For the prequel “House of Straw” click here.
Harold was a wolf.
He didn’t see much of a difference between wolves and pigs. It wasn’t a popular opinion.
When wolves died, they were ground down into pig chow. When pigs died they were cut up into steaks for the wolves. In the end, Harold figured, it’s all shit.
He sat licking between the front fingers of his paw, staring up at the brick monstrosity before him. For the third time in one month, he’d been sent to the same family.
“My boss is a pig,” he thought. “Hell,” he thought, “the president is a pig. Just bad luck,” he decided. But, he wondered, “why couldn’t they have sent a pig, why me?”
Harold knocked on the thick wooden door. It opened midway through the third rap.
It was Fredrick.
“You, swine!” Fredrick spat, swearing. He slammed the door.
Harold knocked again, softly. Loud voices thumped against the other side of the door. Eventually, it opened.
Francis shut the door. Harold waited. Harold felt his heart thudding around in his chest. He calmed it with a few deep breaths. The door opened.
“Hey Harold,” Finton said. He was taller than his brothers. Handsomer, with a longer snout and bigger eyes.
“I tried Harold. But, you know how pigs are. The cleaning bill alone!”
Harold nodded, screwing up his face in what he hoped was compassion.
“Why would they send you to all three of us?” Finton mused.
Harold shrugged. “Beats me.”
“If we’d have been wolves, you know,” Finton cocked his head to the side. “You know.”
Harold bit his tongue and bobbed his head noncommittally.
“You’d be torn apart on this doorstep,” Finton said, “if,” he added, “if we were wolves, of course.”
“Right,” Harold said, swallowing his agitation. He held out the clipboard. “You’ll need to sign.”
Finton looked down at the clipboard. He shook his head slowly.
“You know our grandfather used to own this house, before we all became so, civilized,” Finton added a bite to the last word.
Harold felt the hairs on the back of his neck straighten. He barred his teeth instinctively. Finton chuckled.
“Maybe those times aren’t so far gone. Do you feel like huffing and puffing Harold?”
Harold swallowed his own teeth.
“Sor-” he began.
Then, someone tackled him from the side.
“Fredrick! What the hell!” Harold called from under the pig. Fredrick was in a rage. He pulled his head back and slammed it into Harold’s chest. Harold lost his breath. He began coughing. Finton walked up. He stood over the scene.
“Civilization is the great equalizer Harold, you should know.”
Harold felt a shocking pain in his left foot. He craned his neck, looking down at his own feet. Francis looked up, his mouth wet with blood.
“I’m sorry, Harold, I’m so sorry,” he said, a toe falling from his mouth.
“Francis!” Finton snapped.
Francis looked up.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full.”