Anna fed the lion bits of beef jerky on the way home, a delightful snack that seemed to cause him to perk up somewhat. Nevertheless, he was still quite frightened of Oinky, who would snarl and oink at the stranger on occasion just to keep him on his toes. For this, Anna reprimanded the small pig, but not without a degree of amusement.
The very first thing Anna did when she returned that afternoon was report to her father, certain that he would want to know of her newest friend. He probably wouldn’t be thrilled, but he’d understand, and maybe he’d even help her understand how exactly a small, malnourished baby lion came to be in the docks of Weary Winds.
However, when Anna attempted to explain the situation to her father, he merely scoffed, turning a rough purplish color that made Anna feel just as frightened as Baby Lion.
“Anna McDermott-Rains!” He chided her. “First you embarrass me in front of a Very Important Guest, and then you have the… the gall to tell me tall tales?”
Anna bit her lip.”What does gall mean?”
“Nerve,” Mr. McDermott sniffed. “It means you have a lot of nerve.”
“Oh,” Anna blinked. “Well, thank you, but–“
“It’s not a compliment,” cut in Mr. McDermott, and Anna gave him a disapproving look.
“–But it’s not a tall tale,” Anna explained, flapping her arms the way her father had when he was chiding her in an attempt to elicit respect. “I really did adopt a Baby Lion!”
“Oh?” Mr. McDermott rolled his eyes. “And I’m sure you’ve named it Roary and introduced it to your pig and they get along famously?”
“His name is Baby Lion and I have introduced him to Oinky and frankly their relationship could use some work,” the words tumbled out of Anna like an avalanche.
“Pah! Anna, when will you learn to focus on the important things in life, like school?”
“Hopefully never,” Anna huffed and her father groaned, turning and slamming the door. Anna was left alone out in the hallway, frustrated, but not technically forbidden from officially adopting the lion.
“Good news!” she skewed the truth somewhat when she met Baby Lion and Oinky in the barn. “My father didn’t say I couldn’t keep you!”
Baby Lion sneezed.
“I agree the double negative is confusing but believe me, it’s better than the alternative,” Anna laughed. “Welcome to the Acres! We’re so happy to have found you!”
Oinky grumbled a little something to herself, but Baby Lion didn’t seem to notice. Instead he gave a pathetic little moan, padding up to Anna and flopping at her feet in exhaustion, even as Oinky rolled her eyes and oinked something unrepeatable (by nature of it being an oink).
“You seem tired, Baby Lion,” Anna observed thoughtfully. “I think you could use some exercise before you sleep though. You seem a little stringy, no offense.”
Baby Lion gave a little yawn.
“I say we go for a hike,” Anna decided. “Just a little one, up to the edge of the corn. And then we can have a picnic and sip tea and nibble on oatcakes. Do you like oatcakes?”
Baby Lion stared at Anna blankly.
“Fair point,” Anna admitted. “Maybe not the best snack for a lion. Or a pig, frankly, but Oinky is picky anyway.”
“So it’s settled!” Anna clasped her hands together. “A hike! Off we go!”
Anna, Oinky, and Baby Lion began the long walk to the edge of the cornfields. The sun was cool that day, the breeze, flattering, and it was the perfect weather for such an excursion. Though Baby Lion occasionally wavered, mumbling unintelligible excuses and beginning to turn around, Oinky was always there to force him forward with a glare, even as Anna spoke words of encouragement. Soon enough, they arrived at their destination, and Anna laid out a small picnic blanket and took out a thermos of lukewarm tea and a packet of half-crushed oatcakes.
“Okay,” Anna smiled. “Who’s hungry?”
Next: Back to School…