A boy feeding a pig


by Alan Dwight


Late one afternoon a boy knocked on the back door of a farmhouse. When a woman opened the door and asked what he wanted, he told her he had come to take care of the farm’s pigs.

“Wait,” she said, and closed the door.

A few minutes later, a man opened the door and said, “What do you want?”

“I’ve been sent to take care of your pigs, sir,” the boy replied.

“Who sent ya?”

“I was told in a dream to walk for five days, and at the end of the five days to say I was sent to take care of the pigs.”

“A dream?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Humpf. How old are ya?”

“Twelve, sir.”

Well, it just happens that we do need some help. I cain’t pay ya, but I can feed ya. Will that do?”

“Yes, sir. Food and a place to lay my head are all that I ask.”

“Ya can sleep in the barn. I’ll send my older son out with some food.”

The boy went to the barn and found, among several animals, an empty stall. He laid down the little pack he was carrying with his few possessions and then walked around the barn, talking to the horses and the cows as if they could understand them.

When the man’s son came with a plate of food, the boy thanked him. The son was seventeen, and large. He could easily have picked up the boy and thrown him bodily out of the barn, but he simply nodded and left.

In the morning, the woman delivered food outside the back door for the boy and a bucket of slops for the pigs. The boy took the bucket around to the side of the barn where the pigsty was. He carefully tossed the contents of the bucket into the sty, trying to make sure that each pig got its share. As he did so, he talked to the pigs. When they finished eating, an extraordinary thing happened. The pigs sat and listened to him, acting as though they understood everything he said.

In the days that followed, the boy fed the pigs and talked to them each morning and evening.

There were, in a separate part of the sty, three sows who were clearly pregnant. The man told the boy that part of his job was to help each sow deliver her litter.

A week later, the first sow began to grunt and strain. As the boy knelt beside her, stroking her side and talking quietly to her, a little head appeared from her rear. He helped to pull the piglet out, and then continued to help as the sow delivered eleven healthy babies. The boy helped the sow clean off the piglets and then saw to it that they each found a teat to suck on.

In the following two days, the other sows delivered. The final piglet to arrive had a deformed rear leg and couldn’t really walk. The boy placed the piglet at one of its mother’s teats, making sure that the others didn’t crowd it out of the way.

From time to time, the man came out to the sty to examine the piglets. He saw the one with the deformed leg and said that he’d have to kill it.

The boy begged him not to, saying that he would see the piglet was safe.

“Why should I feed a defective pig?” asked the man.

“Because it is a gift from God,” the boy said.

“Humpf,” the man muttered and walked away, but he didn’t kill the piglet.

As he had done with the pigs in the main sty, the boy talked to the sows and all the piglets.

When the piglets were nearly full grown, the man came out with his son and said they were going to castrate the males.

“Why?” asked the boy.

“Because castrated hogs grow fat faster so that cuts down on the time when they will be sold to a slaughterhouse.”

The boy paled but said nothing. He had not known what the fate of his piglets would be.

Somehow, he knew that if he gave the pigs names, he would grow too fond of them and be heartbroken when they were sold. But he did name the deformed pig, calling him Theophilus.

Under the boy’s care, Theophilus thrived, and was soon getting around on three legs as well as the others did on four.

Whenever the man or his son came to the sties to check on the growing pigs, the boy hid Theophilus in the woods near the back of the barn. In time, the pig adapted to living in the wild, and foraging for himself. Each day, the boy visited him in the woods, the pig lying beside him and listening as the boy talked to him.

When the farmer asked where the crippled pig was, the boy simply said that the little pig had died, and he’d buried it in the woods.

One day the man and his son came to the sty with sharp knives. The man told the boy how to help him castrate the boars. Shuddering, the boy nevertheless did as he was told. When they were finished, the boy went to the stream in the woods and washed the gore off. He stripped off his clothes and washed them as well as he could, and then took them out to the pasture and laid them out to dry in the sun, while he too, lay down and sunned himself.

Time passed. When the boy was fourteen, he was sitting one day talking to Theophilus when he was surprised to hear the pig answer him.

“You can talk?” he asked.

“All of us can.”

“Then why don’t you?”

“Because most of us have nothing to say. We know what’s going to happen to us, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

“Nothing’s going to happen to you,” said the boy. “If you hide here in the woods, you will never be taken to the slaughterhouse. You can live your life out here, free of fear.”

“But I can never be happy, knowing what’s happening to the others.” A tear fell from the pig’s eye.

The boy thought and thought about what to do. One night he had a dream, and in the morning he knew. It it would mean he would lose his job and his place to stay, but he decided that he had to trust the dream.

He stood in the sty one day and told the pigs what was going to happen.

That night was brightly moonlit as the boy opened the sty gates and hurried the pigs into the woods. They paused to thank him and then disappeared deep into the trees and undergrowth. Only Theophilus remained behind.

“What are you going to do?” the pig asked the boy.

“The question is what are WE going to do, and the answer is we are going to walk, beginning in the morning.”

With that, he lay his pack to one side and lay down to sleep as Theophilus cuddled up beside him. Theophilus was by then over 300 pounds, so his cuddle was prodigious, but it kept the boy warm through the night.

When he woke in the morning, they set off through the woods together.

They walked for a week. Theophilus sometimes tired due to his weight and his crippled leg, but the boy always slowed down and waited for him.

On the seventh day, they came to the ocean, and there was a small ship waiting for them. The captain of the ship welcomed them aboard, calling them by name.

As soon as they were settled aboard, the captain took in the line which was mooring the ship and raised a sail.

“Do you know where we’re going?” Theophilus asked the boy.

“No. My dream only told me to walk for seven days and I’d come to the sea where a ship would be waiting for us.”

The captain of the ship provided them with food as they sailed due west.

On the third day, they saw on the horizon a shore and a large building. It wasn’t a castle, but it was certainly the biggest house the boy had ever seen.

Without a word, the captain brought the ship to a dock, lowered a gangplank, and motioned for the two to leave the ship.

The boy went down the gangplank carrying his little pack, while Theophilus trotted along behind.

The building before them was huge. The closer they got to it, the bigger it seemed to grow. It was white with black trim and appeared to have at least four storeys. There were shrubs planted around it and in the back was a large flower garden.

They walked around the building and found a back door, on which the boy knocked.

Nothing happened.

He knocked again and heard a woman’s voice say, “I’m coming. I’m coming.”

The door opened and there stood the tiniest and oldest woman the boy had ever seen. Her hair was sparse and white. Her face was wrinkled and flushed. She wore an apron over her very plain dress. On her feet were little black shoes.

Looking up at the boy, she said, “Well, you got here I see. Come in.”

They boy went into the kitchen. Theophilus had never been in a house, so he hesitated until she said, “Come in. Come in, Theophilus.”

The pig sat on the floor beside the boy who was sitting at a table. The woman produced tasty, succulent food, none of which either of the travelers had ever tasted before.

Sitting at the table, the woman asked how their trip was and whether the captain had taken proper care of them.

The boy assured her that the trip had been very comfortable, and the captain had cared well for them.

“How do you know my name?” Theophilus asked.

“Oh, I’ve known about you since before you were born,” the woman replied. “I’ve known about your bad leg, about the boy saving you, and about your brothers and sisters, mother and father, grandparents, aunts, uncle, nieces and nephews all escaping, thanks to the boy.”

“Where are we?” asked the boy. “Are we supposed to stay here, or should we plan on moving on?”

“Oh no,” the woman said, “this is your home for the rest of your lives. You will be very wealthy, you know.”


“Come. I will show you.”

Fortunately for Theophilus, the building had an elevator. The three of them rode to the top floor, and the woman opened a door to a huge room. Inside was a large table, and on the table were many, many bags.

“Open one,” she said to the boy.

He did, and out poured gold coins. A few fell on the floor and the boy hastily picked them up again.

“I don’t understand,” the boy said.

“This is your house and your home. Everything in it belongs to the two of you.”

Certainly, both the boy and Theophilus were amazed. How could this be? They wondered.

Following the woman, they explored the entire house. The furnishings in all the rooms were well-built, valuable antiques. There were paintings hanging on the walls, some of people and some of pigs.

“These are your ancestors,” the woman said.

She showed them a huge bedroom with the biggest bed the boy had ever seen. This room too was decorated, but the pictures were of farms and woods, streams and fields, all in various seasons of the year. One wall had winter pictures, one had spring pictures, one had summer pictures, and one, the boy’s favorite, had pictures which seemed to explode with fall colors.

Back in the kitchen, the woman prepared a sumptuous dinner for them. She served them but did not eat with them, saying that she would eat later.

By the time they finished the dinner, they were stuffed. They returned to the elevator, and, bidding good night to the woman, they rose to the bedroom floor, where they prepared for bed.

There was a huge bathroom with gold and ivory fixtures. The boy decided he needed to shower, so he removed his clothes, turned on the shower, and when the temperature was comfortable for him, stepped in, followed by Theophilus.

The boy washed both of them as they luxuriated in the scented shower water. When they finished washing, the boy turned off the shower and dried them both.

Returning to the bed, they discovered that, on the far side there was a ramp that Theophilus could use to climb into bed.

And so they slept, side by side.

Their days passed happily. Each morning seemed to be a new experience for them. There were jaunts exploring the woods, days of sailing in a boat which they owned, days of swimming in the house pool. In the winter they built snowmen and forts. The boy learned to ski and even Theophilus had skis which attached to his trotters.

One day, the boy said to Theophilus, “Do you realize that tomorrow will be the first anniversary of the day we arrived here?”

The pig nodded.

“How do you suppose all this happened?” asked the boy.

Theophilus would have shrugged his shoulders, but he was unable to do that. Instead he simply said, “This is your reward for being such a good, caring boy.”

That night, they climbed into bed as usual. They lay face to face, with the boy’s arm resting on Theophilus.

During the night, the boy was vaguely aware that something had changed, but he didn’t really wake up.

In the morning, awakened by sunlight pouring in the window, he opened his eyes, looked with amazement, closed them again and then opened them to be sure that what he saw was real.

Lying in the bed facing him was a boy, a very beautiful boy. He had long golden hair, a slim, attractive body, and a face which seem to radiate light.

“Is this Theophilus?” the boy wondered. He gazed at the vision before him, afraid to waken the new boy for fear he would discover he was having another dream.

Then the new boy opened his eyes and smiled.

“Are you Theophilus?” asked the boy.

“Yes,” the golden boy smiled. He reached over and hugged the boy who had saved him from a terrible fate.

They lay in bed, hugging each other. Theophilus moved his head forward and kissed the boy firmly on the lips. “I love you, you know,” said Theophilus. “I always have. Even when I was just a little piglet, I knew that somehow, someday, we would be together and love each other.

“I love you too,” murmured the boy, but I don’t understand what has happened.

“When I was very little,” Theophilus said, “my mother predicted that this would happen. I’ve no idea how she knew, but she told me in some detail about me escaping into the woods, about us riding in a ship, about us coming to a huge, beautiful house, and about us loving each other. She swore me to secrecy, saying that in due time, all would become clear.”

The boys rose from bed and found new clothes laid out for them. They dressed slowly, admiring each other’s bodies and the clothes, which seemed somehow to hark back to a former time and yet were timeless.

When they were dressed, they kissed each other and went downstairs. They no longer needed the elevator. On the floor below, they discovered that all the pictures of pigs in the room had changed to pictures of people. Theophilus realized they were his ancestors.

As they entered the kitchen, the old woman said, “Good morning, Theophilus,” as though she had known him all his life.

And so, the boys lived together. They never seemed to age. They were old enough to love each other in all the ways that two boys can.

They are still in the huge house, as is the old woman. Time never seems to pass. They all remain as they were. Did they live happily ever after?

Of course they did.

As always, many, many thanks to my editors. Any mistakes in the story are purely my own.  ~AD