Chapter 3 – Beef Stew

Bobos sat by the edge of the pen, listening over the sounds of the retreating storm as the last bits of wind still kicked up in bursts, rattling loose boards around the farm and whistling through small gaps.  The light rain had mostly stopped but a small pitter-patter of drops was still falling as the treetops waved against the stark dark blue sky in the distance.

It was not a normal thing for him, sitting quietly – usually, he was letting off pent up energy by scampering through the cool mud of the pen or swinging from beam to beam among the barn rafters.  On the rare occasion that the farm had visitors, they might catch a glimpse of a roly-poly thing caked head to toe in layers of wet dirt (and no clothes) dashing around the farm on all fours like a wild beast, but few in the village were even aware that Herman had a child and even fewer ever made the leap connecting the two.  And who could blame them? The ragtag imp with long, filthy, and horribly matted hair barely looked human and certainly didn’t act like it; no, he was much more like the pigs he lived among.

But tonight Bobos was still and quiet and very unlike a pig, and he listened with intense attention to the sounds coming from the cottage down the small hill.  He had even dug the mud out of his ears – with great reluctance – so he could hear better.  Although the Mean Man’s yelling was loud enough that he really hadn’t needed to have bothered.

The Mean Man.

That’s how Bobos thought of him, anyway, at least in short.  More formally, to his mind, he was the Red-Nosed Mean Man with the Yellow Corn Cob Pipe. The slightly bulbous nose was full of tiny broken blood vessels that almost matched his naturally pale but now sunburned skin. The pipe itself was ever-present, as much a part of the face as his eyes or ears, clenched between teeth stained brown from years of its use.

The Red-Nosed Mean Man with the Yellow Corn Cob Pipe had been very angry this evening.  He was angry a lot, but some days, like today, were worse than others.

It usually didn’t matter to Bobos.  He made sure to keep out of sight, kept out of the way, and found that life was easier that way.  On days when the weather was poor, he spent his time inside the barn sleeping, and when the weather was good he would take to exploring the land around the small farm, roaming through the fields and woods in secret down to the village, or walking along the shoreline of nearby Brightwater Lake where he would gleefully spend hours collecting shiny pebbles and fish hooks.  Sometimes his wanderings would take him far enough to the north that he could hear the crashing surf of the Great Sea and watch the breakers come in to dash themselves against the rocky coast in an explosion of salty foam.

Bobos startled briefly as the sound of something breaking echoed across the fields, then relaxed again.  This was all part of the pattern had learned to discern over his brief years: the night would start with loud swearing and the sounds of ceramic cracking or wood splintering, but as the evening waxed strong the words would slur and become incomprehensible until, at last, they would stop altogether to be replaced with the sound of snoring.

Bobos was waiting with all the patience he could muster for this last part.

A mournful grunt sounded from behind him and he turned his head.

Mama Pig was still lying in the mud in a corner of the pen, facing not towards the slatted cedar fence but the solid wood wall of the barn, looking at nothing, her stare vacant and forlorn.

They had come and taken her babies away today.

The months since their birth had seen Mama Pig’s children grow from little piglets into large male boars and female gilts, but they were always her babies.  To Bobos, they were his siblings, his brothers and sisters.

And now they were, most of them, gone.  Worse, this wasn’t the first time this sad dance had played out.


The first time was many seasons ago: one cold morning while Bobos was still asleep inside the barn, he was jarred awake by the sounds of high-pitched squeals coming from the pen.  Stumbling from his hiding place in the barn loft, trailing hay, he pressed a bleary eye against one of the boards in the siding where a knot had fallen out.

It was a scene of chaos below.

Men – strangers – were trying to round up the larger pigs, mostly by poking or prodding with sharp sticks while yelling at the top of their lungs.  The pigs for their part were using all of their considerable bulk to run rampant around the pen to avoid the sticks, churning the lumpy mud into a fine brown low-friction slurry that made it hard to even stand, much less move.

Bobos had no idea what was happening or who the men were, but they were scaring the pigs, that much was clear.  A familiar voice, louder than all the others, cut through the ruckus.

“Careful, you idiots! I need them undamaged!”  The familiar yellow corn cob pipe came into view.

Bobos drew back, frightened.

He began to withdraw back to his hiding place when a scream froze him in his tracks.

Mama Pig!

He had never heard her make the sound before, but he knew it was her and he rushed back to the hole in the siding.

Normally as complacent and calm as a lazy summer evening, the Mama Pig Bobos saw then was every bit a raging thunderstorm, biting and snapping with a fierceness Bobos had never seen before, screaming in rage and fright.  Watching the men flee before her wild charges, he would have thought it all quite comical if he hadn’t seen how upset and frantic she was.

One of the strangers, a man tall and ruddy with a bald spot and thick gray sideburns, threw a vicious kick at Mama Pig as she dashed past.  She fell heavily, struggling to right herself.  The bald man tried to stomp down on one of her feet for good measure, but as he lifted a heavy boot, the Mean Man came in close and swept his other leg out from under him and he crashed to the ground.  Before he could understand what was happening, the Mean Man had grabbed him by the collar of his muddy coat and hoisted him in the air.

“That’s my prize pig!” he yelled into the bald man’s face, which blanched to a pale white.  The Mean Man, eyes twitching now, stared into the other man’s eyes for long seconds before lowering him slowly to the ground.  With a final glare and a growl, the Mean Man went back to trying to supervise the collection of the young pigs.

Anger swept the remaining stubborn remnants of sleep from Bobos’ eyes as he saw his opportunity.  While they were all distracted, he flew down like a raptor from his perch in the loft, landing on the man who had kicked Mama Pig in a cacophonous fury of yells and rage and biting teeth.  Before the others had managed to throw a burlap tarp over his head and wrap him up with coils of rope, he had already bitten a huge fleshy chunk from the bald man’s ear and nearly severed the thumb of another man with his teeth.

The Mean Man roared with unexpected laughter as the bald man clutched at his head in pain.

“What the fel you laughing at?”

“Ha, he’s a scrapper, that one!”  He slapped at his knee as tears streamed from his eyes. “And strong as an Alterac yeti!  Did you know, he was crawling and rolling around from DAMNED DAY ONE! A beast!  You best watch yourselves, boys!”  And he started laughing again, more loudly than before, so that he finally had to sit down to regain his composure.

The bald man had fetched a torn handkerchief from one his pockets and was holding it to the side of his head.  “Bastard damn near chewed my ear off, an’ you think it’s funny…” he grumbled loudly.

“Ah, stop your whining,” Herman said, the humor finally fading from him.  “You let him get up in your face like that, you damned deserve what you get.  He may be big for his age but he’s barely five.”

The claim drew incredulous stares from the others and they glanced at each other.

“You’re full of shit, Herman, ain’t no way he’s only  -”

Another man chimed in, interrupting.  “Damned bastard’s bigger than my 10-year old brat and he’s as big as some of these here hogs!”

Herman waved their protestations away with a gesture of his hands. “Believe what you want,” he said.  “Doesn’t make a damn difference to me.”  He began walking casually over to where Bobos lay on the ground, struggling and moaning.

Trussed up and immobilized, Bobos had been oblivious to the conversation around him.  As soon as he’d been wrapped up, he had started moaning in sudden fear, desperately flopping and flailing on the ground like a brilliant smallfish brought up into the air, suffocating, gasping for breath.  So he didn’t sense that someone was now standing over him until a sudden kick to his head knocked him unconscious.

“But don’t worry about your ear none,” Herman continued as if nothing had happened.  “We’ll teach him a lesson when we’re done here.  The freak has to learn his place.”

And so they left him like that – tied up – for hours while they completed their work and the bulk of the pigs had been hauled away to market.

Then, just as Herman had promised, they had beaten young Bobos to within an inch of his life.  In the end, oddly enough, it was the bald man who put a stop to things, satisfied that Bobos had suffered enough.  Herman had initially resisted but when he saw the looks of agreement on the faces of the other men, he had grudgingly acquiesced.

Still covered in the tarp, now bloody and torn, the men filed one by one past Bobos as he lay still in the mud of the pen, too weak to move or to even cry out.

Mama Pig had come to him then, using her teeth to bite through the ropes, to pull away the burlap, freeing Bobos so that he could finally see again and breathe freely.  A series of snuffles and snorts directed a handful of the remaining pigs to help, and together they were able to bring Bobos some of the more solid bits of slop from the trough to eat.  On the cold nights, Mama Pig had the other pigs crowd around her and Bobos for warmth.

Slowly, Bobos regained his strength and spirits.

Three days passed before he could sit up without coughing up blood, four more before he could stand on wobbly legs, and another week before he could walk without needing handholds.  A limp stayed with him for two months more.

But bad as the physical pain and recovery had been for Bobos, it was the feeling of helplessness and terror from being cocooned like a spider’s prey that had stayed with him for far longer.  When he was younger, he had watched with fascination one day as a spider had wrapped up a horsefly that stumbled into its web; now, having sensed the same utter sense of powerlessness, of vulnerability that that fly must have felt, he had learned to fear it intensely.

Ever since, when the men came, he did not fight.  And the thought shamed him. But he could not risk being caught like that again, so helpless.

Never again.


Today he had jumped down from his spot in the barn rafters as soon as he had satisfied himself that the men had left and weren’t coming back.  He knew, of course, how Mama Pig would be feeling and he felt a deep need to help her.  She had been and was his caretaker and protector, the only mother he had ever known, the only creature on this earth to treat him with unconditional love and kindness

As soon as his feet hit the floor of the barn, he dashed out into the pen and its mud, mud that was quickly drying out after the activity of the day.

A storm had been approaching then, one of many that had rolled in from the east the past few weeks, towering dark clouds laden with moisture soaked up from the Great Sea.  The encroaching dimness was still shot through with streaks of sunlight

Mama Pig, huddled in a corner, moaned weakly when the bright light touched her exposed skin.  Hurriedly, Bobos wallowed over to her and began scooping up great gobs of the drying, thickening mud.  With practiced hands, he sloshed the lumpy brown sludge onto her body and began to work it all over her, even as the heat had continued to bake it.  Still, the mud would be cool under the surface where it touched her skin, and that should be enough.

She grunted in appreciation.

So lost was he in his thoughts as he worked that he was almost startled when the first raindrops began to fall.  He looked around, surprised.  The sun was still shining down on the farm, but a glance skywards showed that the heavens were darkening and swollen with rain it could no longer hold.

Now Bobos was running into a different problem.  The mud, so thick and hard to spread before, was now starting to be washed off as fast as he could apply it.  He redoubled his efforts, but it was now a race against the weather and finally, he had begun to see the futility as the heavy drops began to fall faster and faster.

Mama Pig had sensed it as well.  She let out a small series of grunts and snuffles: it was okay, she said.

Bobos smiled weakly at her in reply.

She was right, of course.  The rain would help keep her cool just as well as the mud.

But for him, the mud represented more than just simple protection from the sun and insulation from the elements for Mama Pig.  It was a ritual for him, a way he could express his appreciation – his love – for her and all that she had ever done for him.  Being deprived of that means of expression made him feel impotent and useless.

He grunted back softly.

Something in his voice caused Mama Pig to turn towards him.

Their eyes locked then as the last lone ray of sunlight was finally pinched off, the rain washing away enough mud from the both of them so they each saw clearly the sadness in the other’s eyes.

After a while, the swearing stopped.  Bobos ventured a look at the house.  There was still a lamp burning, but no movement.  And the rain had passed, at least for now.  By the look of things there would be more rain later, but not for a few hours.

The sun was getting low in the sky to the west, while off to the east, in the wake of the storm, a rainbow had formed, its stunning arcs of color an arched vault across the landscape.

Bobos took it as a good omen.

It was time.

As if in protest, his stomach growled.  But he pushed his hunger aside; if all went well, he’d be able to eat enough to quell the beast in his belly for at least a while.

Right now, he had a task in front of him.

He climbed cautiously over the fence of the pen and crept slowly towards the small cottage, moving carefully over the narrow strip of farmland that lay between it and the pen.  The distance was perhaps eighty yards, but right now it was nothing but uneven dirt, roots, and weeds left over from the harvesting of a rich crop of asparagus two weeks earlier.

As he moved, he cast his senses as far and wide as he could, probing for any signs that the Mean Man was anything but dead asleep.  His eyes were flat and cold, penetrating, soaking in details.  Like a cat, he crept step by step, ears listening for any change to the pattern of snores, nose sniffing the air for anything out of the ordinary, but in the wake of the rain, he mostly smelled the strong but normal outgassing from the low-pressure system still passing through this part of Lordaeron.

His anxiety began to peak as he neared the cottage, but the continued loud snoring emanating from within put him back at ease.  Passing a front corner, he moved around towards the back.

This was his destination.

Carefully, he peeked over the low stone wall that ran outwards from the rear corners of the simple structure creating a small but enclosed open space.

He grinned then.

They were still there: apples.

Luck was on his side that they’d not yet been hauled off to market.   Most of the barrels had been stored in a small, cool area under the house only reachable from the back.  He wouldn’t risk trying to get at those, but one of the barrels still stood outside along the wall under a canvas awning that provided some shade but little else in the way of protection from the elements.

Cautiously, eyes and senses still focused on the cottage, he slowly reached over the wall to grab an apple.

It felt cool to the touch, firm but with a little give.

He decided to venture a small bite: sour, he thought, with a slight vinegary taste.  Definitely overripe, but not much and still delicious in comparison to the usual fare of slops and leftovers.

He placed the apple in the sack he had brought with him and reached for another.

And another and another until he felt he had just enough.  He didn’t want to take too many and attract attention; he just wanted enough for a surprise gift for Mama Pig, with maybe a few left for himself.

Bobos swung the sack of apples over his broad shoulders and moved away from the wall and back towards the pen up the hill, picking his way slowly across the uneven ground.  He kept to the same slow but stealthy gait that he had used on the first half of his mission.

Ten steps across the damp dirt, twenty, thirty.

He froze, eyes suddenly widening.

Something had stopped him dead in his tracks and his heart raced as he tried to puzzle out why his legs had ceased moving.  He sensed something, but what?

And then he caught it.

A scent, moving on the light breeze.  Something flavorsome, a tantalizing mix of beef and spices, garlic and herbs.  And so strong.

He wondered how he hadn’t smelled it before.  Maybe he’d been too fixated on his original mission.  No, that wasn’t it, he realized; rather, the wind had shifted direction and he had been upwind before.  In the end, it didn’t matter, he was smelling it now and it was intoxicating and overwhelming. He turned his head this way and that, zeroing in on the smell.  When the obvious realization hit him, that it was coming from the cottage, his heart sank.  The cottage was the very place he needed to be away from, and the sooner the better.

His stomach, sensing his intent to be away from this place, lurched and howled in disappointment.  Bobos tried to ignore it: he needed to get back to the pen with the apples for Mama Pig.  But that smell!  Bobos could hardly control himself.  He stood there, trembling, as fear and duty warred with desire and hunger.  Finally, with a supreme act of will, he turned away from the cottage with a regretful shrug and resumed his slow march back home.


The interior of the cottage was disheveled beyond belief.  Broken chairs and dirty cracked dishes competed with torn and threadbare clothes and empty reeking jugs for floor space, while the walls were grimy and soot-stained.  The unmade bed featured ragged yellowing sheets wadded up into a loose ball against the wall, the lone pillow flat and lifeless.  Even though Bobos had grown up in the relative squalor of the pig pen, he recognized that what he was seeing was untidiness and disorganization on a whole different level.  The pen was full of mud and muck, but on its own terms it was still quite tidy, and it exuded a certain warm charm; it was a home.  This, on the other hand, was not a home, it felt to Bobos, but just a place.  Instead of charm, it radiated only a very faint malaise, a feeling that something was out of kilter with the rest of the world. Bobos, feeling ill at ease, shivered in spite of himself.

A sudden realization jolted Bobos like a bolt of lightning and he broke into a sweat, panic sweeping through him like a flash flood.

What in all of Azeroth was he doing here?

He couldn’t remember entering the cottage.  In fact, he couldn’t remember anything about the last few minutes.

His eyes darted frantically about the room and were drawn quickly to the large form asleep on the floor in front of the fireplace.

The Red-Nosed Mean Man with the Yellow Corn Cob Pipe!

Bobos darted quickly back out through the open door.  But when he didn’t hear any commotion from within, he turned to peek back inside, his curiosity getting the better of him.

The Mean Man was still there, asleep in front of the fireplace, its embers slowly cooling. Fascinated, he realized that this was perhaps the first time he’d ever seen the Mean Man up close without the distractions of an imminent or in-progress beating.  As he studied the face and took in new details, a memory began to come back to him, unbidden, a name slowly coalescing from the swirling mists of recollection.


The man’s name was Herman.  He’d heard a visitor call him that one day not too long ago.  But it wasn’t anything he needed to know to survive or go about his day to day life, so he’d promptly forgotten it: he was simply the Red-Nosed Mean Man with the Yellow Corn Cob Pipe, the man who hit him and beat him when he could and cursed him when he couldn’t.

As the remembrance faded away like morning mist burned from the fields, Bobos shrugged and shook his head lightly, clearing his thoughts, bringing them back to the present.

He returned to his examination of the cottage. The walls, at least the ones he could see from his vantage point, were bare, with the sole exception of a painting in a cheap gilded frame.  Bobos stared in spite of himself, fascinated.  It depicted a battle of some kind between men and something else not quite human: lanky and sinewy creatures in shades of blue and green with wicked looking tusks and bright spiky hair.  His eyes lingered to drink in the details: the weapons and armor, the swirling flow of epic warfare.

Over the crude fireplace, he noticed a pair of large wooden things that stood upright on a dust-covered shelf above it.  He’d seen such things before, though rarely, usually when his meandering ways took him close to the village.  People used them to pick up food when they ate, though in truth Bobos didn’t understand the point; after all, why did you need anything like that when you had hands?  But the size of these – they were huge, almost half as tall as he was.  Did giants use them?  Bobos wasn’t sure, but the idea that there were beings in the world large enough to need instruments of that size gave him pause. They were certainly far too big for the Mean Man – maybe that’s why they were up on a shelf out of the way.

Nothing else stood out to his wandering, inquisitive gaze so he returned his attention again to the wonderful aroma still hanging heavily in the air.


A black iron stewpot perched precariously on a wooden chair, its looped handle lying flat against the rim.  That was the source.

Bobos felt agonized and torn.  There it was – so close.  But also close to the Mean Man, who might awaken at any second.  Almost as if in response to his thought, the figure by the fireplace jerked and shifted, one hand lifted to swat away an imagined mosquito or fly.  Bobos shrunk down quickly, desperately looking for a place to hide, his heart hammering in his ears as a shot of adrenaline coursed through his body. He tensed his muscles to dash again for the door.

But before he could start to flee, the slightest of breezes made its lazy way across the room and once more his nose was filled with the aroma from the stew pot, driving away all emotion but the desire for whatever treasure lay within that black-iron pot.  It was even stronger than before, in part due to proximity and the small enclosed confines of the cottage, and fear and fatigue were forgotten and fell by the wayside like a garment casually cast off.

A few steps and Bobos stood before the chair.  Now heedless of the Mean Man just a few feet away, he reached for the pot, then pulled back a dirty hand as he sensed the heat coming from it.

He paused.

But he would not be denied.  Not when he was so close, had risked so much.

He reached out again and quickly dipped a hand in the stew, surprised to find that it was not as hot as he thought it would be.  Cupping his hand, he scooped out what he could hold and brought the thick stew to his lips, drooling with anticipation.

One taste and his world exploded.

He had no words, no way of describing what he tasted, but it was ten times stronger still than the aroma that had already swept him off his feet, luring him like a siren of the sea.  It filled his senses so that he was oblivious to all else, and when he had finished licking every last bit of it from his sticky fingers, his eyes glowed with the same avarice that dwarves showed for their precious gems or night elves for their pristine woodlands.

In the grip of mania, Bobos quickly took the pot down from the chair.  The iron burned his hands but he was beyond caring as he lowered the pot to the floor.  Kneeling down, he plunged his hands over and over into the stew, ladling out what he could and slurping it down with as much silence and speed as he could muster.

Just like that, the pot was empty.

He hadn’t meant to do that.

Looking back and forth from his dripping hands to the iron stew pot, he silently cursed to himself.  He had just wanted a few tastes, but once he had started he had been unable to stop.  Now he had eaten the whole thing and if the Mean Man figured it out there’d be, in the Mean Man’s  own words, “hellfire and blood to pay.”

Maybe he wouldn’t notice, Bobos hoped.  Maybe he wouldn’t remember anything and just assume he’d eaten it all before passing out.  Or that maybe a wild animal had come in and eaten it all.

That was a lot of maybes, Bobos thought depressingly, and none of them very likely.

But there was nothing to be done for it now.

He’d pushed his luck tremendously so far and it was a minor miracle that it hadn’t yet run out.  Best to retreat before it did.

He lifted the stew pot back onto the chair as carefully as he could.

And then he belched, just a little thing.

The Mean Man let out a snort and rolled over, mumbling.

Bobos bolted for the door like a startled animal, his instincts moving into overdrive.  He took one look back before stepping over the threshold and suddenly noticed the drips and drops of stew on the floor.


Fighting down his panic, he quickly dropped to the floor and began to lick up every last bit he could see.  He was fortunate that most of the stew was splashed in a fairly contained area. The Mean Man was now starting to jerk fitfully in his sleep as Bobos finished, and his words, though still garbled, were getting louder.

“Hazel, no! Don’t go…! Don’t…”

For a moment, Bobos hesitated.  He didn’t recognize the name, but it resonated within him in a way he couldn’t explain.  It meant something.  But it was the very vaguest of feelings and as soon as he tried to follow it in his mind’s eye it disappeared like morning mist burned away by the rising sun.

The Mean Man was practically thrashing now in the depths of his nightmare, yelling; the spell holding Bobos broke and with it Bobos’ final nerve.

He ran away from the cottage, ran straight for the pen and safety stopping only to pick up the sack of apples where he had dropped them when the enticing smell of the stew had first mesmerized him.

Night had fallen fully while Bobos had been inside the cottage, and clouds now hid the stars. He found the way more difficult than he would have imagined across the furrows of the harvested field.  It wasn’t far back to the pen, but it was taking forever in the darkness.  When the moon peeked out briefly, it seemed unnaturally large and bright, but its light would only last seconds before fading out.  Worse, the shadows the light briefly brought to life were tinder for his vivid imagination, and visions of pursuing horrors filled his mind.

Had the Mean Man woken up already?  Was he hot on his heels even now?

He couldn’t be sure of anything, but his heart leaped into his throat in a panic at the thought.  He redoubled his pace, but among the lumpy and wet clods of dirt he found the footing treacherous even for one of his natural agility and he struggled to remain upright.  But, like quicksand, the more he struggled, the more he slipped and fell.

Bobos was becoming frantic now, but then the vague outline of the barn appeared in the deepening gloom ahead of him.

Home!  He was close!

He stumbled to his feet…

And felt something grab his shoulder.  He almost shrieked then as he tore away from the grasping fingers, suddenly aware of a shadow looming up right beside him from the night.  The clouds shifted then – just a little – but enough so that Bobos thought he saw the outline of a corn cob pipe…

Desperation hit a fever pitch and galvanized something in him.  A surge of energy flooded his limbs, his legs, and before he knew what was happening, he found himself briefly airborne. Unable to see the ground hurtling towards him, he landed hard, falling into a controlled tumbling roll as his momentum dashed him against the fence of the pen.  On the far side: he’d leaped clear across the nearer fence.  Laying in the mud, breathing heavily, Bobos felt a dawning sense of astonishment.


What just happened?

He’d never done anything like that before.  It didn’t even seem possible – he must have jumped over thirty feet through the air.

No.  No, he must have imagined it, he began to tell himself.  Either that or he had severely overestimated the distance.

Did he imagine too the shadow that had loomed out of the dark, the frightful touch upon his shoulder?

Surging out of the mud, Bobos ran as quietly as he could to the fence, looking back across the distance he had covered from the cottage.  His keen eyes searched the gloom, ears listening for the sounds of pursuit.  But he saw and heard nothing out of the ordinary.

Then the sky cover parted just enough that he could see clearly in the revealed moonlight: a figure, standing out in the field, motionless as a statue.  The corn cob pipe dangled loosely.

Bobos’ heart began to race once more until he realized what he was looking at and began to laugh in relief.

It was a scarecrow.

In the dim light, he could now see it clearly for what it was.  He must have come to his feet right underneath one of the dangling arms after one of his falls.  Bobos laughed again, this time at himself: if I only had a brain I wouldn’t have panicked, would have realized…

He sat back on his knees and closed his eyes, suddenly exhausted.  Minutes passed until finally a low grunt, barely a whisper, caught his attention.

Mama Pig!  Embarrassed, he realized he had forgotten about her as the emotions of the night had caught up with him.  He was still holding the sack of apples, so there was that at least:  some part of him had stayed on mission.

Still on his knees, he made his way over to her and plopped down beside her in the mud.  Some of the apples had been crushed, but the bulk of them had survived Bobos’ wild flight from the cottage.  He pulled one out and held it out in front of Mama Pig so she could get a good whiff.

Her head perked up and she gobbled the apple up from his hand.  She ate three more before she sighed and lay down again: she was done, at least for now.  Bobos understood.  He was worried about her but knew this was part of her normal pattern.  She would be okay in a day or two.

He lay on top of her for a while, stroking her ears, stopping only when she finally fell asleep.  Then he rolled off her, patted her head gently, and headed into the barn, climbing swiftly up into the rafters.

A rumble of thunder pealed in the distance as he settled into the hay.  Another storm on its way through.  Bobos was thankful for that; the rain would keep Mama Pig cool and the mud wet, and the sounds would help him sleep.

His mind was still racing through the events of the day, but most especially he was worried about the stew, about Herman’s reaction.  Bobos thought it might be best if he stayed away from the farm for the next few days, so he resolved that in the morning he would visit some of his favorite spots in the nearby woods, coming back to the pen only well past dark to make sure Mama Pig got her fill of apples.

He should be safe enough for tonight, but still, he struggled to stay awake anyway, just in case.  It turned out to be a futile exercise, however: he was asleep almost as soon as he lay his head down.