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All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

George Orwell, Animal Farm, 1945


Annie and Cedar stumbled onto the beach, holding hands and laughing. They chased each other around a palm, drawing a sleepy stare from the nearest hammock, Heffalump chasing with their own footprints, until they caught each other and exchanged a prudish little peck on the lips. And smiled, and tried again. Take two had more conviction, but not too much and not too long, as they simultaneously moved into awareness of audience. Not that the fisherman cared or was even really looking anymore; a moderately good Christian, he was saving his strength for the revels of the evening.

"Let's go home first," said Annie, who seemed to have the higher energy level.

"Sure," agreed Cedar amiably.

It wasn't far, so they struggled along in the soft sand up above the high-tide mark, towards the thatched huts at the edge of the beach. They were renting a little one, not much more than a tent really. It fit their caste precisely: hipper than a hotel; less transient than crashing on the beach but not as committed as renting a four-room bungalow for the season; much more chic than Calangute at the south end of the beach but not as wild and inaccessible as the rumors of Anjuna, across the river and past the headland to the north. All this within the general category of tourist, a high-status bracket still, sub-species traveling hippie. It took either the Indians or the English to keep the class details straight. The important thing was to be comfortable within your assigned status. Goans did not consider themselves Indian and so weren't burdened by the caste system, but then traveling freaks weren't either. Leastways, they both thought so.
The hut was on the edge of a little family enclave. Half a dozen buildings, mostly three or four times its size, were grouped around a common well. An extended family lived in them, none of whom spoke much English or seemed to exhibit much curiosity about their tenants. They owned a fishing boat and a lot of nets that always needed repair. A few evidently had cash jobs, because they disappeared most days, or for days at a time. The clan may have meant the hut for the youngest couple or they may have built it specially for renting to tourists – either way, the seasonal Rs 200 a month (say, thirty bucks at the time) clearly came in handy. They maintained a smiling distance from their customers; as the weeks went by, it seemed to evolve into a distant and mutual respect.

Cedar reached the hut first, opened the padlock and pulled at the wooden doors.

"Gotta go to the market tomorrow and get a better lock." He was touching base with practical reality. Just for a visit.

"Big Mama'll keep anyone out of here," responded Annie, tossing her purse on the sleeping bags that served as mattress.

"Yeah, probably," he admitted, "But what if she isn't watching?"

"You think they'd rip us off?" She was horrified.

"Hell no, it's the French junkies that scare me. You could bust this with your bare hands."

"You're right, I guess. I just don't want Big Mama to think we don't trust her."

"You think she trusts us all the way? She keeps an eye on us too, y'know. She wouldn't care."

"Probably not. I gotta go pee."

Annie headed into the compound. As she passed the well, the pigs took notice. Goan pigs are different from those considered normal in the west in several ways, the most obvious of which is their size. The western species are bred for bulk, pumped up like Sumo wrestlers, and fed more drugs than the average shot-putter. Their eastern cousins, who are probably more like their ancient ancestors, are the size of small dogs. They do, however, share with the likes of the fabled Empress of Blandings a healthy respect for food and a considerable natural intelligence.

They also provided the disposal process for human waste.

The toilet facilities were set back from the main group of buildings, on the opposite edge from the tourist hut. They consisted primarily of a wooden platform, raised on stilts to five feet above ground level and enclosed by walls of bamboo leaves. The ambiance was sylvan and soothing. Until you looked down, through the hole behind your feet.

The pigs would dance for your offerings.

Now, that was an example of operant conditioning. Intermittent reinforcement, too, since the swine wanted shit and much of the time they had to settle for a shower of piss.

"No, no, no," she laughed, wagging her finger at the gathering crowd. "Don't bother. There's no point right now."

They followed her anyway, snuffling and snorting and jumping into the air. Cedar chuckled and eased back against the door frame, lighting a Bristol and letting the tobacco smoke rub against his throat. The matriarch, the woman they called Big Mama because she was short and round and they didn't know her name, stuck her head out of the kitchen to see what the noise was, shrugged her shoulders, flashed her enormous grin and shook her head as she slipped back inside.

Annie was sure she could read her mind: 'Crazy foreigners. What could be more ordinary? And yet they laugh. They're so rich for sure they could rent a hotel room in Panjim but they stay here with us and the pigs and the chickens. Go figure. But they do laugh, so maybe they're not so nuts after all.'

She wanted to make certain Big Mama knew they were not laughing at her, they were laughing at the little piggies. For she was also sure she could see the thoughts behind the little piggy faces: 'C'mon, gimme, me, me, I want it, I need it, I love it; hey, hey, let's go check it out; I wanna raise, gimme more, here, me, more, more, more.'

Silly piglets, she thought, squatting down like an old Asia hand. You're just doing what they want, you know. You get more to eat, you get fat, you think you got it good. But they're the ones getting rich off you and the fatter you get, the better for them, until that happy day when they don't want you running around any more and it's off to market with you (or straight to the cleaver and the oven) and don't you kid yourself that you're gonna have any kind of choice in the matter. If you want the easy life and the daily treats, you pay. Now or later. Or both.

Whoa, she thought, this could get heavy.

She strolled back to the hut, smiling and pig-less. Cedar stubbed out his butt in the sand.

"Didja see Big Mama?" he grinned.

"Yeah," said Annie. "She doesn't miss a thing. C'mon, you wanna go for that swim?"

"Sure, why not."