The Undiscovered Truffle (Third)
by William LJ Galaini
It had been several weeks since Oz had runaway, and since then the clouds had become higher and thinner in the sky. William and Ashley had begun to dress warmer, the days had become shorter, and the fire in the hearth was more comforting.
Ally and Oz’s favorite place, the central stone courtyard filled with vines, had a lush oak tree in the center providing shade and a natural playground. Its mighty, knotted roots twisted into the dirt and nearby stone, splitting step and statue with its centuries of growth. Near the base of the oak was a spring that always flowed with surprisingly warm water, bubbling up from some unseen place.
The leaves on the oak had changed and fallen, leaving the courtyard open to the sun. The air was brisk and dry, and Oz loved it. Ashley had knitted him a warm scarf since she couldn’t get his ribbon properly cleaned, and he wore it while gathering up fallen leaves with surprising speed. Making multiple piles in at least a dozen corners, Oz hummed a merry tune. After he had built enough of them to Ally’s satisfaction, he ran back inside the castle through the main courtyard door. Next, he closed his eyes, covered his ears with his hooves, and counted as high as he could (Which was about thirty seven at his most patient). Upon completing his counting, Oz bounced outside and with his black plastic piglet eyes he looked for any initial signs of Ally. He sniffed about, and soon he zeroed in on a pile of leaves that he was certain she was hiding in. Quietly he snuck up, nose to the ground. With his snout he rooted through the leaves oinking until Ally realized she’d been had. Out of the leaves she popped like a weasel; browns, golds, and reds flying about in the air, and she blazed past Oz. Running around the courtyard for a time, she dove back into another pile, hoping to be unseen.
And William and Ashley watched all of this from a small balcony three stories up, sipping tea while reading, and occasionally clapping.
During a later round Oz had located Ally once again, and this time he had burrowed into the leaves from above, his squiggly tailed rump in the air. As his snout happened upon Ally, she did not stir.
“Ally, is you okay?” he asked awkwardly, being that he was nearly upside down and all.
Ally didn’t stir.
“Christmas is coming . . .” she eventually said. “Do you think we’ll get a tree? Maybe presents?” her voice sounded small, like on the verge of crying.
“Well, you will gets presents.” Oz informed. “So no worries!”
“And you too.”
“No. No, I do not likes presents.” Oz sobered up immediately. “No presents for me, thanks you kindly.”
Ally rustled herself free from the leaves, with a confused look, causing Oz to collapse on his snout.
Bringing himself upright, Oz continued. “I never wants to get another Christmas present ever again.” With a raised hoof, Oz ended the topic.
Ally immediately appeared angry, and Oz feared that she might bonk him good. “But we needs to get something for Mr. Williams and Ashey! Somethings nice! Especially since I ates all her strawberries. What do you thinks?”
Successfully sidetracking Ally, she pondered about it for a while. Oz began to ponder too, and soon they were both pondering with extraordinary fervor. Both sat back, and thought and thought and thought until they were called into diner.
“Ashey, what um . . . what kinds of Christmas presents do you likes . . . if you was, uh, buyings them for Mr. Williams?” Oz asked tactfully at diner, after everyone had shared their day. William spied him warily, thinking that Oz was just delaying the inevitable consumption of his peas. But William didn’t voice his suspicion, and Ashley finished her mouthful to answer.
“Well, William likes to read and write and listen to music, but most of all, he likes to eat.”
“Hey!” Turning to Ashley, William protested with a smirk. Oz laughed, and Ally used the distraction to nab some peas from his plate as planned.
“Mr. Williams is a piggie like me!” Oz declared.
“Whelp, nothing wrong with being a pig!” William blithely conceded. “Yeah, I like food. I guess, what I’d like most of all, would probably be something nice to nibble on!”
“Hmmmm.” Oz and Ally both pondered some more. “Mr. Williams?”
“What would you gets Ashey for Christmas?”
“Oh, I’d get Ashley a pearl necklace with matching earring-OW!” he yelped, Ashley having angrily jolted next to him a moment before. “Wh-why did you . . .” William looked to her, initially with confusion, but soon with embarrassment. He cleared his throat, composed himself, and continued. “Well, that was a joke. Ashley really doesn’t like anything fancy like jewelry or pearls or junk like that.” He said coyly, spying her under his brow with his head cocked. She gave him a playful ‘you’re going to get it when nobody is watching’ look in return.
“I much prefer cuddles and kisses, Oz.” Ashley said, and then she looked to Ally. “And snuggles at night so I won’t have bad dreams.” Ally’s eyes gleamed with pride. “That’s all I need for Christmas.”
“Mr. Williams and Ally gives you that every day! What would you gives her for Christmas, seriously Williams!?” Oz didn’t buy this cuddling nonsense for a second.
“Well, uh.” William looked to Ashley for some kind of direction. “I guess I would get her some fine flowers for one of her long baths that she likes so much. Or maybe I’d re-stuff her pillow? Or, maybe I’d get her some . . . hey!” Snapping his fingers. “I’d get her some truffles.”
“Truffles?” Oz questioned, trying the word out.
“Yeah. You haven’t heard of truffles? I mean you are a . . . you know . . . a pig. And pigs love to hunt truffles.”
Both Ally and Oz perked up at the thought of hunting.
“I is a hunter!?” Oz could hardly contain himself.
“Well, yeah. You hunt truffles. I can look into growing some in the garden but I need your help finding them around the castle. It may be hard, so I’m going to really need your help.”
Oz turned to Ally. “I hunts! Like you!”
Ally whispered something in his ear. Oz nodded. “May we be excused pease!?”
William noticed that all of the peas at this point were gone. He scratched his head, but shrugged anyhow.
Ally had spied a library on the second floor a week back. It was a tall room with rolling ladders and stack upon stack of dusty books. Ally led Oz in, and they both immediately began searching through book after book about truffles.
“I do not sees anything in here about truffles . . .” Oz eventually voiced about the first book he looked at. “But this Ethan Frome fellow needs to haves a heart to heart with his wife!”
They gazed at some more. As they searched, Oz could be heard asking things like “What does ships of the line means?” or “Why is Mr. Kurtz’s girlfriend named ‘the horror?’” and “Why does he thinks his mother is a fishes?”
Ally herself occasionally felt compelled to read aloud whenever she was moved by a particular passage. “And along we go, on crooked ways or strait. All the while knowing ignorance is our fate. And this I hate.” She mellifluously spoke. Some time later, she remarked about another book. “I just read a chapter called ‘The Whiteness of the Whale’ and I . . . I think I need a hug, Oz.”
Immediately scampering over to her, he delivered it with gusto.
As time past it became dark outside, and without a word William and Ashley tiptoed into the library and lit all of the gas lamps. As they crept out, William patted both Ally and Oz on the head and Ashley gently warned them not to stress out their eyes too much from the soft light. Soon Oz was asleep on his back, his hooves sticking up from behind a stack of opened, skewed books. Ally was tired too, but she had just come across a book called ‘Hamlet’ and she was certain that it was somehow about pigs and therefore possibly about truffles. She read and read and read and just as she was about to slip into sleep, she read something that stunned her.
When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover’d country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of?
Ally wasn’t sure why, but it struck her deeply. Soon, she slept in the large, open book . . . right at the section about a play within a play. Her dreams were filled with some uncharted land, filled with ridged mountain of possibility, pine forests of choices, and river flowing with the future itself.
The Undiscovered Country, a primordial imagining of bliss and growth. A future, for once. It was Ally’s first encounter with what many call ‘the future.’
© William LJ Galaini
Note – The Ally & Oz series was originally published on the old Winterwind Productions site in 2005 – 2006, prior to our switch to WordPress in 2020.