Authors: John Reed
Tags: #Classics, #Neversink Library
But Benjamin shook his head, no. No, he didn’t care anymore. No, he didn’t see any reason to distinguish one pig from another.
Withdrawing into his stall, Benjamin closed his eyes and lifted up one leg. He was a bit deaf, and would have no trouble going back to sleep.…
Minimus exhaled wheezily.
It was up to him.
He knew it would be. Everything petty and meaningless was up to him.
Was this Snowball? And if so, who was Snowball? A traitor or a hero?
Minimus looked into
the eyes, and the heart, of the pig before him. And then, Minimus looked into his own heart.
Always a bit of a softie, Minimus, in his old age, had gone softer. Not to undervalue his considerable achievements—it was now Minimus who was Leader—who inhabited his own apartment in the Jones House—who had two dogs to wait upon him—who ate off the Crown Derby dinner service—who drank his daily half-gallon of beer from the soup tureen. And yet, where Minimus was very much like the other pigs, in that he was soft on the outside, he was not like them, in that he was soft on the inside. The other pigs would chew out the heart of an enemy were their nightly beer threatened—but Minimus didn’t really care about stuff like that. All the milk and apples left him empty. He had always suspected he had a soul so pure as a dove’s, and he suffered a salient regret, a remorse, that he had not been stronger, that he had not been greater, that he had not shown the fortitude to be faithful to himself—to be kinder, gentler to his own ideals … and, maybe, to the farm.
Snowball (or the Yorkshire making a mighty lot of claims about Snowball) broke the silence—
“Do you know the old pig pen?” he asked Matilda the cow, who nodded yes. “Bed it with hay, for me and my associate. We will sleep nowhere else.”
The old cow, not sure what to do with this questionable order from this questionable source, shuffled anxiously, and mooed to the pig she was certain was her Leader—Minimus. And Minimus, that Berkshire boar as fat and handsome and chocolate black as any a Berkshire boar that ever walked on two hooves, made his decision.
Tears welled up in his eyes, for however insignificant this decision might turn out to be, he understood somehow that with it he was striving towards that magnanimity that would raise him up to history.
His weighty throat resonant with emotion, Minimus spoke—
“Cow, get him his bedding, and make him comfortable—and make him welcome. He is Snowball, Animal Hero, First Class, of the Battle of Cowshed.”
IT WAS MADE KNOWN DURING THE WEEK THAT the Sunday Meeting was to resume. For years, after the Sunday morning raising of the green flag, the “Meeting” had taken the form of a general assembly, where any animal might voice an opinion to the powers that be. (The pigs.) The Meeting had been cancelled under the leadership of Napoleon, as it had been decided the whole thing was really just too much trouble, and rather tiring besides. The assembly had been replaced by marching and parading, which, though rousing at first, had itself become a drudge that was eventually phased out. Only at the occasional sporting festival (a day of races, and contests of strength, eating, and drinking) was everyone forced to wave that familiar green flag, and chant—
“Manor Farm forever, I pledge my meat and leather.”
With considerable apprehension, the reinstated Sunday Meeting was anticipated—as there was consensus among those not-pig that nothing good had ever happened at the Meeting, though all agreed, without exception, that as a whole everything was much better than it used to be. Why, they once were much hungrier. (And when was that? In the days before the rebellion, or after? Well, all good things came from suffering, as the pigs always said with a guttural chuckle.)
It was known that private conferences between Snowball and Minimus were underway, and that these would largely decide the agenda and tenor of the Sunday Meeting. As the week wore on, the cheerful countenances of Snowball, Minimus, and the majority of the pigs left most of the animals feeling a sort of tenuous optimism. It seemed as if whatever was in the works wasn’t all that threatening—and the pigs, especially Snowball, were disposed to an unusual friendliness. On Thursday, each animal received one spoonful of applesauce. Snowball even helped (with his own hooves!) in tending the hayfield, the vegetable patches, and the grain. Though it was too early yet to know for sure, he said the crop seemed in good order—and he complimented every animal, at whatever task, on the fine work that he or she had accomplished.
“We couldn’t do it without you,” he would say.
And, remarkably, this little encouragement from such an important pigage made an empty manger seem less of an obstacle on a long afternoon. “Lunch” was but a faded memory to most of the farm animals, and when Snowball spoke of having it too reinstated, even the overseers, who, being pigs, had never themselves rescinded the pastime, were swept up in the dizzifying good humor, and let out a few vicarious yips of joy for their elated workers.
One pig who did not share in this sunny disposition was Pinkeye. Pinkeye was the pig the most old school of the new school. And as he trailed behind Minimus in Minimus’s retinue, one could see that whatever they were to be, the reforms had left him looking like he’d eaten an old lemon. Despite talk, early in the week, that Snowball
would assume Pinkeye’s position of Next Leader, the tenure had gone unthreatened—as Snowball avowed an absolute disinterest in officialdom. Nevertheless, as the week wore on, Pinkeye’s expression grew so exceptionally dour that it made an animal wince and turn away.
That was no expression to be seen on the face of a pig with a whip!
Years ago, Pinkeye had served as Napoleon’s food taster, and the cows, who had some memory of this, joked that maybe something didn’t taste entirely right.…
Interestingly, however, Pinkeye seemed to be getting on famously with Snowball, who was teaching him to do something called “croquet.” A box of the supplies necessary for this diversion had been delivered from downtown Willingdon, and a field was cleared from the weeds behind the Jones House that the two white boars might engage themselves in the mysterious and probably important activity.
Finally, Sunday morning came—and after a treat of dried figs, the (new) old Sunday Morning meeting was called to order with the hoisting of the Manor Farm green flag. All the animals of the farm were in attendance. Cows, sheep, goats, horses, rats, cats, ducks, pigeons, geese, chickens, raven, and, standing with Minimus along the back wall, that disquieting retinue of black cockerels, dogs, boars, and heavily made-up sows.
From the elevation of an overturned wash-bin (placed several feet frontward of the back wall) Snowball addressed the entire barn. “Ahhh,” Pinkeye was heard to whisper, “an orator of the days of yore.”
But Snowball, having only just lifted his foreleg to clear his throat into his hoof, found his place of esteem declining—as the wash-bin was wrinkling beneath his
very trotters. In only a moment, he stood atop what looked to be a crumpled birthday cake.
“Aha,” said Snowball, “well perhaps we might amend the situation … with this!”
Having heard their cue, two bulls suddenly banged through the barn doors. Before them, they pushed a monstrous construction of marble, granite, and chrome.
Shortly, the bulls had positioned the goliath, and Snowball, having mounted it, explained—
“Now this is a proper soapbox.”
Indeed, most of the animals had heard something about speaking from a soapbox—and if that’s what a soapbox was, well, without question, it far exceeded any turned up wash-bin. To stand nestled in that cradle of shining stone was definitely attention getting.
No doubt about it—quite authoritative.
Without a word, Snowball waved his hoof as if to say,
a gift, think nothing of it
, and the barn let out a hurrah of approval for the bedazzling marble thing—and then the meeting was underway.
“Your Leader, Minimus,” said Snowball, and here, he paused to allow Minimus the Leader to eyeball the ensemble, “has set forth his goal—a total overhaul of our way of life! And better days, every day, for every one of you!”
The sheep burst out into “Better day, every day,” and only quieted after several long minutes.
“But first, we must decide—who shall lead us in this quest? Will it be Minimus, who himself has envisioned this new and better day? Will it be Minimus, who is what you might call ‘pigheaded’ in his absolute determination to guide us to this new and better day?”
“Minimus! Minimus! Yes! Yes! Better day! Better day!” enjoined the sheep.
Snowball continued on the subject of a new leadership position titled “Prize Pig” and a new method of choosing the leader, called election. After a brief explanation as to what a candidate was, Minimus took a moment on the soapbox to read a brief statement which Snowball passed off to him. The barn animals seemed to like it, then Minimus got back down, and Snowball resumed his place—
“We call for a vote! Vote Minimus for Prize Pig!”
Ballots were distributed. The animals were instructed that they were free to vote as they wished, and on how to scratch out the single perforated box without leaving a hanging chad. The ballots were collected and tallied. Then the results were in—a landslide! Minimus, nodding smugly, read another prepared statement, congratulated Pinkeye, who would assume the role of Next Prize Pig, then ceded the soapbox to Snowball.
And Snowball—he raised his hooves high.
Almost as high as his ears!
“Minimus thanks you for your support—and for this opportunity to make a difference for all of us! What he proposes now is nothing short of a new rebellion. And in that rebellion, we shall follow our Prize Pig, Minimus, to victory!”
Minimus, behind Snowball, was still nodding—his double chins still shaking.
“First on Minimus’s agenda—our illustrious anthem shall be returned to its place of honor in our hearts! So let us now sing
Beasts of Earth
At this, the animals shifted uncomfortably on their
hocks, for while most had heard that there was once an anthem of some kind, none knew it. Fortunately, Snowball had taken the appropriate steps, and pages with the printed lyrics were distributed. The animals who couldn’t read too well were helped by those who could. Only Benjamin looked at the words with a leery eye—always suspicious, that old donkey.
Led by the pigs and dogs, who had evidently reviewed the anthem, the animals began to sing—
Beasts of Earth, it is our fate
To live in one gigantic state
Of happy days and cool, sweet grapes
We know not what the struggle brings
But we are bonded, loyal friends
Of freedom carried on the wind
Beasts of Earth, now unite
And fight the happy, happy fight
For freedom is a laughing riot
Ha ha, ho ho, hear us chuckle
Beasts of Earth come join the bustle—
And learn to dance The Freedom Shuffle!
And with that, Snowball and Minimus, and all the pigs and dogs (Even Brutus and Pinkeye!) began a kind of side-step dance routine. And the animals, many of whom were not too swift at mental-type things, were quickly able to imitate the move—as, much more so than humans, animals tend to be rather adept physically. It didn’t
take long before every one of them, down to the three horses who could only recite the alphabet to the letter B, had practically mastered The Freedom Shuffle. (So this was what Snowball had learned out there in the village!) It was a catchy thing to the feet, and before they knew it, the animals found themselves singing the (new) old anthem,
Beasts of Earth
, while at the same time executing the maneuver. And after the first time, they did it four more times. The animals, even the pigs and dogs, reveled in the song—not only in the group dancing, which was a new experience for all, but to have their voices joined together once again.
Just like the days of the rebellion!
And the thing so nice about it, was that now, with no more than a little song and side-step, they could feel like this whenever they wanted—even when they were working in the fields!
It was then announced by Snowball, that by the Prize Pig’s decree, the Manor Farm would henceforth be known by its proper name—
The sheep chanted it for the rest of the afternoon—
It was only a few days before all the animals were old pros at The Freedom Shuffle—and a near-on continual singing and humming and re-remembering of that long forgotten song,
Beasts of Earth
, had almost entirely supplanted the ditty which had, all those years ago, replaced it. (
Animal Farm, Animal Farm. /Never through me shall thou come to harm!
) Though Minimus had been the author of this secondary trill, he didn’t seem to much mind the purge. One would almost think, in fact, from
the pleasure Minimus exhibited in hearing the (new) old anthem, that he had penned it himself.
The next Sunday Meeting, after the singing of the song,
Beasts of Earth
, the green flag, which had been run up the flagpole to call the assembly, was taken down. And in the witness of the entire snorting, barking, and chirruping assembly, an updated flag was raised. Still green, this flag was painted with an orange hoof, a purple horn, and a yellow wing. Though the design was utterly new and exciting to all, it had, inexplicably, a faintly familiar feel which put everyone at ease.
“This flag represents our boundless faith in Animal Farm,” explained Snowball—
“The green represents the enormous bounty that the farm offers—fields of clover for everyone! And the hoof, horn, and wing represent all the animals who can have, if they work together, this future of wonderment! It doesn’t matter if you’re purple, yellow, or orange—this farm is your farm!”
As one might expect, there was an outcry of joy—especially about the clover. Fields of clover for all of us, the cows whispered to each other, greatly impressed.