Mouse was perched atop a cart pulled by Mercury the pony. Reba and Ralph sat on a bed of straw tucked in the back of the cart.
Walter, Charlie, and their friends danced wit