To many, the cawing of a rooster meant the start of a workday, to others the beginning of change.
To Hernandes, it meant the beginning of the end.
Every day, without fail, Hernandes heard the bellowing caws of the farmstead’s rooster. Like clockwork the rooster crowed at daybreak. Stupid thing always woke him up. Always.
The startling cries from the narcissistic bird never failed to wake up the barnyard. Clucks from all sorts of birds burbled into his ears as he stretched out his legs to start for the day. First the left leg, then the right. Stretching himself until he heard a click, Hernandes shook his head back and forth to wake up. Lazily blinking his eyes to leave the realm of sleepy goodness, Hernandes deduced he fell asleep in the pigpen last night. The feel of squishy mud upon his butt and telltale oinks or varying intensity only served to prove his point. He stood up, dirtying his knees in the process.
He knew that the rooster’s crows, with the barnyard, woke up the farmer too.
“Better get going now.”
Hernandes made his way through the mud piles both fresh and old until he felt the splintery wood of the pen’s gate.
Suddenly a pressure formed on his left side, easily pushing his small frame forward. He withdrew from the gate and took a sniff.
Just dirt and pigs and pig poo and feed. He turned to go open the gate again. He was about to leave the pen when the pressure returned, this time, from the right. Squinting his eyes in puzzlement, Hernandes felt pressure come into contact with his right hip, easily knocking him to the ground. To his side was a pig. Sow. Small. Not big enough to eat yet. He thought about gently steering her away, but before he could do anything, he was being lifted into the air.
He was callously jostled to his feet by an equally rough calloused pair of hands. Stumbling a little before righting to the squelch and squish of wet mud beneath his feet (he hoped it was mud, anyways), Hernandes stilled.
“What did you think you were doing? Sleeping out here.”
The more quiet he was now, the less trouble he’d be in later.
“Sleeping with the pigs, again?”
The scraping of the metal handle against its lock that didn’t quite fit right followed the closing of the old gate. Some loud thumps and disgruntled oinks reverberated through his skull as he felt the farmer getting closer.
“Come on, say something.”
The gruff and unimpressed voice of the farmer traveled through his ears, and he felt a big hand clamp down on his right shoulder.
“Tell me why you were out here.”
Hernandes stayed silent.
“I know you’re not deaf,” said the farmer.
Hernandes said naught. The oinks started up again, and pigs crowded around the two people.
“Well,” the farmer sighed, “if that’s how you’re going to be…”
A quick squeeze on his right shoulder and then the presence left. But the warm air next to him told otherwise.
“I’m going back to the house. We can try setting you up for school again later.”
One of the big hands ruffled his hair, lingered a bit too long, and then he was alone.
The oinks quieted down.