Once upon a time there were two little pigs named Gurgle and Snot. “Snot” doesn’t sound like a very nice name in human language, but in pig language, “Snot” sounds more like “Charlie.”
Snot was the most polite pig you could ever meet. He said things like, “It’s very nice to meet you” when he was introduced. He waited patiently in long, boring lines in restaurants. He opened heavy doors for shy pink girl pigs. And he always, always pushed his grocery carts back into the store instead of leaving them loose to roll around in the parking lot.
Gurgle, however, was rude. He wiped his runny nose on his sleeves. He burped after every breakfast, even when little old lady pigs were sitting at the table. When he got angry, he called his friends names like “FooFoo Face” and “Turtle Toes Breath.” It was completely embarrassing to be around Gurgle, because he was an uncivilized pig who always got his manners all wrong.
One day, Gurgle and Snot decided to go on an adventure together – they decided to travel all the way to the end of the world! This idea was dangerous and a little bit crazy, because from the beginning of all swinekind, no two pigs had ever survived such a thing before.
When baby pigs are very little, still wearing piggy diapers and piggy footie jammies, their piggy mommas tell them fantastical stories about journeys to the end of the world. Gurgle and Snot had heard all those stories. They knew about the carnivorous Donkey Dragons and about the seven Knighted Pigs of the Hog Table who had died while trying to swim across a river of purple marmalade. They had also heard that if a pig could be very brave and very wise, he would find unspeakable treasure.
Any decent pig would be nervous about traveling with a rude pig like Gurgle; however, Snot was also too polite to say no when Gurgle invited him to go along. Besides, Snot realized that in those dreadful, long hours of traveling together, he could teach Gurgle how to be a better sort of pig, and that was a sort of moral obligation. On the evening of his big decision, Snot had examined his own profile in the mudroom mirror, and while plucking two stray hairs out of his chinny chin chin, he had said to himself, “Yes, yes. I am exactly the sort of upstanding example a pig like Gurgle needs.”
To prepare for the journey, Gurgle and Snot packed two backpacks full of apples, a few changes of socks, five pairs of underwear, chewing gum, Ninja Pig action figures, a folding knife, some peanut butter crackers, and a roll of toilet paper. Then they went to Rent-A-Beast and got a two-for-one sale on economy-sized pack mules, mounted their trusty steeds, and off they went.
Gurgle and Snot journeyed for two days. They rode over gullies, and through deep, dark forests. They passed through funky monkey-filled jungles, and they got into a giraffic gam on the wild plains of Zuzbuzzdibar. They even swam over the river of purple marmalade, though it ended up being more sticky than treacherous.
On the third day of their journey, the pigs found themselves in a snowstorm, lost somewhere in the North, North, North East, on the rocky coast of Brrrbumble Lake. It was snowing hard, and the pigs were wishing that they had thought to bring scarves. Instead, Gurgle decided to improvise. He got one pair of clean underwear out of his backpack and pulled it down over his head until one leg hole was around his neck. Then he got out another pair of underwear and pulled it on as a hat. His ears stuck out through the leg holes, and that wasn’t really warm, but it helped a little.
The water of Brrrbumble Lake looked frozen, but when Snot slid off his horse to test it, the ice creaked under his hooves.
“I don’t think we should cross here,” said Snot.
Gurgle complained about that, which was nothing new, because he had been complaining for two-and-a-half days. He would say things like, “I’m sore. I’m tired. I want some chicken nuggets. Finding the end of the world is too hard. I need someone to rub my feet.”
Snot thought, “We are pigs. We don’t have feet,” but he didn’t say that. It would be a bad example to argue, so he just smiled and said, “Oh, I bet things will turn up.”
Just at that moment, Gurgle and Snot heard a huge, “RAWWWWWWWWR!”
It was a monster, white and furry, with a face like a wild donkey and a body like a dragon. He leaped out in front of the pigs, and he shook his whole body all wild and scary. He had claws for hands, and his teeth were red and pointy.
Snot smiled and said, “Hello. It’s nice to meet you.” Then he stuck out his front hoof to shake the monster’s paw.
The monster had never had anybody greet him like this before, because strangers are usually rude to growly, ferocious monsters. It was actually sort of embarrassing. He swallowed his roar and shook hands with Snot.
“My name’s Growler,” said the monster.
“I’m Snot,” said Snot.
“I HAAAAATE this place,” whined Gurgle. “It’s so cold! I’m so tired! How do we get across that lake? Why don’t you rub my feet?” He stuck a little hoof up in the air toward the monster.
Growler frowned. “Is that underwear on your head?” he asked.
“What if it is?” said Gurgle in a rude, impatient voice.
Growler growled hungrily at Gurgle and licked his lips.
Snot interrupted, “If you please, Growler, might you know of a way that we could get across that lake? We are on a journey to the end of the world, and we must get to the other side if we are going to complete our quest.”
A little bit of hair stood up on Growler’s back, and he kept his eyes on Gurgle and blinked. Then he spoke to Snot in a careful voice, “If you walk down that way a bit, you will find a bridge. It’s covered in ice, and the slats are far, far apart. If you slip, you will fall down into the lake, a thousand-thousand feet down to the very bottom where the ice fishes live. The ice fishes are very hungry this time of year, and they will chew the meat off your bones before you can even make an oink.”
“Thank you very much,” said Snot.
Gurgle groaned and said, “You’d think SOMEBODY around here could build a decent bridge! A bunch of loofy doofs must live in this part of the world!”
“We’ll be going now!” said Snot as fast as he could, “You’ve been such wonderful help! Thank you for your hospitality!” And he slapped Gurgle’s mule on the bottom to get him out of there.
The bridge was indeed iced over. Every rope and wooden slat looked as if it were coated in a layer of glass. The mules tried to walk across, but they slipped until their legs went in four different directions, then they got so scared that they wouldn’t move at all. Gurgle got impatient and dug his heels into his mule, but that didn’t help. Then he got off and tried to pull his mule across the bridge. That didn’t work either; the mule just sat down and said, “Waaaaaaaaahhhhooooo.”
Snot thought and thought about what to do. Then he reached down into his backpack and pulled out an apple. He used his sharp knife to cut the apple into slices, and then he walked out very carefully in front of the mules. “Come on now boy, come on…” He took a few slippery steps back. The mules smelled the apple and followed slowly. Step by step, little by little, Gurgle, and Snot, and the two mules made it across the bridge.
“We did it!” cheered Snot.
“It’s about time!” mumbled Gurgle.
On the other side of the lake there was a huge mountain. It was such a big mountain that it went all the way to the left, and all the way to the right, and it went up so far that it hurt Snot’s neck to look up and see the top of it. The entire mountain was covered with snow
“RAAAAAAAWWWWR!” came a terrible sound from the mountain. It was a second monster, white and furry, with a face like a wild donkey, and a body like a dragon. He was twice as big as the first monster, and white foam dribbled out of his mouth.
The monster leaped out in front of the pigs, and he shook his whole body all wild and scary. He had claws for hands, and his teeth were red and pointy.
“Hello,” said Snot. “It’s so nice to meet you.” Then he stuck out his hoof to shake the monster’s paw.
The monster wiped the slobber off his mouth with the back of his arm, and he stood there staring rather stupidly.
“It’s nice to meet you!” repeated Snot a little louder. Then he smiled.
“It’s … nice to meet you, too,” said the monster. “Fouler’s the name. I am actually planning to eat you both. My little brother across the bridge rang me up and told me you were on the way. I told him I’d slit your necks, and slice you up, and salt you down, and bring him some bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches when I was finished. I just love bacon, lettuce, and tomato, don’t you?”
“I can’t say that I’ve ever been overly fond of bacon,” answered Snot, “But I have a heart condition.”
“Well, what do you know? What sort of heart condition do you have?” asked the monster.
“It’s high cholesterol, with a touch of stress-induced arrhythmia,” said Snot.
Fouler looked concerned. “Funny you should say that. I have the same,” he said.
“Oh dear,” said Snot, “Then I’m afraid you definitely need to stay away from bacon. But I have some apples and peanut butter crackers if you are interested.” Snot started digging around in his backpack.
“Are you sure you have enough to go around?” asked the monster. “I would hate to inconvenience you.”
“Quite sure,” said Snot, “I’ve got plenty.”
“Well DON’T give him any of my crackers!” shouted Gurgle. “I don’t like the way his face looks!”
The monster growled and stepped closer to Gurgle. Then he licked his lips and sniffed the pig’s ear. “I don’t think a little bacon would hurt,” he said.
Snot quickly handed over the apples and crackers and said, “I was hoping, good sir, that you might advise us about the best way to cross this mountain.”
Fouler ate up the snacks and burped. Then he said, “Over the mountain? No, no. It’s covered in snow. The only way to get past that mountain is to go through it. If you walk down that way a little, you will find an opening to a cave.”
“Thank you so very much,” said Snot, and he smacked Gurgle’s mule on the bottom to get him moving.
The entrance to the cave was ominous. Even though there was snow and ice on the outside of the mountain as far as the eye could see, hot steam rolled out of the opening in huge, fluffy mounds of white. There was also a hissing sound coming from the hole, like the water in a tea pot right before it begins to whistle.
Once Gurgle and Snot passed through that steam, they found themselves inside a wide stone room, covered in phospholuminescent moss. (Phospholuminescent means the moss glowed with sort of a greenish-bluish light.) Snot reached out to touch a pile that was growing on the cave wall, and it made a little tinkling sound, like a bunch of silver bells being shaken. Then the light turned from blue-green to pink. Snot laughed and ran his hoof along a long trail of the stuff. “Isn’t this grand?” asked Snot.
Gurgle complained. “Stop wasting time,” he said. “We have to get through this cave and find the end of the world.”
The path through the cave was surprisingly level and wide. Because the pigs were very tired after their long journey, the motion of the mules, the darkness of the cave, and the warmth of the steam caused them to get a little snoozy. They didn’t even realize that they had fallen all the way asleep until their mules suddenly bumped into one another, and the knock jolted them both down onto the cave floor. When they opened their eyes, there was only darkness all around.
“Where ARE we?” asked Gurgle?
“I don’t know,” said Snot.
Just at that moment, Gurgle and Snot heard a huge, “RAWWWWWWWWWWR!”
A huge monster jumped right into their path. He was covered in phospholuminescent moss, with a face like a wild donkey and a body like a dragon. He was glowing blue and green all over, and the pigs suddenly realized that the moss at the front of the cave wasn’t moss at all, but piles of shed monster hair that had collected on the rocks. The monster shook his whole body all wild and scary. When he did that, his fur turned pink, and orange, and yellow, and a sound like a million tiny bells came out from him. He had claws for hands, and his teeth were red and pointy. He was a perfect savage.
Snot smiled and said, “Hello. It’s nice to meet you.” Then he stuck out his front hoof to shake the monster’s paw.
The monster leaned down and roared again, right in Snot’s face, “RAAAWWWWWWWWWWRRRRRRRRRR!”
“I’m Snot,” said Snot a little louder, and he grinned and bowed. “I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“RAAAAAWWWWWWWAWWWWWRRRRRRRRRRRRR!” said the monster.
Snot looked confused. Being polite had never not worked before. The monster walked one slow circle around Snot, then he picked him up in the air with his claws while the mannerly little pig squealed. That horrible red mouth opened wide, then wider still, preparing to eat Snot up!
“RAAAAAWRRRR! GURRRRRRRLE GRRRRRROOOWWWL GGRRRRR,” shouted a voice below him. It was Gurgle!
The monster was shocked. He clamped his lips shut and looked squarely down at Gurgle. “Grumble gurgle grrrrrrr?” he asked.
Gurgle replied, “Whine grumble growl! Rawr gurgle gurgle growl whine huff!” Then Gurgle put his hands on his fat piggy hips and scowled upwards, straight into the monster’s face. He stared at the beast hard, then he stomped his pointy back hoof right into the middle of one of the monster’s hind feet.
“OW!” said the monster. He dropped Snot down on the cave floor, crossed his arms, and pouted. Snot could hear him breathing hard. At first he looked mad, then he got a begging look in his eyes like a dog who wants to eat your cookie.
Gurgle was unmoved. He pointed sharply to the back of the cave and said, in a very bossy voice, “RAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWR!”
The monster jumped and looked scared, then he ran over to the back of the cave and pushed a big stone boulder to the side. Behind that stone was the other side of the mountain. It was sunny outside and bright, and there were flowers and green grass all over.
Gurgle and Snot passed through the opening, but just as they made it through, Gurgle looked back inside the cave and shouted, “RAWR!” for good measure.
Snot was silent for a long time. It was hard for him to understand what had just happened. For many miles, he simply rode on his mule and stole peeks over at Gurgle. Something was wrong. Something was wrong! This journey was not going right at all! The pig he was supposed to be saving had saved him! Snot took another look and saw Gurgle wipe his nose on his sleeve. Then Gurgle burped.
“Bless you,” said Snot in an important-sounding voice, even though he wasn’t completely sure if “Bless you” was what you were supposed to say about burps. His words sounded funny after they came out, as if Snot were looking out a high window down on Gurgle, and everything he meant had to fall a long way down to reach.
All of a sudden, Snot realized that it was possible to act polite on the outside while having a proud heart on the inside. This was a very hard thing for Snot to think about, because it made him feel less important. However, Snot had already decided to be brave on this journey to the end of the world, and maybe certain sorts of monsters lived inside a pig instead of outside of him.
So Snot added in a quieter voice, “And thank you for saving my life.” That was a hard thing for Snot to say, but he did a good job of it, and the “thank you” part came out just the right size. It might have been the first honest thing he had ever said to Gurgle.
“I’m tiiiiiired,” whined Gurgle, “Are we almost there yet? Do we have any sandwiches? I want a sandwich. My legs hurt. I want some chocolate,” he said.
Gurgle complained and complained, but Snot didn’t mind so much any more. He also didn’t feel quite so important, or quite so good, or quite so anything except grateful to have Gurgle along on the journey.
Snot still used his manners, but from that moment on, he used them because he loved Gurgle, and not because he was trying to teach him something. And maybe Gurgle learned a few things on their journey, too, though I’m not going to tell you what they were, because that’s not the most important part of this story. What is most important is that the two pigs rode and rode, and while Gurgle huffed and puffed, Snot considered the unspeakable treasure he had found. He was riding beside a real friend, all the way to the end of the world.
– – –
Author’s Note: This story is dedicated to Xander and Jaxon Pierce, who offered excellent and important ideas about what two pigs should do when going on a journey.