Twelve-year-old Emily spent every summer at her grandmother’s beach cottage where she breathed in the salt air, swam in the ocean and rode Grammy Tuck’s prize-winning pony, Patrick.
This year Emily saw something new, though, when she looked out Grammy’s kitchen window. She saw pigs! Real live ones. The animals seemed to live on a nearby island and one or two would sometimes get away and wade over to the mainland at low tide.
Emily longed to visit “Pig Island.” But whenever she asked for permission, her grandmother would wrinkle up her nose in disgust and say, “Why would you want to go see a bunch of smelly old hogs wallowing in their own manure?”
“It wouldn’t be worth the trip over,” the local fishermen told her. “The animals don’t like to be mommicked (disrupted).”
“It makes them angry.”
It wasn’t that Emily didn’t believe them — it was just that she considered herself an explorer. Her father had always called her “Scout.” Plus, she wasn’t fond of being told “No” and if worse came to worst, and she got lost, Patrick always knew the way home. With him navigating the way, Emily couldn’t think of any reason she shouldn’t go.
That afternoon when she rode Patrick to the beach, Pig Island looked close enough to touch.
I can’t wait to make the trip! Emily thought with excitement. It’s now or never.
Emily dug her heels into Patrick’s side until he went into a full gallop. The goal was to return before the tide changed so that his tracks would be covered up behind them and no one would have to know where they’d been.
After crossing a sandbar and splashing through shallow water, though, Patrick suddenly snorted, stopped, and refused to go any further.
Emily heard loud snuffles and grunts and when she looked down, several pigs were nipping at Patrick’s legs and rubbing their snouts against him, making him whinny and rear up on his hind legs. Their hairy jaws reached in the stirrups for Emily’s legs too and they snarled and roared and snapped their mouths open and shut, their teeth bared menacingly. Emily’s heart skipped a beat and she fought back tears and the urge to cry out for help, knowing that no one would hear her screams.
Disappointment stung like saltwater on her lips as Patrick spun around, let out a loud bray, and raced madly towards home, his nostrils flaring. Up ahead, forming two lines on the beach, stood a crowd of people.
Emily slid down from the saddle and into her father’s open arms. After he put her down, he took a step back and examined her, from the top of her head to the bottoms of her toes.
“Thank goodness you’re back, Scout, and all in one piece. I was worried sick and ready to send out a search party. Your spirit and gumption are to be admired, but you’re forgetting one thing.”
“Scouts are always prepared. They tell someone where they’re going, they take a friend, and they always pack an emergency kit to carry with them.”
“Oh. I should have done all of those things. Next time I will.”
“Promise me you will?” He implored. “Cross your heart?”
“I promise, Dad. With all of my heart.”
Then Emily made a giant “X” across her chest with her right hand and behind her, Patrick let out a soft nicker.