“Oh, I got to show you my endangered pigs,” Fozzie says, stretching. “Ever heard of Choctaw hogs?”
Emma frowns, tapping her chin. “I have. Yes. One of the rare breed registries had some show event locally, we had a display in the atrium for a month. Some very odd pictures.”
“Fused toes, like a horse’s hoof, some interesting genetics there,” says Fozzie, scratching his forearms until the hair is all rumpled and disarranged. “Pardon me, ma’am, but this time of year, between the bugs and the dust and shedding like a cat in a panic, it’s a wonder I don’t scratch myself away completely.”
“Why are your pigs rare?” Emma says.
“Lack of perceived market value,” says Fozzie, making a face, “cause they don’t fill out as big and fast as the standards. They made damn fine country hams.”
“I remember now,” she nods, pleased at recalling it. “Something about how the fused hoof reduces their problems with hoof-rot in wet conditions. Some of that genetic diversity we would be well-advised to hang onto for future breeding resources.”
“Give the lady her lottery money,” Fozzie says, grinning. “That’s right. Spanish blood to begin with, they think. Plus the dogs what they used to herd them with, Catahoula Curs. Those dogs came with the Spaniards and the Spanish pigs too. Pig-working dogs up through the 1900-some. The working lines, they still got a taste for herding pigs. They’ll herd chickens, kids, you name it. If you don’t know any better, they look like Australian shepherds. Cracked eye colors, like green and blue in the same eye, sometimes. Smart as the dickens, you got to work ’em to keep ’em happy, they ain’t no couch-potato Cocker Spaniels, that’s for sure.”
“But how do you take care of all of that properly, if you’re off on the road all the time?”
“Oh, my old lady, she’s into the whole rare-breed livestock thing. When I find some for sale, I hand ’em over to her. She has the boys shoveling the pens for her. I’m just the collector.”
“The way you collect other antiques,” Emma says slowly.
He nods, blinking at her behind his dark shades. “Oh, I collect collections, even. I got some old recordings that’ll make your boy Dance’s eyes roll right up in his head. Got some instruments I wouldn’t mind him taking a look at, see if he can keep ’em happy for awhile. You know how musical instruments get sad when they don’t get used, they don’t like it if they just hang on the wall and catch dust. They like working too. Mine, I got to be particular who works ’em, they won’t settle for just anybody. Now, you think I’m kidding, huh?”
Emma shakes her head. “I’ve talked to some of the mask people and puppet-makers who’ve given talks at the library. By all accounts, it can be…really interesting.”
He grunts. “Which is saying something, coming from you, begging your pardon, ma’am.”
She lifts an eyebrow, blinking at him.
He shrugs, yawns, stretches again. “Well, not many folks will go pick themselves out a piece of work like Dance. My God, there’s art for you. It just makes you hurt to look at him.”
“Or to watch him eat alligator gar?”
“Oh yeah. You ever see something move that fast? He needs to eat more game meat, in my not-so-humble opinion. Find something for him that he can live with biting the head off and nibbling they tiny toes.”
Emma rubbed her upper arms, feeling the heat of the sun baking her skin. Then she asks,
“Would your lady have time to help him sort that out?”
He stands silent for some time. “Well, I’m hoping she can. I’m sure Drin was relying on that, counting on us keeping you two at our place if he has to go off and get his noble ass shot off to prove his word is still good or something equally stupid.”
Emma chews on her lower lip for a moment, and finally risks the question. “Do you think he will have to?”
Fozzie shrugs. “Well, you know Dance is always going to be welcome in our lot, and you are a grace and a gift to any place you decide to light down, so you’d both be good with us if he does need to leave for awhile. But he’d be back for you. Drin just don’t give up on things. Like a goddamn terrier when he gets the scent of something, sometimes you got to jam a stick between his jaws to make him just let it go.”
Writer’s Notes: this chunk is also a followup on events in my first “cornered” piece of fic, “You Get to Explain Later, Right?”…