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Pigli and Cleo (7)

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CHAPTER SEVEN

This would probably be a good time to tell you he had corns. Who? Well, Neil of course, who else. They noticed that while rubbing the reflex zones on his feet, to resuscitate him. It was hard work. Especially amid that stench emanating from his toes… You see, Cleo’s relaxation had been brief and had soon given way to a violent attack of panic. It appeared to her he had stopped breathing. So a new instinct, a new frantic passion she had not been aware of before, was taking possession of her. Mothering. She was at it with a sort of crazy fervor. Pigli reluctantly joined in, just to please her, or better said, to make her desperate yells stop. He tried to convince her they were better off with him dead, at least this way he could never harm anyone with his singing again. But that only sent her berserk. She was terrified Neil would die in her arms and, after all, she wasn’t about destroying lesser creatures, such as cocks; there was no fame to be had in that. No, no, she was determined Neil would live. Which he did. Eventually. Corny feet and all.

The first thing Neil did when he came to his senses was moan. The second thing Neil did was to purse his lips and whisper softly ‘Thank you, thank you, gentle creature’ to Pigli who was leaning over him at an unusually close distance. It must be said, in Pigli’s defense, however, that he had not arrived at this solution by choice. His free will had been drastically impaired by Cleo’s hysteria until he was basically left with only two options: to give Neil a mouth-to-mouth or to risk being viciously attacked by an – in all probability – rabid and paranoid sheep.

Neil’s eyes finally opened, but they were dim and opaque, so Cleo promptly poured a gallon of cold source water on his face and nearly drowned him. He choked and sneezed half a dozen times. His eyes gleamed a little more vividly after that. But to Cleo’s unspoken dismay, it was the indolent wolf that was absorbing Neil’s attention entirely. After all her efforts! She had been on this planet a long time, but she had yet to get used to male ingratitude. She had met with it so often and still she couldn’t master it without a sob. She could see Neil was not in full possession of his faculties – and, between you and me, she doubted he ever would be – but he was visibly struck by Pigli’s presence. As for Pigli, the cold-blooded devil-may-care had turned his back on the whole affair, too busy wiping his mouth with the back of his paw. He sat in the shade looking disgusted.

‘Say, haven’t we met before?’, the giddy cock finally managed to articulate.

‘Ohhh, you probably say that to all your girlfriends…’ Cleo answered and blushed.

‘Not you, I mean… her!’

‘Her?!’ Cleo’s jealous cry shot through the woods and resonated with the distant corners of the Universe. A supernova somewhere must have imploded from the reverberation. Ah, the deception! Ah, the sorrows of the dedicated nurse whose patient returns to health and leaves unaware of her endeavour! Ah, the pain in a protective mother’s bosom when her only-born gets engaged!… ‘Which her?!’

‘Well, the wolf.’ Startled, Pigli began to make his way back towards them. ‘I’m sure I’ve seen her before. Unless I was dreaming, she saved my life once before. Two days ago, not far from here.’

‘You were dreaming’, said Cleo curtly.

‘That’s quite possible’, Neil readily agreed. ‘I’m an artist you know, that’s what we do.’

‘Yeah, yeah, we know all about it’, she ruffled him. ‘That’s what drugs will do to you. You’re delusional. You fell and hit your head. First of all, this wolf’, she said, pointing to Pigli who was approaching, ‘is a guy. His name is Boss, and I’m Cleo. Remember, I introduced you. But I can see you’re full of unfulfilled fantasies…’

‘Yes, what do you suppose it could all mean?’, Neil asked with genuine interest.

‘Second of all’, Cleo purposefully ignored the interruption, ‘we just got here and there’s no other wolf in these woods. And hasn’t been for a long time. He told me so himself.’

‘For real?’ Neil’s eyes bulged out like Brussels sprouts. ‘But I could swear…’

‘I believe you could, but I’d rather you didn’t. Swearing is very very bad’, she said, swinging a pedagogical hoof in front of his face.

‘No, I meant…. Well, anyway…. Wow, are you sure?’

‘Mhmm…!’

‘I have to ease up on those uppers, baby. I never knew smoking on an empty stomach can do that to you. And it wasn’t much help to my music either.’

You can say that again, Cleo thought but instead muttered only, ‘Mhmm’ and crossed her two front legs on her chest in righteous outrage.

‘What’s going on here?’ Pigli said, as he stopped by their side. Color was seeping back into Neil’s plumage.

‘Well, someone’s looking better’, Pigli said listlessly.

‘Thaaaanks!’ baaed Cleo, flipping her eyelashes.

‘I meant him.’

‘Oh.’ Another twinge, another kick in the stomach.

‘I see you’re back’, Pigli growled. ‘Are you here to stay this time, or should I plan my dinner?’

‘Ha ha ha! Sarcastic’, Neil said. ‘I like that.’ But there was a lump in his throat which he eventually swallowed.

‘So, she tells me you’re the only wolf left in these parts, huh?’, Neil inquired.

‘I am. Yes. What of it?’

‘Boy, in that case, I must have really had a bad week!’

‘No kidding…’, Pigli said and rolled his eyes.

‘Yeah, ’cause just two days ago, I could swear another wolf saved my life, not far from here, in a clearing just above the village.’

‘Another wolf? You mean… here?’, Pigli’s ears perked up. He toyed with a hypothesis but quickly dismissed it. ‘Nah, that’s impossible’, he concluded. It was no use getting his hopes up on the ravings of a lunatic.

‘Go figure. It must have been a dream, a mirage or something. I hadn’t eaten in a while… But this wolf, I mean, she felt so real, my throat still hurts. I mean, why do you suppose I would dream a she-wolf? Can it mean something? Oh my gosh, danger, enemies, what?’

‘Wait a minute, wait a minute! A she-wolf, you said? Describe this… dream of yours, will you?’, the Boss urged.

From the sidelines of her self-imposed exile, Cleo noticed an unusual spark in the wolf’s eyes.

‘Well, you see, I had just run away from the barn. There was a loose plank and I snuck out under it during the night. It was early morning already, they were bound to realize I was missing – no wake-up call, you see – and I had barely gotten as far as Abbot Point. You know the place? Yes.’ Pigli was nodding heavily, eager to push the story ahead. ‘Well, I was drained, I’m not much good at flying – not enough practice I suppose – so that’s when they caught up with me. My master and his posse. So I darted into the bushes for cover, determined to make one last run for it when, what do you know?’

‘What? What!’

‘I find myself face to face with a wolf! As close as you and me, dude, you know’.

‘So?’

‘So… I freeze. I totally freeze, paralyzed with fear. I must have passed out I guess, with the posse on my tracks, that’s the only explanation. And while I was out I was imagining things. I mean, there she is, this wolf, across my path, right before me, I can feel her breath on my feathers… I shake. I stammer. I mumble my prayers. I tell myself this must be the end, you know. Funny. It still feels so real… How come you’re interested, by the way?’

‘That’s me. I like to hear mental patients’ stories. Go ahead.’

‘So then the most amazing thing happens. This creature, this angel in a wolf’s coat, what does she do?’

‘You’re sure it was a she?’

‘I think it was a she. Definitely. I mean, I should be able to recognize a she, you’d think.’

‘Ok, ok. So what does she do?’

‘See, this is where I should have heard the first alarm bells – she talks! And in the kindest and most gentle of voices. Now, what is wrong with this picture? This cannot be real. I mean, how often does that happen in real life? You tell me.’

‘Very clever… What did she say ?’

Poor you, you look beat, she says. Do you need any help? I’m thinking, she’s pulling my leg, right? I’ll be the main dish for lunch. But just imagine, before I can make a gesture, she snatches me up by the throat, tells me to play dead – that’s not hard at this point, trust me – and what do you think she does next?’

‘What? What?’

‘She makes a run for it, dude! She leaps out of the forest, into the clearing, snarls at the posse, shows a couple of white, razor-sharp fangs, and puts them all to flight. There, she says. They’ll all think you’re paté now, and they’ll stop searching. You’re safe. I know what it’s like to be a prisoner, she tells me. I was one myself. Take care now, and she vanishes. Before I can even say thanks. Then I notice a limp in her left leg. Is that some kind of sign, in dream language or what? I mean it’s not even plausible, right?’

‘Right, right…’ said Pigli in a trance, juggling hundreds of conflicting ideas in his brain all at once. His face had tautened and he had become so focused, so determined during the last minutes that even Cleo could see it was a bad time to distract him. A strange kind of inner turbulence had taken over him.

‘Tell me this’, Pigli finally said in a quick breath. ‘Do you think you could accurately locate the place from your “dream”? I mean, can you recognize the exact spot; can you take me to it? I haven’t been around those parts in a long time.’

‘I think so but why…’

‘Thank you, buddy! Let’s go!’, and without waiting for the other two, Pigli dashed ahead in the direction of Abbot Point.

(to be continued)

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Pigli and Cleo (6)

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CHAPTER SIX

This is when they met Neil. They actually tripped over him. He was smoking grass in a field of daffodils. Neil was a suburb cock. His tuft was awfully pale and withered, drooping bloodless on one side of his head and his tiny beady eyes looked even smaller spinning irregularly around their orbits as they were. He was flat on his back wrapped in garlands of light-grey smoke. This really infuriated Pigli. Cleo, herself, was intrigued.

‘What on earth is that?’, she asked in disbelief.

‘You see now, this is what I was talking about. This used to be a decent neighborhood without all of society’s burnouts and freaks hanging out here.’

‘Is he… dead?  I mean, did he catch fire or something?’

‘It’s an addict, you dumb head!’ (I wonder, if he ODs will his flesh get any tenderer?, Pigli thought, but kept it to himself.)

‘An addict!!!!!’, Cleo cried in outrage and forgot to close her mouth again. ‘Oh my, how terrible! What’s he doing here?’

She was terrified of everything that might have interfered with her plans of greatness. She certainly wanted no addicts around when the press was there.

Pigli didn’t know and didn’t care. It only deepened his disgust with the current state of affairs. What’s the world coming to, he kept muttering. That was, as might be expected, not enough to quench Cleo’s thirst for knowledge and understanding of the universe; better said, her pathological curiosity and propensity for sticking her nose where it didn’t belong.

‘Hrm, hrmm…’, she politely cleared her throat as she drew closer. Nothing. She started coughing. She even attempted a sneeze. Still nothing.

‘Are you sure he isn’t dead?’, she asked again, looking to Pigli for reassurance. I wish…, he thought, as his bowels were beginning to stick to his vertebrae with hunger. ‘He ain’t dead. Yet.’,  he said loudly and full of contempt.

‘Whaaat…? Hahaha… who’s deeeaad, dude!’, Neil croaked in a drawling squeaky voice, suddenly awakened. That scared the heck out of Cleo. ‘Am I dead, hahaha?’, he continued with hiccups.

‘Well, son, you sure are on the right path to that, if you know what I mean’, Cleo said and helped him up.

‘Pleasure to meet you. Name’s Neil’, he said, rotating around his axis a few times.

‘Well, I’m Cleo’, she said ‘and this here is the Boss. Boy, you sure made a mess of yourself.’

‘Life sucks’, Neil said, and burped. ‘Whoops, sorry ’bout that. The Boss of whom?’

‘Excuse me?!’

‘The Boss – you said the Boss. The Boss of whom?’

‘Well, I don’t really know’, said Cleo. ‘Of the whole forest, I guess.’ Pigli was leaning against a tree, some distance down the track, bored to death, looking at his nails.

‘Peace, Boss, peace!’ Neil yelled and suddenly got another attack of dizziness.  ‘Not so loud, dude!’ he reprimanded himself.

‘What are you doing here?’ Cleo was gradually getting back to her actual biggest concern.

‘I ran away, dude. Couldn’t take the sexual pressure anymore, you know?’

Cleo had no idea but she nodded yes.

‘Those chicks, all they wanted was sex. Sex, sex, sex. I’m an artist, dude, you know, I’m a poet. They were sexually harassing me. I just couldn’t cope anymore. I mean, I’m an artist, you know? Did I mention that?’ Cleo nodded hastily. She was beginning to lose her patience.

‘Yeah, dude, I play jazz.  Do you think anybody likes jazz?’ Neil asked.

‘I suppose’, Cleo heard herself say politely. In fact, she had never heard the word before, but it sort of rhymed with pizzazz, so her imagination was busy at work.

‘Well nobody liked jazz in my yard. Not even the owner, dude. That really hurt, you know? I was so down, dude; I started getting high on hay. You know, you’d think you’d get some respect for waking somebody up with “It’s a beautiful life” every morning. You know what I got? A broom across the head, that’s what. I mean, I can’t expect the broads to like it, all they ever liked was sex – did I mention that?’ And Cleo found herself nodding again. ‘Yep, sex and soaps. All they ever talked about were the soaps. Who did what, who said what, bla bla bla, all day long. They would even stop laying eggs when the TV was on. It’s lucky we sometimes had power failures, or else, I swear, the stupid broads wouldn’t even eat, you know?’ Again, Cleo agreed not even knowing to what.

‘Yeah, but I mean the master, the owner, you’d expect a human being to recognize good music, you know?’ At this point Cleo decided to stop nodding no matter what, because she had already strained a muscle in her neck. ‘I have my art, you know, I have my pride, I wasn’t getting any respect over there.’

‘And so, that’s why you ran away’, Cleo summarized, eager to cut a long story short.  This guy had talked her all out of her curiosity.

‘Yeah, dude. I wasn’t getting any respect.’ And when he started to croak one of his best jazz pieces, Cleo immediately knew why.

Pigli had almost buried himself on the other side of the tree, groping desperately for things he could stuff into his ears. Cleo endured the ordeal with dignity, knowing it’s always bad to discourage a young artist in the making, but found herself sympathizing with the owner and hoping it would be over soon. She even found it within her to clap and cheer, but only in order to make him stop.

‘Well, that was… ahm… interesting! Wasn’t it, Boss?’ But Pigli couldn’t hear her. He was still rolling and quaking and bashing his head from the torture.

‘You’re ok, dude’, Neil said to Cleo. Then he burped and passed out flat on his ass.

Well, actually, it’s dudess, Cleo found the time to point out before she too collapsed, one hundred percent relieved.

(to be continued)

Pigli and Cleo (5)

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CHAPTER FIVE

As it turned out, their incipient friendship was only going to deepen, but neither of them knew it at the time – or at least wouldn’t admit it. Not even to themselves. As is the case with many an enduring relationship, closeness is usually achieved via relentless conflict. You start arguing and you get all worked up and then it strikes you: you hate and mistrust the other person’s point of view. Not only that, but you actually hate and mistrust the other person as well, and all the other person’s ancestors 20 generations back and all their offspring 20 generations from now, and the entire planet; and yet, after you’ve pulled out all your hairs, you settle down in their arms and sigh about how life would be so bland and unrecognizable without them.

So, as obviously as night follows day, once more, they fought. Pigli didn’t want to stop for sleeping.

First of all, I want to get there as soon as possible’, he had explained.  ‘Secondly, I have a very delicate sleep. I cannot doze off  just anywhere, I need my rituals, I need a certain smell,  I need to fluff my pillow of leaves twice, then turn on my left side, then on my back, and finally, on my belly.  And for that I need a den that is exactly my size. Not to mention that I need perfect darkness, and the forest is simply not dense enough here.’

‘Newsflash, my friend. Can I call you that, by the way?’, Cleo interrupted.

‘Let me warn you!’, he winced, scrunching his nose. ‘I’m tired so you’d better not risk it.’

‘Well, newsflash, anyway. At the Zoo there will be zero forest. How are you going to be able to sleep there? By the way, do you know that sleep deprivation can seriously affect your nervous system?  I mean, it can really make you crazy.’

‘Crazier than you’ve made me?  I doubt it.’

‘Seriously. You become erratic, irrational, unmanageable. I don’t want to risk that.’

‘Don’t worry! You’re already ahead of me. And while you’re at it, add a danger to society to the list’, he jeered.

‘Well, I need my eight hours of sleep. Do you want me to be a mess when I show up in front of reporters tomorrow? Do you? If you can’t sleep, fine, go watch the stars, practice your surrender, pick a wallpaper color for your cage, but I have to be credible tomorrow.  Remember?  Everything depends on that.’

‘I guess you have a point. I wouldn’t want you to lose it completely. At least not yet.  OK, you can sleep. I’ll just walk around a little.’

‘Make sure to get some dry wood.’

‘What for?’

‘What for?!  What for, he asks?!! To make a fire, to keep warm, what else?’

You actually expect me to make a fire?! Do I need to remind you that wolves shun fire?  Whenever we see fire, we keep away.’

‘So what am I gonna do for warmth?’

‘I don’t know. Do whatever you sheep do to keep warm.’

‘We squeeze hard against one another.’

‘Well, then… tough.’

Cleo suddenly widened her lips in a big grin, rolled her eyes and flipped her eyelashes seductively at Pigli.

‘Whaaat?! Noooo, no no no and no. No way. You’re not cuddling up with me’, he said and started walking in reverse.

‘Are you afraid of intimacy? We’re in this together after all. It might improve my performance tomorrow. Make me look more self-confident’, she continued to meow.

‘No! And that’s final! Get it into your head! I’m not gonna touch you.’

‘Hmmm… Would you rather I talked all night?’, she suddenly threw in the heavy artillery.

Pigli threw himself on the ground defeated and his face decomposed with repulsion as he felt Cleo inch her body into the thick fur on his back. She fell asleep smiling and soon began to snore. That Zoo’d better be worth it, he said to himself and spat. Where are those rabbits when you need them?

He was so angry and his nerves were so bruised that he completely forgot about his rituals and soon after fell into a deep and troubled sleep. A flock of sheep with their huge mouths puckered up and painted with red lipstick were chasing him. He was gasping and beads of cold sweat popped up on his forehead one after another. However, everything was not lost. He dreamt he was summoning his own pack to fight the wicked creatures. He was himself again, a real wolf. His blood was running, he was giving orders, dispatching the others to their positions, overseeing and planning the attack. For once, he was victorious. The sun came up upon his smile and rested on his happy face, and as he opened his eyes Cleo’s big round head was above him.

‘Aaaaaaarrrrgggg!’ he yelled.

‘Aaaaaaarrrrgggg!’ she yelled back scared to death, and her wool stood up on end.

The real-life nightmare was back, but now he could deal with it. He continued to snarl at her until he brought her to the point of imminent heart attack and then he laughed until his stomach hurt. He strutted to the nearest stream, washed his face and sprinkled his pectorals with cold water while Cleo just stood there dumbfounded and watched. For some weird reason, he was feeling good about himself. This one was really tough even for an exceptional emotional intuition such as Cleo’s.

(to be continued)

Pigli and Cleo (4)

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CHAPTER FOUR

 

They had been walking for quite some time. Cleo was happy as a lamb, prancing and cavorting all over the place, humming tunes to herself and plucking flowers for her coronation.  Then, all of a sudden, Pigli heard this behind him:

‘Oh, look, aren’t they sweet… oh, and so soft! Look, look!!!’

As he turned around, his face twisted with disgust. She was talking about rabbits.

‘Forget it. I hate them. Period.’ he said curtly, trying to hide the fact that his blood pressure had just doubled.

‘Oh, you’re so mean! I simply don’t see why’, she said, offended. ‘They seem quite harmless and vulnerable and… stoooop! You’re scaring them all away! After all, they’re creatures, just as we are.’

At this, Pigli had to fight off the desire to go smash his head against the first tree. He just barely managed it.

‘You know’, he eventually spoke, ‘you never cease to amaze me. “We’re creatures, we’re all alike”’,he began mimicking her in mockery. ‘Listen to her! Didn’t you say it yourself? Didn’t you need to be a wolf to be able to be proud of yourself? There you have it, lady. Only wolves are noble. Rabbits are jerks.’

‘Who says?’

‘You did!’

‘Well, I’m sorry if you misinterpreted. But I just happen to like rabbits. They’re just nice and fluffy and… small.  They don’t kill anybody.’

‘What are you implying? You’re the future Miss Wolf-killer, remember? That’s not nice either.’

That’s different.’

‘How is that different?!’

‘Simple. Because people are afraid of wolves. Sheep are afraid of wolves. Rabbits are afraid of wolves. Wolves are frightening. So it’s courageous and noble to kill them.’

‘Oh, really?! How enlightening! I’m sure that’d be a great comfort to Tina, who is now limping away in a Zoo, crippled and alone, because some macho hunter was looking for a noble deed!’ He couldn’t take much more of this. It’s a good thing stupidity doesn’t hurt or you’d hear the wailing on the other side of the Milky Way, he thought.

‘Uh…Who’s Tina?’

‘Just a girl I knew. A long time ago. None of your business.’

‘Sorry, Boss.’ Cleo lowered her eyes and was silent for a while, pondering his story. After a while she stopped pondering and tried her hand at appeasing the situation.

‘I guess… you’re probably right. But that’s what people say, anyway.’

‘And I know someone who’s all too eager to please them’, came the reply, sharp as a knife’s edge.

And then, they want me to pose for their tourist brochures, he started brooding.  No sir. I’ll do nothing of the sort. I am going to do nothing but lie on my back and watch the ceiling all day, just to spite them. The visions were making him scowl and grin ferociously.

‘Whoops, some hard feelings there’, Cleo thought out loud.

‘You betcha.’

‘Well, I’m surprised, to tell you the truth. I didn’t think you had it in you.’

‘Just shut up.’

‘That’s the problem. I can’t.’

‘Why?’

‘I’m hungry.’

‘Well, let’s have a rabbit then.’

‘Are you insane? You’re not really gonna eat them?!’

‘Oh, just watch me.’

‘I won’t be a part to this. I’d much rather go without food. I’ll graze later, when we come to the pasture.’

‘Fine! Suit yourself.’

‘Fine!’

Cleo realized she had upset Pigli. He had locked himself in his own thoughts and those didn’t seem very positive. From time to time he was spitting. He seemed really miserable and full of grudges. Pigli was not a happy wolf. Thank God I am a sensitive creature, emotionally intelligent and with a lot of empathy to offer, Cleo praised herself.

So they continued to walk empathically side by side towards the valley until late into the afternoon and then into the evening.  They no longer talked.  Cleo was munching on the occasional patches of thick, juicy grass that she could find and adorning the trail behind her with nice, firm, well-rounded pieces of sheep dung. She used to have frequent problems with constipation before, but not anymore. Since Pigli had informed her of his brilliant idea, her dream had slipped within reach again and that had simply revived her whole system. Or maybe it was the rich forest grass? Either way, she felt excited and enthusiastic again after all those years and when she contemplated this she could hardly prevent her eyes from becoming watery with gratitude towards the wolf. She almost began to consider him her friend. She had never really had a friend and was now discovering emotions she didn’t even know she possessed. Even though she was still very self-absorbed, she would every now and then lend a thought to Pigli and wonder what his life must have been like. Her ripe imagination concocted wild scenarios of the terrifying experiences that he had been through. She was terribly curious and burned with the desire to interrogate him again and again, but watching the nervous twitches on his face and being as emotionally intelligent as she was, she decided to let it go. For now.

Nervous twitches aside, Pigli looked his usual apathetic self and refrained from any feeding endeavor whatsoever. He probably felt he would be more than compensated afterwards, once he’d finally get to the Zoo, so finding food now was really not worth the effort. He was intent on his route and on getting there fast.  Besides, there was not much on the menu either. Wolves are the doctors of the forests, they feed on dead or sick animals, and there were no more animals left in the woods, apart from rabbits. And those were bursting with health.

Now it was getting late and, as he faced his first night in the woods away from his den, Pigli began to think. Even though his existence of late had been quite dismal and living in the forest was totally without prospects, he began to feel the first darts of regret. He realized he had left his den so impetuously, without thinking twice about it and without looking back, and he was getting, well, homesick. After all, it had been his home. He had a strange premonition that he might actually miss those sullen days when he would spend all of his waking hours thinking up new rabbit traps and playing with their psyche. He had a strange premonition that he might actually miss getting annoyed.

Slowly and silently Pigli and Cleo melted into the sunset, two black dots against the orange horizon, getting smaller every minute.

(to be continued)

Pigli and Cleo (3)

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CHAPTER TWO

Pigli’s mouth was dry from all the talking so for the rest of the day he limited himself to thinking silently. Idiot. I bet she got 5 meals a day from her shepherd.

But to his exasperation, the silence was constantly interrupted by Cleo’s endless nagging and badgering and uselessly trying her teeth at his collarbone – at which point he would snap, and she would bounce off him weeping and moaning and just feeling ashamed and terribly sorry for herself. She wouldn’t leave his side and it was sundown already. So Pigli decided it was time to show who’s boss. He laid himself on his bed of leaves, sat up on his elbow, and asked:

‘Look…. Ah… What’s your name, anyway?’

‘It’s Cleo’, she said, defeated and horribly disappointed in herself. I can’t even get a wolf to take me seriously.  I’m not even a decent meal. I must be cursed. Nothing I ever tried worked.

‘Cleo?!?’

Pigli thought this name was even dumber than his own and rejoiced.

‘What’s this’, he insisted, ‘your mother’s worst revenge? Were you an unwanted child?  I bet your childhood traumas are to be blamed for you behavior.’

‘If you must know’, and here Cleo drew her nose, ‘I come from a noble family, and my momma loved me very much. She had dreams of greatness for me. The name comes from Cleopatra. She was a powerful queen, you know.’

‘Yeah, yeah. She’s all over Discovery Channel. Good thing you don’t have her nose, too. That’d be the cherry on the cake.’

‘And you?’

‘Me what?’

‘Your name?’

Whoops.  Pigli had miscalculated a bit.  His plan was backfiring.

‘None of your business. Just call me Boss. Because that’s what I am here in the woods. Even humans respect me.’

‘Is it adventurous up here, Boss? Are humans as afraid of you as sheep are?

‘Pha! Are they afraid of me? You bet they are! You should see it. I only need to howl and they all scram. It’s pathetic actually…’, Pigli said condescendingly, and blew a lock of hair out of his right eye.

‘Wow.  I once wanted to be a wolf, you know…’

‘Are you going to cry again? Because if you are, I’m out of here. And I’m out of Kleenex, too. I stuffed it all in rabbit holes. But somehow they still managed to get out.  Duplicated.  I swear, I don’t get those creatures.’

‘Do you have brothers or sisters, Boss?’

This conversation was getting a bit too much on the soft side. So Pigli barked:

‘Enough confessions! Watch your tongue. I might still get hungry, you know. Go to sleep!’ he ordered. ‘I’m bored, it’s late, and I need my privacy. As soon as it’s dawn, scram. Don’t wake me!’

Cleo shrunk to a small ball of wool, coiled up, let out a long sigh and whispered:

‘I’m scared.’

CHAPTER THREE

During the night, a vicious thought had begun to form in Pigli’s twisted brain. He kept thinking that there must be a way he could turn this misfortune to his advantage, if he was smart enough. Yes, this might actually work! He awoke so happy that he was actually up before sunrise and feeling fresh and ready for the first day of the rest of his life.

‘Hey, Cleo, hey, wake up! Get up!’, Pigli said and began to shake Cleo vigorously.

‘Oh, mom, just five more minutes, mom, no, I don’t want to curl my hair this morning…!’,  Cleo mumbled in her sleep.

‘Open your eyes, you fool, it’s me, the Boss. I call the shots here, remember?’

‘What is it?’, she jumped to her feet, terrified.  ‘A bear?’

‘No bears around here. (Bears! He could almost laugh. Long extinct, honey.) Listen. What do you want most in life?’

‘Pardon?!’

‘Wake up I said!’, Pigli rolled his eyes and threw his head backwards in disapproval. ‘Listen to me. I have an idea. What is it you want most in life?’

‘Well, I don’t know anymore… I guess I always wanted recognition… but that’s all gone now, and honestly, I’m kind of tired, this whole emotional turmoil has taken its toll…’

‘Oh, shut up with that emotional crap. You wanted to hunt a wolf to be famous, right?’

‘Right.’

‘What if I help you get that?’

‘Oh…, oh Boss, you would? You would? Oh, I knew wolves were a noble species.’

‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cut it out. Listen. I can help you but only if you help me, too.’

‘Sure, anything, Boss. Just name it. Sure. Wow, you would actually do that?’ And Cleo’s eyes were dampening with tears of gratitude.

‘Well, not if you cry. That just disgusts me. Get a grip, will you?’

‘Right. Right, Boss. Now, pray, do tell.’

(Cleo, the Shakespearean heroine…)

‘You are such a fake, you know that?!’, Pigli said shaking his head, and sighed in disbelief. ‘Anyway. Here’s the deal. You want to be famous. To return among your own kind and be a star. Well, I want to be among my own kind too. And seeing as the woods are empty, and I’m totally alone, going crazy out of my brain, and no decent food anywhere, I mean, I’m a vegetarian here. And not by choice, if you know what I mean…’

‘Wow, that’s bad.’

‘I know.  So, what I want is to go where everybody else is, in a Zoo.’

‘In a Zoo???’, Cleo said with bulging eyes. ‘You would give up your freedom? Your pride?’

‘Who cares about that?’

‘Well, I do.’

‘Look, do you want to be famous or what? Must I remind you that you depend on my plan?’

‘Fine. But I must say I’m a little disappointed.’

‘That makes two of us. Gee! You think I’m excited about you?’

‘So what do I have to do?’

‘All you have to do is a little role-playing, you know, be a little theatrical, nothing out of your league. We’ll both go down to the flock, and, at the time of your choice, I will deliberately place my throat in your mouth. The press will come, there’s going to be interviews for you galore, you can give them your story, the works, I don’t care. As for me, I’m going to be so “badly hurt” that they’re going to have to check me into a Zoo, right? The way I see it, it’s your typical win-win situation. What do you say?’

Cleo’s eyes were glistening. She put her right hoof to her chest and said in tears:

‘I love you, Boss. You are a genius.’

(to be continued)

Pigli and Cleo (2)

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CHAPTER ONE

So Cleo boldly went where no other sheep had gone before: trotting up the hill to the woods, to find her way to a wild wolf and a wild wolf’s mouth.

Something must be terribly wrong with the world we live in though, because she only found Pigli.

It was a beautiful spring morning, April 1, to be exact. Sunny and crisp, with fresh yellow crocuses dotting the pastures and dainty wild violets peering out every here and there. The mountaintops were still snow-capped and chilly. The semi-darkness of dawn had not yet dissipated from the innermost realms of the forest, and Pigli was sleeping late again. Not that that deterred Cleo. As soon as his eyelids were rolled up, she closed in like a Japanese warrior. She immediately bowed, greeted and uttered:

‘Here I am. We can begin to fight. I have settled my scores with life. You are the last one I need to settle.’   (“Bold approach”, she congratulated herself with an inner smile.)

‘Excuse me?!’ Pigli squinted and pulled his ears straight back. He had barely awoken and was a bit confused. You have to excuse him. He was not his – well— usual quick self at this early hour.

‘Well, ok, you stand a fair chance of winning, I’ll grant you that.’

‘What?!’

‘What are you, deaf?’ Cleo said with her natural self-righteous indignation and scanned him from head to toe. ‘Look, if you’re a grandpa, just direct me to somebody younger, someone who has more fire in him, I’m looking for a real opponent, not just anybody.

‘Listen. Are humans shooting a documentary again? I hate it when I have to touch raw flesh before the camera and make believe I enjoy it. These environmentalists are a real pain in the butt. How much did they pay you for this?’

‘I beg your pardon?!’ It was Cleo’s turn to feel insulted. ‘What environmentalists?’, she said hysterically, understanding exactly zilch of the entire situation. ‘How dare you? Nobody paid me anything. The kind of cynicism one comes across these days…! I’m here because I hunted you down. That makes you my prey. What, you think that because I’m a sheep, I can’t hunt? Now, if you’ll have some dignity…p-leaaaase!’, Cleo said.

At this point Pigli’s eyes popped out of his long face in absolute disbelief.  His jaw fell.

‘What on earth came over you, lady? You know, there’s still time to plead temporary insanity before you really hurt somebody. I mean, have you taken a look in the mirror in the last hundred years? Oh yeah… you’re to die for.  Hahahaha!  This is… this is hysterical!’

Pigli almost suffocated with laughter. But Cleo the Sheep continued to stand there, dignified to 42 degrees of stiffness, and to stare directly in front of her, profoundly insulted. So he felt it was time to bring in some pragmatic reasoning.

‘Look. You’re so ancient I’d probably have to stew you in vinegar for a week and even then my teeth wouldn’t sink in. Besides, where would I find vinegar. Or fries, for that matter? See, you’re just creating dilemmas. Stop giving me headaches. Oh, wait. I know what’s going on! April Fool’s Day, I get it! Very funny. I bet they put you up to it, didn’t they? I swear those rabbit jerks are really pulling my strings, trying to get me committed to an asylum.’

‘Will you shut up and be a little serious about this? I’m not laughing, am I? Although’, Cleo added in a low voice, ‘you should really see a vet about those teeth. I bet that’s why you’re so grumpy. But anyway. There should be rules here. What vinegar, what fries? I’ll not have you make a mockery of it. If you win – and I must emphasize if –  then I expect you to at least devour me in a wolfish manner.’

Between you and me, at this point Cleo could hardly bring herself to remember how come she had admired wolves so much as to risk being eaten by one. But she was totally entangled in formalities and didn’t realize it.

‘Fine.  If you insist.’

‘Err…  So how will you do it?’

‘Do what?’

‘Eat me.’

‘Are you at it again? Look, if you got such a death wish, why don’t you just hara-kiri yourself and I’ll drop by later to chew on your remains, how about that? We’ll make believe you lost the fight fair and square. I really ain’t got time for this. I’m tired.’ And he yawned.

Pigly turned and started to walk away in slow motion. He’d been overcome by a violent stroke of… total lack of enthusiasm. It happened to him quite often these days. Cleo contemplated his suggestion for a while. Then the small shimmer of a teardrop came up in her eyes and a nervous knot clogged her throat as she stuttered:

‘But what… what … what if the ravens get me before you?’

And she began to leap along in his footsteps baaing hysterically the whole time.

‘Well, don’t worry about the ravens. I should think you scared them all away by now’, said Pigli through his teeth. And then to himself. Oh, boy.  Why me…? I need a nap.

(to be continued)

Pigli and Cleo – a story for kid(der)s and grown-ups

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INTRODUCTION

Pigli was a wolf. He was one of those few majestic wild creatures still living in the great outdoors. OK, for the sake of accuracy, he was the last one. He wasn’t excited about that. Being a wild wolf, I mean. To be honest, he couldn’t care less. The great outdoors were getting pretty small and he was getting pretty tired of sharing his space with those annoying, good-for-nothing rabbits that multiply like crazy and pretty soon will take over his den too. What a bore to chase! All of a sudden there’s 20 of them scuttling in all directions and he’s left there with his stomach stuck to his backbone. You get absolutely no respect from those little jerks, especially with a name like that.

Yep, that’s Pigli. A monument of wildness.

As for majestic…oh well. His ragged gray fur hung crooked like an oversized coat from his body, full of bald spots and yellowish chunks of last season’s hair. His ribs were poking out. He hadn’t sharpened his teeth in a while, and didn’t care to, and some of them were looking pretty shaky.

At the time this story begins, Pigli was a very disturbed wolf. He suffered from a major type of depression characterized by acute oversleeping and made worse by a pathological inclination for easy meals with long siestas. Wicked-minded people will call it laziness – which couldn’t, of course, be farther from the truth. Others might say it was a matter of intellect. That he was sophisticated and blasé. It can happen to lone creatures with too much time on their hands. But the truth is you cannot judge someone before you’ve even met them. So stay with the story.

Countless times had Pigli attempted to give himself up to a Zoo for a modest, 5-times-a-day free nourishment. But with environmentalists in full swing he’d been brought back every single time and set loose again. They decided he was “endangered species” and therefore belonged in the forest. (Oh, what magnificent logic! I wonder how they came up with that, he would groan sarcastically to himself.) They seemed to be pretty stubborn about it though, as he noticed after his ninth attempt. So they circled the forest with barbed wire to keep it pristine, came twice a year to measure his stress levels (he was bored out of his skull), never brought any food (What total lack of courtesy! I have needs!), and mostly left him to himself. All this while the idea of fleeing and joining a real Zoo never for one minute left his head. But until he could think up something smart enough to succeed, he was condemned to this wilderness stuff.

Well now, Cleo on the other hand, Cleo was one of those blabber-all-day, never-satisfied, round-looking balls of wool on four legs usually referred to as “sheep”. But no regular sheep, either, mind you. This one had fire in her blood. Since childhood, she had dreamed of adventure and overachievement. To rise above her anonymous condition. In sheep terms, that translates to: she had always dreamed of being a wolf.

With time, and after she had heard of a funny thing called Genetics, which supposedly differentiates across species like some sort of secret alchemy, she reluctantly gave up her quest to become a wolf. At least in public. She had heard of Philosopher’s Stones, but this one was the size of half a mountain, jumping through evolutionary eons like that.  So she applied to get a clone instead.

She enrolled to be a gene donor, went through the whole painstaking process, tests… examinations… experiments (performed mostly on her brain)… you know, the works. But somebody else, from the rich club, got chosen. And so came Dolly. Immortality and posterity all gone now, Cleo’s existence was hanging by a thread. The last way she could hope to save what was left of her battered self-esteem was to make a glorious exit out of her pitiful little existence.

To hunt a wolf.

Taking her own life would be too banal, too common these days. But to be the first sheep ever to hunt a wolf, to make that kind of statement …  to leave a legacy… (not to mention that she might be famous for longer than 15 minutes…) How adventurous! How free-spirited! How visionary! How grandiose!

Well, hopefully, he’d choke on her and spit her out without causing much damage….