.There’s a swath of rural forest and scrub-land in central Florida where heavily armed men have occasion to gather for their version of fun. And when they come, they come in fast on big-wheel trucks to shoot or run down anything that moves. Yet, it’s not ‘coon or possum or birds they first pursue, but wild pigs caught digging deep for wild tubers or drinking too long from rain-pools and streams.
So it was that fall day, as Arn stood watching nature quietly tending her own, when the hunters came barreling into a clearing blazing their guns. Every creature ran or lifted in fright, until all that was left was a truck, shooting in circles. Arn too had run hard for the trees, crashing through razor-palms, over termite logs and ant hills, then deep into the woods.
When in the distance the guns finally died down, Arn collapsed against the trunk of a massive tree. His heavy breathing was now all that he heard, the forest silent as it held the man hiding in its arms. It was then that he felt the pain and saw the blood, red drops steadily dripping down onto brown leaves and into brown ground. He didn’t know if he was cut or shot, but either way Arn felt its trouble. A few minutes ago he had been admiring the birds while they admired him, but now not so much as a feather fluttering in a tree. Arn closed his eyes in rest, and a dream of the world a bird watcher couldn’t change. He dreamed of other things, too, of life and living, of work to be done, even the crock-pot then simmering his favorite soup in long away home.
When morning came, it seemed a thousand birds had taken to the branches in Arn’s tree, and each calling out to the rising sun. Below them, Arn lay still on leaves of crimson ground, maybe dreaming of mornings like this. As the early rays of light shown through the trees, a family of wild pigs came cautiously by. The father, black as night and the size of a bull, hesitated, head up, tusks swinging, sniffing the air for signs of hostile intent. Mother pig sniffed also, as their four little ones mimicked for future references in survival. Then, twenty feet away, they saw Arn, his eyes open and his face white. The sow and her brood moved quickly away, while the bull stayed right where he was, unmoved, until his were safe. Yet, even the wise father had not seen such before, and wondered why the humans had killed one of their own. His parting thought recalled having seen this man, and more than once, remembering he had caused no trouble.
All that day and next, Arn stayed still. When the days became months, without a sound Arn exited an entrance into nature’s wood. For a time the pigs avoided this place, but Arn’s birds took turns standing by, singing or calling, until the man gone into the roots finally took wing.