Farmer Joseph made his rounds in the early morning as he always did, delivering to all his animals their breakfasts. First the cows, then the horses, followed by the sheep, chickens, and ending with the pigs.
As he poured the slop into the pig trough, he watched one swine in particular trot over. It grunted as it walked and snuffed at the smell of food in the air with his slimy, whiskery nose. This certain pig could be identified by his front right hoof, which was pearly white, unlike the remaining three black hooves. Although Joseph called that pig many names, mostly cuss words, its official moniker was Runt. He had been a runt at one point, but now he was two years old and the fattest pig Joseph owned.
Runt had been the sixteenth piglet of Old Maizy's sixteenth litter; her last litter. She had died a few hours after giving birth, her seasoned heart unable to withstand the stress. Joseph had been quite fond of Old Maizy, and although he knew it to be irrational, he blamed Runt for her demise.
Runt had given Joseph nothing but problems in his two years of life. The farmer had intended to kill Runt, as was custom to do with the runts of the litters, for they were often unhealthy and a hassle to care for. However, Runt got a lucky break. Farmer Joseph opened his property to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, and for a small fee people could bring their children to pet and feed the animals. Near sundown one Saturday, Joseph was taking Runt, then only four days old, out back to the chopping block to do the deed. A visitor to the farm snuck up behind him, and shouted "Don't you touch that piglet!" He'd nearly jumped out of his skin, and spun to see a spidery old woman adorned in a long black dress. Her hair was gathered into a messy, disheveled bun of silver, and her beady angry eyes had been two different colors. She'd waggled a wrinkly, knobby finger at him, conjuring images of Halloween witches in his head.
"That pig there is lucky! If you try to kill him, you'll meet your demise! I can promise you that, Joseph!" Before he could respond, she shuffled away, grumbling to herself strange words that he had never heard.
Now, Joseph was a well-rounded Christian man, and had been raised to laugh at superstitions. But this wicked lady had scared him more than he'd ever been scared before, and she'd known his name even though he had never met her in his life. He gritted his teeth and tried to kill the helpless pink infant anyways, but he could not bring himself to drop the axe onto his neck. He had a tough skin for this; he'd performed the deed many times before, but the creepy old bat's words kept echoing in his head.
"If you try to kill him, you'll meet your demise!"
As Joseph watched fat, ugly Runt messily eat his slop, he couldn't help but glare at the beast. Lucky, she had called him. Lucky indeed! Runt had been nothing but a burden to him. Every day Joseph wished he'd killed the brat on that long-ago Saturday. Every bit of food he ate was a waste of Joseph's money.
First, the farmer had tried to sell Runt along with his siblings. He didn't like the piglet at all, and it only reminded him of that awful old witch. Though he'd never been superstitious, he was certain the animal was cursed. But of course, Runt was a runt. No farmer in his right mind would waste his hard earned cash on a runt. Tiny and weak, it was rare for them to ever reach adulthood.
As Runt got older, Joseph figured he might as well try to get some healthy piglets out of him. He allowed Runt to be with every sow on his farm, but none of them became pregnant. Joseph dragged the squealing, protesting, good-for-nothing hog to the vet, and a few hours and one expensive bill later, the veterinarian informed Joseph that Runt was sterile.
"Might as well get your bacons-worth out of him, because he's not going to bear you any piglets," Doctor Rinebold had said.
"I wish," Joseph had muttered.
Joseph watched Runt eat until he had stuffed his greedy face full and was content to flop down into his pile of cool mud. Opening his tobacco stained lips, the farmer spoke.
"I hope you really enjoyed that meal, Runt," he spat the last word. Runt halted his mud frolicking to stare at Joseph with his beady black eyes, his nose twitching.
"That's right, I'm talking to you." He growled. Runt snorted loudly, and then continued to cover himself head to toe in mud.
The farmer hurried over to his tool shed, the rising sun warming his back, almost as though it were encouraging him.
Taking the axe down from its wall mount, Farmer Joseph began to sharpen its blade…
That night, Joseph's axe perched on the chair next to his at the dinner table as though it were an esteemed guest at a party. The farmer ate a full, hearty dinner. Upon finishing, he rose and took up his axe, a nervous flutter flickering in his chest. He pushed the feeling away, and standing tall, he went to the entrance hallway of his home and pulled on his work boots. Getting to his feet, he hefted his axe, feeling the smooth handle in his calloused palm.
"Ready or not, Runt, here I come!"
No sooner had the words left his lips than a creaking sound came from above.
Joseph looked up in time to see the cable that supported his elaborate, two-thousand dollar chandelier snap. Before he could move, all of its two-hundred pounds came crashing down on his head.
Shivering and breaking out in a cold sweat, a young man in an expensive looking suit wiped vomit from his lips, and hands shaking, he pulled his cell phone from his pocket to dial 9-1-1.
This young man's name was Samuel Ford, and he had been paying a visit to Sampson's Farm to confirm the story he had discovered in a local newspaper article from a few years ago. The article said one of Joseph Sampson's sows had delivered sixteen piglets in one litter, which beat the world record by two piglets. If Sampson could confirm the story, there was a place in the world record book, and possibly a cash prize involved.
However, Ford's visit had gone awry when he'd opened the front door after several unanswered knocks. For it was then that he had stumbled across the spattered, messy, day-old remains of Joseph Sampson on a floor covered in red ooze and shattered glass.
Out in his pen, Runt rolled blissfully in the mud without a care in the world.