Oasis – A contemporary journey

CanaryTheFirst challenged me: “You have exactly three days to get me a piece of fiction ten pages double spaced about the following premise: Main character wakes up with no memory, a stolen animal (your pick), and an incessant cough. If I do not have ten pages of this story in my email inbox before the deadline, all sorts of feathery wrath shall fall upon you like a yellow plague.”

So, here goes…

A warning: I decided to go with some realism and included some swearing in this piece. If it’s not for you, don’t read.

Reviews for this story …

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The velvety nose with its sprinkling of hairs woke me. My body ached like I’d been hit by a train of a thousand carriages, trampled by a stampede of wild cattle, picked up by a giant eagle and dropped four hundred feet onto a pile of tyres, bounced onto the road and dragged by a V8. But, it was my head that got my attention first. It pounded.

“Grrblpm,” I groaned when I tried to open my eyes. But, it was light already, and I wasn’t ready to handle that. Coffee. I needed coffee. Music would be good, too.

I slapped my hand about beside me, trying to find the stereo remote. It hit grass and soil. Huh. This wasn’t my bed. Keeping my left eye squeezed tight, I commanded my muscles to pry open my right. The lids flickered, strobing the already blinding light. I definitely wasn’t home.

There were trees above me, grass below, and ferns and saplings dripping dew onto the ground … and me. I heard an approaching hiss, and looked just in time to roll across the gravel and out of the way of a cyclist. My companion squealed and ran across my belly to make a get away, winding me. But, we were tethered. I gripped the chain around my neck before it did any more damage, and then resigned to opening my eyes and dealing with what reality had to throw at me.

Pig

Pig (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

I was lying, half-naked, on a forest floor, a chain round my neck, at the end of which was a pig. A little pig, thankfully, but a pig, no less. What clothing I wore consisted of an adult-sized nappy; the material kind, folded, and held closed by a large pin. By the feel of it, I had used it during the night. The pig’s squeals were replaced by contented snuffles. It had started rooting around in the soil at the base of a tree. My stomach grumbled; I could do with breakfast, too.

I dragged my arse off the ground and clambered to as near a standing position as my bruised and aching body would allow. An annoying tickle started in the back of my throat. Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Khugglh! Ugh. And now a sore throat to add to the list. It set my head off again, too. And the pig. Squee! Squee!

Arrgh!

Oh. Friendly wave to the horrified mother trying to cover the eyes of her inquisitive son and wide-eyed baby, and keep her buggy moving past all at once.

“I’m getting married!” Big grin. I’m guessing it’s not every day they see a full-grown man in damp nappies with a pig attached by a chain to his neck. Stag do’s have a lot to answer for: here I was, terrorizing kids in the middle of a forest park.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Squee! Squee! Sgurgh! I tugged at the chain to shut the thing up. Which isn’t like me – I love animals. At least, I think I do. And pigs are pretty cute. But admiring the pig wasn’t going to get me home, which was … where exactly? I turned on the spot, looking for something familiar. There were … trees. And more trees. And a path. And some more trees. Nothing gave me a clue. There was nothing for it; time to pick a direction and follow the path. Well, since the mother and her children came from that direction, and they must have been coming from somewhere, I would go that way. North, south, east or west? It wasn’t for me to know. Nor the pig, who trotted along beside me on its light wee feet.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Grrblugh! Squee!

“I’m getting married!” I announced to the couple running off their breakfasts.

“Congratulations!” The girl called over her shoulder.

That’s right. Congratulations were in order; for I, clearly, had been celebrating my upcoming marriage to, no doubt, a beautiful bride, whose name, and appearance, escaped me at that moment. Whatever I had been drinking, it had certainly done the job.

The tree cover wasn’t deep and I emerged into full sunlight within minutes. A field of grass extended in front of, and around, me; a set of swings and see-saw to my left; a picnic table across the path straight ahead; a duck pond to my right. Yep. I was definitely … somewhere.

“Mummy, that man is wearing a nappy!” A child pointed at me.

“Hi.” I waved, and gave my friendliest smile. “I’m getting married!” Beaming grin.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Hckgh! Squee!

The mother hurriedly placed herself between me and the child, lifted her from the swing and dragged her along the path, away to safety.

A nudge at my calf, and the pig looked at me with something resembling a smile. I smiled back. He was a good looking pig. Or she. I admit, I never checked. But a terrible thought occurred to me. I had woken up beside this pig. We hadn’t–? No, best not to think about such possibilities. Obviously, whatever I had been drinking had been potent. Scary, really, when you think about it.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Hugkfgl! Squee! Squee!!

“Oi!”

Who me? Yep, definitely me. A man strode in my direction.

“This is a family area. Get dressed or get gone!”

“I’m getting married!” The sentiment and the grin had served me okay, so far.

“I don’t give a shit. Get your depraved arse out of here before I call the cops!”

Woah. Scary man.

“Sure. Yeah. Sorry, man. Stag do. You know how these things get.”

“Whatever, fucktard. Fuck off.”

Wow. Rude.

I stumbled on. Just picked a direction – right. I went right.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Squee!

I was actually pretty grateful to have that pig with me. Seemed like my only friend in the world at that moment. Wonder where he, or she, came from?

I was also grateful for the soft grass. Much kinder on my bare feet than the forest path, or the gravel path I was loosely following past the ducks …

“Stag do.” Smile. Old man, wide eyed and frozen with piece of bread in hand. Brave ducks were making a move for it. “Getting married.” Proud grin. He shook his head in disbelief and refocused on the cacophony in front of him.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Ghachew! Squee!! Quack, quack, quack!

Finally, I emerged onto the side of a road. Houses line roads, which meant that my home was by a road. I wasn’t sure this was it, though. It didn’t look familiar, anyway. Was I even in my home town? I could imagine having a stag do out of town. I had often complained about the stag do/hens nights where the couple started hunting each other out – okay, the future bride started hunting out her future hubby – at the end of the night. In my opinion, the best way to fix that was to have the shindigs in separate cities. Shit. I hoped my friends hadn’t abandoned me in a strange town. Surely they would have been coming back for me. Maybe I shouldn’t have moved.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Gherglchk! Squee Squee!

Beep! Beep! “Wahoo!” “Ha ha!” Some unintelligible comment. Squee! A car of rowdy boys flew by. Yeah, laugh, fuckers. This’ll be you one day. Squee! You said it, pig.

I returned my attention to the task at hand. Home… I thought. Home is a house. And it looks like… a house. It’s brick. Or maybe it’s weatherboard. No. I’m not a fan of major home maintenance, and weatherboard just screams regular painting to me. Maybe I live in an apartment?

Squee squee!

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Hcktoe! Squee!

Damn cough. Who catches a cold for their stag do? Honestly, who? Me, apparently. I turned left. One direction was as good as any, and I figured I’d have to recognize something sooner or later. I didn’t think too deeply what the people in all the cars passing me might be thinking. I hoped they thought what I did: that I’d had a good night out celebrating my impending exit from the free market. A good night, followed by a very strange morning. I would remember this when … Michael? Or …  Frank? Well, I’d remember …  something, when other people got married. Assuming they hadn’t done so already.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Squee!

It’s a bizarre feeling when it suddenly dawns on you that you don’t remember …  anything. I mean, anything. A-ny-thing. Name? Don’t know. Address? Don’t know. Pets? One pig. Maybe. Maybe he, she, wasn’t mine. Bit of a shame if not, I think he, she, rather liked me. Fiancée’s name? Um… yeah, sorry. Sorry, darling.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Flpthhiggl! Squee!

I continued walking and hoping something would look familiar soon. I’d never had a night where I completely forgot so much. It was surreal. I felt like an alien crash landed to Earth trying to find the wreckage of my ship. Or, maybe there was a bunch of us, released from the belly of a mother ship, scattered about the countryside.

I heard a tap, tap, tap and turned to see dog running after us, its claws slapping the ground, its tongue lolling, its teeth bared.

“Chopper!” A guy called from farther down the road. “Come here, boy! No!”

Squeee! Squeee!!

The dog, chunky and brindle, pounced on my friendly pig. Squeee!

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Squee!

Ah, fuck. Somehow I knew the dog wouldn’t go for me, not on purpose, anyway. It’s funny how you remember some stuff, but other stuff totally escapes recollection. I shouldered the dog aside and collected the pig in my arms, then held it up over my head. The dog jumped up in front of me, but couldn’t propel its weight high enough to snatch its prey from my clutches. I kneed him in the ‘nads, but it didn’t deter him any.

Oh, shit.

Cough, cough. I was trying desperately not to drop that pig. Squee! Squee! Stop squirming!

Finally, the dog’s owner reached us. He had a lead, too. How nice of him to use it before my pig got a chunk taken out of him.

“Sorry, dude. He’s usually real good,” he said, clicking the lead to the metal ring on the dog’s collar. “Not everyday you see someone walking a pig …” He stood up, really seeing me for the first time. “Dude. What the hell are you supposed to be?”

“What does it look like?” I lowered the pig, who kept trying to clamber up me again. It wasn’t keen on that dog. Squee! I couldn’t blame it.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Squee! “Ow!” Trotters on bare skin hurt.

“I don’t know, aye. A politician?”

“I’m getting married. I just gotta find my friends …”

“Wow. Some friends. Good luck, dude.” He dragged his dog off back to the park.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Squee!

I dumped the pig back on the ground. It had made several red lines across my chest, even drew a little blood. Actually, now that I looked at myself, I was well bruised already. What had I done the previous night? Did I get a bit amorous with the stripper, or something? Some of the bruises looked a bit like paintball welts. Maybe that was it. I was a fan of paintball. I think. Well, self-exploration wasn’t getting me any closer to home than the pig admiration had. I plodded on, that pig trotting along beside.

At the corner, I looked both ways at the intersecting road. There were houses left and right, but to my right, there seemed to be a progression to some sort of commercial setting farther down the road. It was possible I lived that way. But, I wasn’t too comfortable with walking through town in a damp nappy with a pig chained to my neck. So, I went left.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Khugglh!  Squee!

Gasp and titter from passers by.

“I’m getting married,” I continued to insist, trying to convince myself as much as them. This whole loss of memory thing was starting to make me doubt my theory, but I had nothing better to believe. It was becoming a drag.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Squee!

So was that. I was well over that.

I trudged on, anyway – what choice did I have? – hard pavement wearing the soles of my feet, the occasional loose stone making me jump in agony. My feet were not accustomed to it – I was clearly a shoe-wearer. I wondered what kind of shoes I usually wore. Was I into sneakers, or loafers? Sandals, jandals or clogs? Boots? Dress or practical? Did I get around in a t-shirt and jeans? Or did I prefer to wear a shirt whether casual or on the job? What job did I do? Where was I? Where was home? I had a home, right?

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Squee!

I stopped while my head pounded, hand on thigh, opposite forearm over eyes. Then, smile and half-arsed wave. “Getting married. Stag’s night.” They carried on past, not convinced. Neither was I, anymore.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack. Nose pressed into leg. Well, that was kind of nice. I smiled at the pig. He, or she, smiled back. Well, I like to think he, or she, did.

A car pulled up beside us.

Cough, cough. Oh joy.  It felt like my lungs wanted to joint the party on the street. I needed to keep walking; I didn’t feel like trying to explain my look to anyone again.

“Fraser?”

Was he talking to me? Was I Fraser? I looked over my hunched shoulder. A guy was standing halfway out of a shiny red car, looking across the roof at me. Or passed me? I looked where he might have been looking. Just an overgrown garden behind a white wrought-iron fence with more rust than the white paint it was supposed to be coated in. No, it seemed he really was looking at me.

“Me?”

“Yes, you, silly. My god, what happened to you?”

Cough, cough. Snort.

“Um. Stag do. I’m getting married?”

The guy smiled. He had a nice smile. One of those open, genuine deals.

“No you’re not. Not that I know of, anyway. And, if you are, you have a lot of explaining to do, mister.” His tone was half-way between joking and annoyed. “Who’s is the pig?”

“Um … mine?”

“Oh boy. You really are a mess.” Whatever concern there was blended seamlessly with relief. This guy was truly glad to see me. And, I was pretty sure I was glad to see him. He stepped out from the car door, letting it close, came over to me. “Come here.” He opened his arms and took me in a warm embrace.

I don’t know why, but something about the gesture opened something inside, and suddenly I was crying into the man’s shoulder, my whole body shaking with I didn’t know what. Relief? Shame? I had no more self-respect to lose. I was already traipsing the suburban streets wearing a damp man-sized nappy with a pig attached to my neck.

“I’ve been so worried about you.” He sounded as though he were almost in tears himself.

I pulled away, studying him.

“I … don’t remember you.”

He looked at me with pity, sorrow, and … love?

He gave a slight smile. It was the cutest smile I had ever seen (I was sure of it); it, and the tickle at the back of my throat, nearly sent  my guts spilling out over the pavement. “I’m Joel. We … live together.”

Cough, cough. I bent over. Cough.  Squee! I stood again, wiping my mouth with my forearm.

Something was dawning on me. “It’s more than that, isn’t it?”

I grew up straight. I was the model son, played with guns and trucks and little toy soldiers – granted, sometimes my soldiers got friendly, but I didn’t have a sister with Barbies to pair them up with. I had girlfriends.

A series of images flashed in my head.

I grew up as straight as the goddamned bastards who abducted me last night.

But, I got over it.

His smile broadened. “Yes. It’s much more than that.” He turned me to the car, and guided me to the back seat – well, the pig wouldn’t fit in the front too good, would he? Or she. “Still, you haven’t proposed to me, yet.

“I’ll take you home. We’ll do something about that chain, you can have a shower and get into some clothes. And then we’ll try to figure out what happened.”

“Is the pig mine?”

“No, Fraser. I don’t know where that came from.” He shut the car door, walked around the car and climbed in the driver’s seat. “You work at a bar,” he said, looking out the windscreen. “I didn’t know what to think when you didn’t come home last night. I admit I, I thought you’d gone off with someone else. I’m sorry. I was so angry. I should’ve come looking sooner. You look like you’ve been hit by a truck. I’m sorry.”

“I forgive you.” What else could I do? He was my only friend in the world at that moment. “Let’s go home.”

He smiled in the rear-view, put the car in gear and pulled into traffic.

I sat back, drew the pig onto my lap and scratched it between the ears.

He, or she, snorted contentedly.

FOUND:One pig.Cute.A friend indeed.If yours, would like shared custody.
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