Easy Money the Hard Way
part 2
or
a novelization of "The Bigger They Are, The Louder They Oink"
Written by: Jeremy Cushner

Disclaimer: TaleSpin and its characters are the property of Disney. No money is being made from this novelization. A few scenes were added for flow purposes.

Author's note: This episode is one of my favorites. You probably guessed that. Otherwise, why would I go to all the trouble to novelize it? This is a madcap, action-packed episode from beginning to end. That's what makes it so fun. I have nothing but sincere admiration for the writer as well as for all of the TaleSpin writers. What an awesome show!

I want to personally thank Gidget for all of her suggestions and support. I also want extend a really big thank you to my sister for putting up with me, a crazed TS junkie. THANK YOU :o) And I also want thank you, the reader, for taking time to read this.

Watoosi
Rickie Lake

All was calm and peaceful. Filmy stratus clouds were suspended, seemingly motionless, over the arid Afrikkan country of Watoosi. The harsh, late afternoon sunlight glinted off of the lake, which was as smooth as glass. Not even the hot breeze whistling around the gigantic granite rocks ruffled the placid water.

Floating on the lake was an orange-trimmed yellow Conwing L-16 cargo plane. This foreign object incited curiosity among the animal inhabitants of this desert land. Three birds cawed to each other about it as they flew overhead. A striped blue lizard sunning himself on a rock next to the lake gazed at the shiny seaplane. Between mouthfuls of mosquitoes, he languidly wondered what it was and how it got there.

Feeling a vibration deep from within the earth, the lizard uttered a guttural croak of alarm and slid into the water where it was safe. The vibration grew stronger. It was now accompanied by a low rumbling sound, which became louder by the second.

East of the lake, an overweight grey bear and a petite brown bearess came into view. They were running as if their lives depended on it - which it did.

Running at full tilt, Baloo glanced over his shoulder at the nomads who were pursuing them. Don't they ever give up? he asked himself. He hadn't run this much since...since...well, never. His racing heart pounded in his ears and his side ached, not to mention the rest of his tired body. It wasn't fair. The nomads were riding on indefatigable ostriches while they had to use their own legs. To make matters worse, his tootsies were getting scorched by the hot sand.

"This is all your fault, Baloo!" Rebecca puffed, becoming more miffed each time a very rare, very valuable ostrich feather escaped from her grasp. And after all the trouble that they had gone through just to get this many!

"My fault?" Baloo gasped out incredulously.

"Yes! If you hadn't sneezed the nomads wouldn't have known we were there!"

Baloo mustered up just enough energy to glare at her. "If you hadn't gotten this nutsy notion we wouldn't be here in the first place, Rebecca!"

"Hmpf! Well, if you..."

Because the two bears had slowed down during their argument, the distance between them and their pursuers decreased. The arrows that the nomads shot came dangerously close to hitting their targets.

"Run! Run!" Baloo frantically told his boss. He got his second wind when he spied the Sea Duck over the crest of the sand dune. The big bear put on a burst of speed, his aching legs pumping as fast as they would go.

I don't care what that fat bear says, she thought, seething with indignation. This is still his fault! Ruining my perfectly good plan...eep! An arrow had sliced one of the feathers she was cradling in her arms in two. Rebecca picked up the pace, panting breathlessly, "I'm running! I'm running!"

Chasing them were Watoosian nomad warriors, who were determined to capture or kill the outsiders who had dared to trespass on their land. They were an awesome and fearsome sight to behold as they thundered across the desert, their maroon capes billowing out behind them, a cloud of dust and sand in their wake. Even though they had kept up the same frantic pace for nearly forty-five minutes, neither the nomads nor the ostriches showed the slightest sign of weariness. The ostriches kept on running, and the nomads kept on peppering the two intruders with arrows.

To Baloo's and Rebecca's relief, they finally reached the lake.

Baloo, sensing that his boss's energy was flagging, scooped her up in one arm, her legs still pumping from sheer adrenaline. He sloshed through the waist-deep water to the plane.

Rebecca gave one backwards glance at their relentless pursuers, glad that they were almost home free.

"In! In!" Baloo said frantically as he flung open the starboard door and bodily tossed Rebecca into the cockpit. He quickly scrambled in after her.

"I'm inning! I'm inning!" she replied, leaning out of the cockpit to retrieve a feather that had escaped from the plane.

Baloo pulled her back in and slammed the door shut a split second before it was impaled by six arrows.

"Fly! Fly!" Rebecca shouted. She sat in the co-pilot's seat, clutching what was left of her feathers and anxiously watching the approaching nomads.

"I'm tryin'! I'm tryin'!" With lightning speed and unerring accuracy, Baloo flipped switches. "C'mon, baby."

With twin puffs of smoke, the engines roared to life. Baloo increased the throttle and taxied the seaplane across the lake. The nomads continued to fire arrows at the plane. Most fell short of their target, but a few lodged in the starboard pontoon.

The leader of the nomads made one last attempt to capture the intruders. As the Sea Duck began its ascent into the sky, he lassoed the starboard pontoon and was immediately lifted into the air with the plane. Looking down, he saw that he was very high up. It was painfully obvious that he couldn't stop this yellow beast with his bare hands and a few arrows. He could only do one thing - let go. And so he did. As he plummeted into the lake, he yelled, "Aieeee! Yannuuu!" Translated it meant: "This is gonna hurt!"

The pontoon with the nomad's rope still encircling it partially separated from the strut. The forward end dangled perilously as the seaplane soared over Watoosi.

In the Sea Duck's cockpit, Rebecca counted her recovered booty. "...ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen. Oh, if we'd only gotten a few thousand, I'd have made a fortune selling them." She shook the sand out of the feathers and smoothed them out. After all, fourteen feathers were fourteen feathers.

"A few thousand?" Baloo plucked the arrow from his cap and tossed the arrow aside. He shoved his cap on his head, scowling. "We almost got out tails tattooed for this much, Rebecca. You an' your moneymakin' ideas."

Rebecca crossed her arms, averring, "I'm an entrepreneur with good moneymaking sense."

"More like nonsense," Baloo retorted, yanking an arrow from the console. He angrily tossed it to the floor. "Your schemes never work. I tried to tell you before about the nomads, but no you knew better!"

"I know business, Baloo," she countered. "Supply and demand. Cause and effect. I'm tenacious and clearheaded."

The business jargon didn't impress Baloo. "No, you're stubborn and pigheaded and won't admit when you're wrong."

"Ha! I would, too. I'm just never wrong."

At that infuriating statement, Baloo's face darkened. He clenched the control yoke with both hands until the knuckles showed white. He knew that there was something wrong with the plane, because he had to struggle to keep it steady. He figured that it was all of the arrows stuck in the pontoon.

Rebecca continued brightly, "You watch. My next idea will make millions. I guarantee it."

"Next idea?" Baloo cried, astonished that she would even consider another get-rich-scheme after what they had just gone through. "Take a look-see at our pontoonsee. We'll be lucky if we make it back in one piece from this idea."

Rebecca looked out the window at the broken pontoon, then snuck a peek over at Baloo, who was slumped wearily in the pilot's seat. His grim face was streaked with sweat and sand. He had his hands full fighting the weird drag that the busted pontoon created. She felt a twinge of guilt. They still had a seven-hour flight ahead of them. What if the injured Sea Duck couldn't make it back home? A million nagging doubts and fears crowded her mind, but she pushed them away quickly.

Instead, she started to think of a Plan 'B'. Because the feather idea had basically flopped, she was more determined than ever to prove to Baloo that her moneymaking ideas worked. She would show him!

Saturday Morning

It was a bright, sunny day in the coastal city of Cape Suzette. In a modest residential area, a grey sedan pulled over to the curb. Rebecca and Molly got out of the car and started up the tree-lined walk towards a single-story brick house. Rebecca had the little girl by one hand and a lavender suitcase containing toys and clothes in the other hand.

"How come I gotta stay with Mrs. Palaver, Mommy?" the little yellow cub whined, trudging up the sidewalk as slow as she could. "Why can't I go with you to Higher for Hire? Yesterday, Wildcat said he was gonna teach me how to put a flapdoodle on a dealybobber."

Rebecca gently squeezed her daughter's hand before ringing the doorbell. "Because Mommy's not going to be around to keep an eye on you today."

"So what? When you're there, you don't keep an eye on me anyway," Molly muttered derisively.

Rebecca felt guilty as she gazed down at Molly's reproachful face. Managing a business left her with little time for her six-year-old daughter. She knelt next to her and placed a gentle hand on the girl's shoulder. "I want you to stay with Mrs. Palaver, honey, because I'm going to a faraway country to get something that I can sell for a lot of money. It might be really late when I get back."

"I wanna stay with Baloo and Kit and Wildcat. They're funner." Molly stuck her lower lip out in a pout. "Mrs. Palaver doesn't let me eat Frosty Pep, she doesn't have a radio, and she talks all the time!"

When the door opened, Rebecca shushed her daughter with a stern look and stood up. The bearess smiled at the elderly crane, who had frizzy bluish hair and wore a faded red housecoat. "Thank you so much for agreeing to watch Molly on such short notice, Mrs. Palaver."

"It's no problem, no problem at all, Mrs. Cunningham," Mrs. Palaver said pleasantly. Her bright blue eyes, magnified by thick glasses, twinkled down at the little girl. "Molly's such a joy to babysit, but she's so quiet. She barely says a peep."

Because Mrs. Palaver was chattering away, she didn't hear Molly murmur, "I'm not a baby."

Quiet? Is she talking about my daughter? Rebecca thought, giving the scowling girl another warning look. "Now, be good, Molly."

"I'll be good," Molly said dully. "I promise."

"Bye, Pumpkin. I'll come pick you up later." Rebecca kissed Molly on the cheek, handed the suitcase to Mrs. Palaver, and started down the sidewalk.

Before the door closed, she heard Mrs. Palaver say, "You can help me iron my bed today. Won't that be fun?"

"Yippee," Molly said unenthusiastically.

Rebecca got in the car, pulled away from the curb, and headed for Higher for Hire. While stopped at a stop sign, she glanced down at the seat. Beside her was the book that she had just purchased, entitled A Million Ways to Make a Million Dollars. Next to the book was a small paper sack, from which emanated a pungent aroma.. She smiled and continued down the street.

As she drove through downtown Cape Suzette, Rebecca thought about Higher for Hire's current financial state. Upon returning to Cape Suzette, she had immediately sold the fourteen feathers that she had collected, grossing $2,100. However, after deducting for fuel consumption, she had netted only $420.23. But she wasn't discouraged. If there was one thing she had learned in business school, it was try, try again, and Rebecca Cunningham was no quitter.

Her newest plan was bound to make her rich. It was going to be much simpler than gathering ostrich feathers, and, best of all, there weren't going to be any nomads to stand between her and what she wanted.

The thought of all that money caused her eyes to sparkle with anticipation as she pulled up beside Higher for Hire.

A short distance away, Wildcat, Higher for Hire's mechanic, was examining the arrows lodged in the Sea Duck's pontoon while Baloo and Kit looked on from the dock. With the skill and dexterity of a neurosurgeon, the wiry lion carefully chose the right tool from his toolbox - an eggbeater. He put the whisk part of the eggbeater on the arrow's shaft, cranked the handle, and tugged. The arrow popped out, and Wildcat landed in the harbor with a 'splash'. When he resurfaced, he said, "Yep. Definitely an arrow."

"And?" Baloo asked.

Clambering onto the dock, the soaking wet lion replied matter-of-factly, "And you've got a whole bunch of them."

"I know that," Baloo said irritably. "What about the pontoon?"

Wildcat poked the sagging pontoon before making his prognosis. "Gonna need a new one of those."

"We gotta get us a pontoon, or we're grounded." Seeing Rebecca enter Higher for Hire, Baloo said, "And there's the lady to get us one."

Baloo followed his boss into the office. "Yo, Rebecca, I got a pontoon to pick with you."

Because Kit had heard all about the previous days' adventure from Baloo, he was curious to see how this would play out, so he quietly stepped into the office and closed the door behind him. He leaned against the door, crossing his arms.

Smiling, Rebecca said, "Baloo. Just the person I wanted to see."

"Now, about that new pontoon..."

"Here, buster." Rebecca pulled a sepia-colored mushroom from the sack and shoved it in the pilot's hands. "Feast your eyes on what I just bought. My next great idea."

Baloo studied the mushroom with a cynical eye. He didn't see what was so great about it. He flicked the side of it with his finger, producing a hollow thumping sound. "What are they - used golf balls?"

"They're truffles." Rebecca pronounced the word as if the fungus's name alone denoted its value. Of course, she couldn't expect her uncouth pilot to know anything about gourmet food, so she explained, "Mushroom delicacies. People eat them."

Baloo decided that if it was edible, then it was for him. He popped it into his mouth. "Hmm...not bad." After swallowing, he commented, "Could use a little salt though."

Hearing the 'gulp', Rebecca spun around, shocked. He didn't!

The truffle was gone and Baloo was licking his fingers.

He did! Ooo, that stupid fat bear! Furious, Rebecca latched onto Baloo's lapels and shook him roughly. She screamed at the top of her lungs,"Baloo! That cost fifty dollars!"

For the first time since that incident with the month-old hamburger, Baloo felt sorry for eating something. "Fifty bucks for a little wrinkly thingy like that?"

"Boy, Baloo, that's putting her money where your mouth is," Kit said, grinning. His smile turned to astonishment when Rebecca knocked Baloo to the floor. She climbed onto his back and pried his mouth open as if she wanted to reach down his throat to retrieve the truffle.

It was an extremely mismatched power struggle. Baloo weighed at least three times more than his boss, but because he was too much of a gentleman to strike a woman, the small bearess was winning.

"Truffles...grow in the...jungle," she informed her pilot while fighting to remove his large paws from her wrists. "I'm gonna find them and bring them back and sell them for fifty bucks a pop. We'll make a fortune."

"You're crazy!" Baloo exclaimed, finally managing to detach himself from Rebecca; she sat down with a 'bump' on the floor. "We need a pontoon first, so fork over the moolah!"

"I'm sorry, Baloo," she said serenely, getting to her feet; "but we're buying a pig instead."

"A pig?" Baloo and Kit cried simultaneously.

MacDonald Farm
Two Years Previously

Dave MacDonald had a farm near the city of Cape Suzette. And on this farm, there was a piglet. Mr. MacDonald also had a five-year-old daughter named Nancy. Wherever Nancy was, the piglet was sure to go.

Nancy played with the piglet constantly, dressing it in her doll clothes one day, leading it around like a puppy on a leash the next. She fed it leftover scraps from her own plate. She even rocked it to sleep while singing "Rock-a-Bye Baby". Yes, Nancy loved the piglet.

But her father did not. To him, the piglet was nothing more than food on the hoof. Whenever he saw the piglet, he would slap it hard on its rump and speculate loudly on how many pounds of bacon he would get from it.

Time went by. The piglet grew and waxed fat. It was no longer a piglet, but a huge, hulking, hungry hog. It rooted up all the vegetables in the garden. It chased the chickens. It wallowed wherever it felt like, turning the lawn into a mud hole. It ate everything that wasn't nailed down as well as a few things that were. In short, it was a nuisance.

Because the farmer had commented so many times about the amount of bacon that he was going to get from that hog, the hog developed a strong aversion to the word 'bacon'. Every time the pig heard that word, he squealed loudly and tore wildly around the farm, causing mass destruction.

At last, the farmer couldn't take it anymore. The pig had destroyed his farm one too many times. It was time to slaughter it, but because Nancy begged him not to, the pig was instead sold to a farm outlet store called Hayseeds-R-Us, where it remained until this very day.

Hayseeds-R-Us
Present Day

Just outside the city limits was Hayseeds-R-Us. It carried everything and anything that a farmer could desire: tractors and implements, feed, seed, even livestock. Because there were animals on the premises, an earthy smell of dirt, manure, and hay emanated from the place - a putrid stench to the city dweller, the sweet smell of money to a farmer.

As Baloo passed beneath the Hayseeds-R-Us sign with Rebecca, he thought that this time his boss had completely flipped her lid. The feather idea had been stupid, but using pigs to find mushrooms was going too far. This was a seriously deranged lady, and she needed someone to look after her. Unfortunately, he was the only one around to do it.

Something about this place was familiar to Baloo. Something about the name. Snapping his fingers, he said, "Hey, I know this place. Fred gets some of his fertilizer from here."

Rebecca rolled her eyes. He had such low tastes in friends. "Only you would know someone who sells fertilizer, Baloo."

"Well, I ain't the one buyin' a pig, an' I ain't goin' hog wild over some mushy mushrooms, lady," Baloo muttered under his breath. He was peeved that she had put down Fred, his friend, without even knowing him. Little did Rebecca know, fertilizer was a very lucrative business; Fred had at least a half a million shaboozies.

Rebecca made a beeline for a pen containing three piglets. She leaned against the wooden fence and watched them play. The spotless peach-colored pigs frolicked in the warm sunshine, rolling in the dirt and bright, golden straw. Rebecca knew that they had to be inexpensive, because they were so tiny. "One needs a specially trained pig to sniff out truffles," she said, recalling what she had read in A Million Ways to Make a Million Dollars. "One of those cute little squealy ones."

"We need a pontoon," Baloo reminded her, not caring two straws about the piglets. Didn't she realize that if they didn't get a pontoon, he couldn't deliver cargo? "Besides, you don't seem like the type that hangs around with pigs."

Rebecca shot him a meaningful glance.

"Watch who you're insultin', Becky," Baloo growled, frowning.

"Aren't they adorable?" she said, scratching one of the piglets behind its ear. "Each one a truffle-finding juggernaut."

The piglet oinked happily.

Feeling as if he was fighting a losing battle, Baloo said, "But...but there are more important things we should be buying."

As if on cue, a grey hippo salesman wearing a blue jacket, white shirt, red tie, and denim bib overalls skittered over to the two bears. With a big toothy grin under his pencil-thin mustache, he asked eagerly, "Did I hear someone say 'buying'?"

"Yes," Rebecca said with a cordial smile; "we're interested in hunting truffles."

"Well!" The salesman rubbed his hands together, feeling very pleased about this prospective sale. He worked on commission and wasn't having a very profitable week. "These miniature babarooses can smell out a truffle from over a mile away."

"Imagine that," Baloo muttered sarcastically.

Rebecca reprovingly jabbed her elbow in his chest, prompting a pained, "Oof!" from the pilot.

The salesman opened the gate and entered the pen, making sure to close the gate behind him. He gingerly picked up each piglet and put it on a little stage - a miniature theater complete with red curtains. From this vantage point, the pigs would be at the customer's eye level and could be shown off. He pulled the curtain open and the well-trained pigs started prancing about in a circle; they knew that they would be rewarded with a treat if they performed their trick correctly. He told the prospective buyers, "They are pedigreed and papered from only the finest bloodlines."

"And how much for one?" Rebecca asked.

"A reasonable three thousand dollars."

Rebecca's face fell. Her hand flew to her mouth in astonishment. It was much, much more than she had expected. "Oh, dear."

"Three thousand smackers for an underfed piece of bacon?" Baloo exclaimed, incredulous.

When the salesman heard angry squeals, grunts, and oinks, a panicked look crossed his face. "Oh, no! You said the 'B' word."

"What? Bacon?" Baloo said wonderingly.

"No! NO!" the salesman yelled.

The salesman and the other farm animals took cover when a small shed in the middle of Hayseeds-R-Us started to violently rock from side to side and jump up and down as if the inhabitant was having a fit. But surely the inhabitant wouldn't be able to get out. The shed's door was secured with six sturdy padlocks. In addition, boards were nailed across the door. On the front of the building was a large, prominent sign - 'Stay back'.

With a deafening "Rrrrreeerrrr!" the largest pig in the world burst out of the shed, disintegrating it. The porker tore through Hayseeds-R-Us like a crazed Tasmanian devil, knocking Baloo and Rebecca off their feet, overturning hay bales, ruining the chicken coop, and reducing tractors to scrap metal. Basically, it destroyed everything in its path.

Then, to Baloo's and Rebecca's astonishment, the salesman began to sing. "Rock-a-bye, baby, in the treetop. When the wind blows, the cradle will rock. When the bow breaks, the cradle will fall. And down will come baby, cradle, and all."

Entranced by the song, the pig slowed its manic whirling. It stopped atop a crate, swaying to the music. With a blissful expression on its fleshy face, it paused on tiptoe for a second before crashing onto Baloo's head. It had fallen into a deep, peaceful sleep.

"You know, for much less money, you could have this fine animal," the salesman said quickly as if the pig's destructive behavior wasn't anything out of the ordinary.

Baloo, his head and upper torso pinned under the snoring pig, flailed his arms. He was being suffocated by the overpowering stench of stale manure. His muffled voice shouted, "Get this smelly monster off me!"

The salesman was desperate to get rid of this particular pig, so he told Rebecca, "You know what they say - the bigger the pig, the bigger the truffle. Only five hundred dollars."

"Well...I...I..." Rebecca stammered. This huge hog, complete with a five o'clock shadow was not exactly what she had had in mind. However, she still wanted to hunt truffles, and she couldn't afford one of the piglets. What was a businesswoman to do?

Finally, Baloo managed to push the pig off of him; the top of his head was flattened. He shook his head, causing it to pop back to its normal shape. While he fished under the pig for his hat, he said, "Look, the truffle idea was bad enough. Don't go buyin' Hogzilla here!"

"Don't badmouth my truffle idea," Rebecca snapped, facing off against her pilot. "It's perfectly wonderful."

"Four hundred dollars," the salesman interjected.

"Perfectly pigheaded. Why don't you just admit it?" Baloo riposted.

The salesman said hopefully, "Three hundred?"

If buying this hog made her rich and Baloo look like a fool, then Rebecca was all for it. "I'll show you!" She rummaged around in her purse and pulled out all of the cash that she had. "I have two hundred and fifty dollars and twenty-three cents."

"Sold!" Faster than you could say 'jackrabbit', the salesman snatched the money from her hands, handed her the pig's leash, and left before she could change her mind.

"But we need a new pontoon."

Rebecca patted Baloo on the cheek. "After we find those truffles, I'll buy you a hundred pontoons. Now, isn't that a good idea?"

Incensed by her condescending attitude, Baloo whispered in the pig's ear, "Pssssst...bacon."

With a frightened squeal, the pig immediately awoke and took off, running in a zigzag pattern.

Rebecca, who was holding the pig's leash, was jerked along behind. "Aaaahhhh!"

Baloo thought that he had never seen anything as satisfying as his boss being dragged by that pig. It almost made up for the torture that she had put him through with her get-rich-quick schemes. Grinning, he leisurely sauntered back to Rebecca's car, saying, "Great idea, Rebecca. Great idea."

Higher for Hire

"Poor little Ducky. You don't like having all of those pokey arrows stuck in you, do you?" Wildcat crooned as he yanked on another arrow stuck in the pontoon. With difficulty, he wrenched it out and said, "There, now. That's better. Bandage, Kit."

Kit handed him two strips of white medical tape. He watched, smiling, as Wildcat patched up the hole and gave the seaplane a loving pat on the pontoon strut. The boy's ears perked up at a familiar, far-off scream. Intermingled with the screams were frantic grunts and snorts. "Gee, that sorta sounds like Miz Cunningham."

"Yeah, does she have a cold?" Wildcat added, tugging on another arrow.

Kit was surprised to see a pig round the corner of Higher for Hire, dragging Rebecca along with it. The strange procession flew past him and made straight for the end of the dock with Rebecca yelling, "Stop this pig! Stop this pig!"

Seeing the water in the harbor, the pig made an abrupt U-turn at the end of the dock, causing Rebecca to be whiplashed into the harbor. "Stop this...aaahhhhhh!" SPLASH!

Smirking, Baloo strolled to the end of the dock. In a voice every bit as condescending as Rebecca's had been earlier, he said, "Well, now, that was dandy. Need any help there, Becky?"

Coughing up seawater, Rebecca spluttered, "No - cough, cough - thank you."

"Hey, Baloo, did you get the new pontoon?" Wildcat asked.

"Does that answer your question?" Baloo pointed to the pig, which had discovered Wildcat's lunch box; it pushed the lid open with its snout and devoured the sandwich inside. Then, it ate the lunch box and snorted up the crumbs.

"Wow! A pig! Is that what they make pontoons out of these days?"

The gluttonous pig chomped onto the wrench that Wildcat held. It played tug-of-war briefly before swallowing both the wrench and Wildcat's arm.

While Wildcat struggled to extract his arm from the pig's mouth, Kit helped Rebecca out of the harbor. The boy said, "You ought to be more careful, Miz Cunningham. What if that pig hadn't stopped?"

"That is not just a pig, Kit," Rebecca said, wringing out her sopping cardigan. Her wet, limp hair was plastered to her head. "That is a means to a fortune."

Wildcat, who had managed to free his arm from the pig, sat on the dock, wriggling the fingers of his nearly-digested hand. He wondered what he had done wrong. A pontoon had never tried to eat him before.

Baloo laughed. "Come off it, Becky. You don't even know if this monster likes truffles, though it seems to like everything else."

Dripping with water, Rebecca declared, "I'll prove this animal was a good investment." For emphasis, she lightly kicked the pig's side. "Even if it kills me."

Higher for Hire's Office
Thirty Minutes Later

Baloo sat on Rebecca's desk, shaking his head over his boss' latest antics. There was no question in his mind. She had definitely gone off the deep end.

Rebecca was waving a truffle in front of the pig's nose. "This is a truffle, Mr. Pig. Doesn't it smell good?" Her pleasant tone in her voice changed to extreme annoyance when the pig charged at her. A stream of drool dripped from the hog's mouth onto the floorboards. "No, don't eat it, you stupid pig. Just sniff it. Now, you're going to find a whole bunch just like this for me, and if you do, you'll get a treat. A yummy treat, but you're not going to eat this truffle or any other truffle, because they're worth a lot of money, and...ah! Get...get off me! A little help here, Baloo!"

"Why do ya need my help, Becky?" Baloo said insolently. She don't need my help to look stupid. Amusement danced in his eyes as she slipped in a puddle of drool. "I thought this pig was your ticket to livin' high on the hog."

"Cut the jokes, flyboy, and get this big beast away from me!" Rebecca cried, sagging under the pig's weight. The pig had put its forelegs on her shoulders in an attempt to reach the truffle she held over her head.

"Anythin' ta make you happy, boss lady." Baloo jerked on the pig's leash, pulling it towards himself.

The pig then licked one of Baloo's legs with a very loud, very wet 'slurp'.

"Oh...aw, yuck! Psycho leg-lickin' pig! I ain't a salt lick!" Before the hog could devour any part of his anatomy, Baloo bashed it over the head with a garbage can.

The pig inhaled the garbage can as well as everything in it.

"Got the blindfold, Miz Cunningham," Kit said, running down the stairs with a handkerchief.

"Good. Now we'll really put this pig to the test." Once again, she tentatively held the truffle to the pig's nose, prompting a joyful squeal from the animal. "There, Mr. Pig, take a good sniff. Down, pig, down! All right, Kit, the blindfold."

Kit swiftly put the handkerchief over the squirming, squealing pig's eyes. He strained to hold the pig back and tried to avoid getting his toes stomped on. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"

"I don't want any doubting Thomases," Rebecca said caustically, scowling at Baloo.

A sly gleam in the big bear's eyes belied the innocence in his voice. "Me? Doubt? Never."

"Okay, boy, which hand has the truffle?" Rebecca unclenched her hand containing the truffle and the pig lunged for it, snapping its powerful jaws. "See? See!"

With a squeal, the blindfolded pig knocked Rebecca to the floor and devoured the truffle in one gulp. Then, it went for Rebecca's arm, which smelled like a truffle. "Ah, get it off! Get it off! It's making an hors d'oeuvre out of my elbow."

Kit quickly grabbed a broom and smacked the pig on its backside. The hog turned and ate the entire broom from the straws to the tip of the broomstick in fewer than five bites.

"Man, oh, man, it's all stomach," Baloo said, tilting his hat back to get a better look at the pig. He had finally met something that was hungrier than he was.

"It's an eating machine," Kit added with a slight smile. He watched, amazed, as the pig started chewing on the rug.

Disgruntled, Rebecca got to her feet, dusted herself off, and headed for the door. "Baloo, just load my pig in the plane and prepare for takeoff."

Baloo hopped off the desk and stormed over to his boss. "Whoa! Time out, Becky. I'm not loading that creature into my beautiful Sea Duck."

"And just why not?" Rebecca said crisply.

Baloo shot a disgusted look at the pig, which was now trying to eat the ledgers off of the desk. In the nick of time, Kit snatched the book from the pig's jaws and smacked it over the snout with it. "Because it's messy, loud, obnoxious, ugly, and smelly."

"Well, so are you," Rebecca said pointedly, her disgusted expression mirroring Baloo's as she headed for the Sea Duck. "Besides it's my plane."

Baloo muttered under his breath, "Who is she callin' messy?"

At that moment, Rebecca turned, put her hands to her mouth, and shouted, "And I'd like to take off sometime this year, Baloo!"

The pilot mocked his boss in a falsetto voice, "Sometime this year, Baloo." He and Kit started for the plane. In his normal voice, he growled, "I'm comin'. Just hold your bacon."

When a shrill squeal came from the office, Baloo realized that he had accidentally said the 'B' word. "Uh-oh."

Inside the office, a pig-shaped dervish was wreaking havoc. Crashes, smashes, and fearful squeals emanated from the building.

Rebecca sprinted past her flight crew to her office, exclaiming, "My office! My office!"

"Think we oughtta help?" Kit asked, half-hoping that Baloo would say no.

"Oh, why not," Baloo said nonchalantly. Bear and cub walked back to the office, ducked when a splintered chair flew their way, and cautiously looked in the office.

The sight that met their eyes was truly amazing. A shrieking Rebecca rode atop the psychotic pig's back as it raced around the room, turning the once orderly office into a pigsty.

"Would ya look at that?" Baloo chuckled, leaning against the doorjamb. A smile as wide as the Pacific was on his face. He couldn't wait to tell the guys at Louie's about this. "I could watch this all day."

Meanwhile, Rebecca was doing a very good imitation of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco. She shouted desperately, "Do something, Baloo! Ah-ah-aahhhhh!"

As much as Baloo would have liked for this hilarious scene to continue, it was destroying his and Kit's home; and he had a sneaking suspicion that Rebecca would make them help clean up the mess. He yawned and caught Kit in a one-armed hug, saying jauntily, "Ya know, kid, I feel a song comin' on."

"This is no time to fool around, Baloo," Kit exclaimed, his adolescent voice cracking. "She's in trouble!"

To Kit's amazement, Baloo started singing a jazzy version of a lullaby.

"A-rock-a-bye, hoggy, in the treetop. When the wind blows, the cradle will rock."

The only thing more amazing than his Papa Bear singing a lullaby was that the pig actually seemed to enjoy it. With something akin to a smile on its face, the porker slowed down. Rebecca jumped off of its back at the first opportune moment and cowered behind her overturned desk, shaking with fright.

"When the bow breaks, the cradle will fall." The pig slid to a stop before Baloo. "And down will come piggy, cradle, and all." When Baloo touched the pig's back, it slumped, snoring, to the floor with an earthshaking 'thump'.

"Wow!" Kit said. "Maybe that'll work on my English teacher." His teacher, Ms. Palindrome, was notorious for giving her classes lengthy spelling tests. Kit hated spelling.

Rebecca, worn out from her wild ride, cautiously emerged from behind her desk. When she saw that the pig was asleep, she stomped over to her pilot. Jabbing him in the chest with her finger, she said in exasperation, "One of these days, Baloo. One of these days."

"Aw, Becky, you're just jealous, 'cause I have a way with animals," Baloo said smugly, patting the sleeping beast's back.

The Sea Duck
Three Very Long Hours Later

The Sea Duck was well on its way to Zibaldo, a small country in northeastern South Amerika. According to A Million Ways to Make a Million Dollars, the jungle of Zibaldo was the best place to find truffles.

Because Rebecca had been eager to get started on her quest, Wildcat hadn't had time to finish the arrow extraction. Therefore, the hastily patched-up pontoon was still riddled with a few arrows. Also, having a pig aboard was making for an interesting and somewhat perilous flight.

As much as he loved flying, Kit was wishing that he was back in Cape Suzette, hanging out at the malt shop with his new friends. He was extremely glad that they were almost to Zibaldo. The pig's gluttonous behavior was threatening to destroy the Sea Duck from the rudder to the fuzzy dice, and, as luck would have it, it was his job to make sure that it didn't.

This pig's worse than three gorilla birds, Kit thought, frowning. It's smelly and it eats everything in sight. The pig was now gnawing on the back of Baloo's seat. Ragged chunks of yellow foam bulged out of the holes in the seat cover as well as from the corners of the pig's mouth. With an exasperated sigh, Kit hurried into the cargo hold to search for something else to occupy the pig for a few seconds.

The minute his back was turned, the pig returned to its favorite chew toy - the control panel wires.

"Get that animal off!" Baloo said for the millionth time, backhanding the pig across the snout. "He's eatin' the controls again."

Kit grabbed the first expendable thing that he saw - an orange life preserver - and hurried to the cockpit. "C'mon, pig," he said, luring the hog away from the control panel. "How 'bout a nice life preserver?"

The pig's teeth punctured the life preserver, allowing the air to escape with a 'whoosh'. It chewed up the life preserver, then started nosing around for something else to eat.

"What's wrong, Baloo? Lost your way with animals?" Rebecca said smugly from the navigator's seat. She, dressed once again in her safari outfit, flashed a saucy smile at her pilot.

Rebecca wouldn't have smiled if she knew what her precious pig was up to. The pig had acquired a taste for wires. It discovered some running along the base of the cockpit wall behind the navigator's seat and happily munched away. Sparks started to fly. Horrified, Kit tried to pull the gigantic pig from the wires, but to no avail. The strong-willed pig weighed four times more than he did.

Scowling, Baloo twisted the severed control panel wires together. "Ooo...that's it! I've put up with your stupid truffle-snuffling idea long enough. No way am I gonna let my plane be digested by a four-legged garbage disposal. Now, either that hog goes, or I go."

Coolly, Rebecca replied, "Fine, you go." A second later, her stomach dropped out from underneath her.

The starboard pontoon had completely separated from the strut. The pontoon fell ten thousand feet into the ocean, causing the plane to lurch violently to the left. With the center of gravity off balance, the Sea Duck spiraled out of control.

"Mayday! Mayday! Pontoonless plane with pig going down," Baloo cried into the microphone.

Rebecca was thrown out of her seat while Kit and the pig tumbled about the cockpit.

"Number two engine, Kit! The number two engine!" Baloo cried, using every trick he knew to regain control of the seaplane.

Kit staggered to the control panel, where he quickly flipped a switch and turned the idle cut-off knob, cutting the fuel mixture to the port engine. "I...I don't think we're gonna make it, Baloo." The ocean was coming up too fast. The thought of crawling back to the cargo hold for the parachutes flitted across his mind, but then he remembered that the pig had eaten them.

"We'd better," Baloo said, his knuckles turning white as he wrenched the steering yoke to starboard to counteract the roll. "I wanna live long enough to get that pig. And that Becky."

Finally, the port engine ran out of fuel and its propeller sputtered to a stop. Baloo used the thrust from the starboard engine to level out the plane. While he was bringing it down, the Sea Duck whirled completely around once. It splashed down for a bumpy landing in the ocean, skipping like a stone across the water. It spun around again, losing momentum, before gently resting against the dock.

Baloo turned off the plane with a big sigh of relief. "Well...well, a perfect three hundred and sixty point landin'," he said jauntily, folding his arms behind his head. He was proud of his prowess as a pilot, and he had a right to be proud. In this case, any landing at all would have been a miracle.

Kit slumped against the control panel. His face was the same shade as his olive green shirt. He murmured, "Now I know what a sock feels like in a washing machine."

"No, I think this was worse." Hand held over her mouth, a nauseous Rebecca shakily got to her feet. Her body, still stiff from the previous day's excursion, was now covered with new bruises.

The pig leaned against Baloo's shoulder and breathed his foul breath in the big bear's face. Baloo quickly turned towards the open window, muttering, "It's gettin' kinda stuffy in here." He pushed the pig away and made a hasty retreat out of the cockpit. Seeing the cracked pontoon strut, he wailed, "Look at my plane! I hope you're happy. You're the one who wanted a pig instead of a pontoon."

But pontoons were the last thing on Rebecca's mind. Because they had made it to Zibaldo - relatively unscathed - her enthusiasm had returned. She could almost smell the money...er, truffles. She grabbed the pig's leash and disembarked with Kit helping to push the pig off of the airplane. "We ran into a little bad luck. We'll fix the plane up with the money we make." She, with the pig following behind, strolled up the dock. In a sing-song voice, she said, "Now, come along. It's truffle hunting time."

Baloo didn't know how she could possibly think about mushrooms after their near brush with death. He said in exasperation, "She's got truffles on the brain, Kit."

Rebecca let out a shocked gasp, which sent Baloo and Kit rushing to her side.

The pilot asked, "What is it?"

Rebecca pointed to a large canvas sign that flapped slightly in the sultry breeze.

Kit read, "Absolutely no pigs past this point."

As if in protest, the pig took a bite out of the signpost.

"Great!" Elated, Baloo took the leash away from his boss. That was the best news that he had heard all day. "Too bad, Becky. But I guess we just have to fix the Duck and get outta here. No pigs means no pigs. Maybe we can, uh, swap it for a pontoon." He jerked on the pig's leash, and the annoyed pig jerked in return, sending Baloo sprawling on the dock.

"Maybe you're right," Rebecca said dolefully, her shoulders sagging in defeat. After a moment, a stubborn glint came to her eyes, and she threw her shoulders back. "No! We've come too far. I have an idea!"

Baloo, still sprawled on the dock, murmured, "Oh, I hate it when she gets that look in her eyes." It meant that work, trouble, or both were coming his way.

With the pig in tow, Rebecca returned to the Sea Duck. She went to the storage closet, opened it, and started to dig through the mound of stuff, throwing objects haphazardly over her shoulder. "I thought that I saw...ah-ha!" She unearthed a baby buggy. In the baby buggy was a pink bonnet, a pacifier, a large white square of fabric, a blue blanket, and a safety pin.

Baloo asked, "What in blue blazes are ya gonna do with that junk?"

"We're going to disguise the pig as a baby." Rebecca held the bonnet up to the pig's head to see if it would fit. Before the pig could nibble on the bonnet strings, she snatched the it away.

"A baby?" Baloo and Kit echoed simultaneously, perplexed.

Even the pig stopped rooting through trash to give her a wary look.

Brightly, Rebecca explained, "If the pig doesn't look like a pig, we can sneak past the border guard. It'll work. Believe me. Everyone loves babies."

"Uh-huh," Baloo muttered, looking anything but impressed. "That plan'll work when pigs fly. 'Sides, how are we s'posed to get Hogzilla here into that getup?"

Rebecca furtively glanced at the pig, then at the bonnet. She motioned for her flight crew to huddle up. "We'll round him up," she whispered.

Recalling the past three hours, Kit felt uneasy. That pig was more likely to eat those items than wear them.

Baloo snickered. "A round-up? Do I look like a cowboy?"

Rebecca froze him with a glance. "You look like a pilot who's about to lose his job if he doesn't help me!"

"Yippie-ti-yi-yay," Baloo murmured.

Rebecca shut the door leading to the cockpit, then handed the diaper to Baloo and the pacifier to Kit. The three bears encircled the pig, arms outstretched.

"When I say 'three', everybody grab the pig," Rebecca murmured, clasping the bonnet tightly. "One..."

They inched closer to the hog.

"Two..."

They inched even closer.

"Three!"

En masse, they pounced on the pig. With a squeal of alarm, the pig ran between Baloo's legs, knocking him head over heels with a "Whoa!" Then, the mere blur of a pig went on a mad rampage around the cargo hold with Kit and Rebecca in pursuit.

Just when Kit thought that he had the porker cornered, it plowed over him, throwing him atop the top bunk bed. Head spinning, he looked down on the mass destruction, thinking, The next time there's a pig demolition derby, count me out!

When the pig flew past her, Rebecca threw the blanket over the hog's head. With an angry grunt, the pig shook it off and disappeared into a pile of junk.

Rebecca cautiously approached the rippling pile. She let out a high-pitched scream and leaped out of the way when the porcine torpedo rocketed out from beneath the mound and made for the fuselage's stern. Just as it appeared as the pig was going to charge the cargo hatch door, it came to an abrupt halt, huffing and puffing. It spied - er, smelled something in a small wooden crate and proceeded to investigate its contents.

"I think we're goin' about this the wrong way," Baloo commented, dizzily getting to his feet.

"Maybe we should hog-tie him," Kit suggested, hopping down from the bunk bed. His grin evolved into a grimace as he gingerly touched his scraped elbow.

Rebecca staggered over to her flight crew. The bonnet sat, askew, on her head.

"Aw, not my bottle cap collection," Baloo groaned. "Stupid pig." Grumbling, he wrested a box from the pig's mouth and wiped the slobber off of it using his shirttail. Suddenly, his eyes lit up. He slapped a hand to his forehead. "Oh, man, what was I thinkin'?"

"You - think?" Rebecca scoffed.

"Ha-ha, Miz Manager," Baloo said, plucking the bonnet from her head. "I was thinkin' that we should have a little sing-along."

Understanding dawned on Rebecca's face. She felt like a complete idiot for not thinking of that, and she was annoyed because Baloo had thought of it first. Scowling, the grabbed the bonnet back. "Rock-a-bye, baby..."

Baloo and Kit joined in singing the lullaby, which had its usual sedative effect on pig. It slumped to the cargo hold floor, snoring. A half-eaten soda bottle protruded from its mouth.

"Quick! Before it wakes up," Rebecca whispered.

Five minutes later, the pig was diapered, bonneted, and in the buggy.

Kit stuck the pacifier in the sleeping pig's mouth while Rebecca draped a blue blanket over it. "There," she said with a self-satisfied smile. "A perfect disguise."

"Yeah, if you're blind," Baloo said.

"Push the carriage, Baloo," Rebecca ordered, opening the door.

As Baloo and Kit struggled to lower the heavy pram to the dock, the pilot murmured, "Between the Watoosian nomads an' Becky, I'll think I'll take my chances with the nomads. At least I know what to expect with them. This truffle idea is pure hogwash."

"Baloo! Hurry up!" Rebecca called from the opposite end of the dock.

"I'm hurryin'. I'm hurryin'." Baloo and Kit threw their combined weights against the baby buggy to set it bumping down the warped wooden dock.

The Zibaldo Border

A short distance from the dock, along a narrow, winding dirt path overgrown with thick undergrowth was the border checkpoint. It consisted of a small, square structure nestled among the trees.

The border guard, a thin hyena wearing a khaki uniform, walked up to the checkpoint. He put his lunch box in the building and punched in his time card. Another workday, another dollar. Guarding the northern border of the sparsely populated country of Zibaldo wasn't exactly a thrill a minute, but, hey, it was a living. A steady job was difficult to come by in these trying times.

Nothing of interest had happened during the six-and-a-half years that he had held this position of border guard. Nothing, if you didn't count the Pygmy Fracas of 1933 when a troop of truffle hunters and their pigs discovered just how vicious the small pygmy tribe who lived in the heart of the jungle could be. The truffle hunters had escaped by the hairs of their chinny-chin-chins. The pigs, however, hadn't been so lucky.

To alleviate the monotony of his eight-hour shift, the guard took a red yo-yo out of his pocket. He was getting pretty good at 'walking the dog' and 'around the world'.

He quickly stowed his yo-yo in his pocket when he heard voices approaching. Along the overgrown path came three bears. One of them was pushing a perambulator.

The guard got his official-looking clipboard from the guardhouse. In a thick Zibaldoian accent, he said, "Step up. Step up. Welcome to Zibaldo, my friends. And where are we going?"

"Um, my family and I..." Rebecca began.

Baloo interrupted with a cough. The mere thought of being married to this crazy woman was unbearable.

"Just came for a picnic," Rebecca concluded through clenched teeth. If Baloo screws this up with his antics, I'll clip his wings but good!

"Oh, a baby! I love babies," the guard said, approaching the pram. He lightly tickled the 'baby'. "Coochie-coochie-coo."

The 'baby' bit the guard's finger, prompting a pained, "Ouch!"

Suspicious, the guard removed the blanket just in time to see the pig devouring the pacifier. He peered down at the odd-looking infant. "Wait a minute. That looks like a pig to me."

Baloo chuckled. He couldn't help saying, "Takes after her mom, doesn't she?" inciting a frown from Rebecca.

"We don't allow pigs in this jungle."

The pig devoured the guard's clipboard and shirt sleeve in one swift bite, causing the guard to be afraid - very afraid.

In the tone of an outraged mother, Rebecca cried, "You're insulting my child!"

The 'baby' oinked.

"Sounds like a pig to me."

Rebecca threw herself protectively across the pig's large stomach. "Nope, that was just a burp."

"Aiiieee..." the guard said, holding his nose with repugnance. "And it smells like a pig, too."

Rebecca bit her lip, unsure how to explain that one.

Kit piped up with, "Well, if it looks like a pig, and sounds like a pig, and smells like a pig, it can't be a pig, right?"

"Why not?" the guard asked suspiciously.

"'Cause pigs aren't allowed in this jungle," Kit answered with a broad grin.

"That's true," the guard conceded with a shrug. He pulled the lever that raised the red-and-white striped crossing gate. He stood aside, hat politely raised, allowing the 'family' to pass. "Okay, you may go. Have a good time, folks."

The pig chomped into the guard's hat, gulped it down, and burped.

Stupefied, the duped guard looked at the place where his hat had been a moment before. "Wait a minute! Where's my hat?" He finally put two and two together. "That was a pig! Stop! Stop!"

Pushing the pram along the narrow path, Rebecca shouted, "Run! Run!"

The three bears and the pig rounded a bend and were swallowed up by the jungle.

"Wait, it's for your own good! There are pygmies!" the guard cried. "Eh...forget it." He leaned against the lowered gate and drew his yo-yo out of his pocket. He was unconcerned about the bears' fate. More than likely they wouldn't run into pygmies, and if they did, well, they had been warned.

Deeper in the Jungle

Baloo, leaning against a tree, wished that he had a camera. He thought that he had seen the limit of Rebecca's weirdness, but apparently he was wrong.

Rebecca was on her hands and knees beside the pig, making snuffling and oinking noises and acting as if she were sniffing the ground. She was trying to teach the pig how to hunt for truffles. "Oink, oink, oink. See?" she said to the pig.

Kit was sitting on a fallen tree trunk just behind Baloo, rocking back and forth to keep himself cooled off. Because the thick foliage prevented wind movement, the hot, humid jungle air was stifling. Swatting at a huge mosquito buzzing in his ear, he thought about what a great adventure this would be to tell the Jungle Aces.

Shaking his head, Baloo jerked a thumb at Rebecca and said, "That, Kit, is the stubbornest person I ever saw."

"Okay. Now, sniff out the truffles, Mr. Pig. Oink, oink, oink. See? Just like that."

To Baloo's amazement, the pig actually seemed to understand her instructions. It started to sniff the ground like a bloodhound.

"Ha! He's on the scent. Soon I'll be rolling in truffles," Rebecca said triumphantly. Her triumph was short-lived, because the pig took off like a shot, dragging the screaming bearess along behind. "Yeeeeiii!"

"C'mon, Baloo!" Kit said, taking off after Rebecca.

"I'm comin'. Somebody's gotta save her from herself," Baloo muttered under his breath. But why does it hafta be me?

The pig sped through the jungle, taking Rebecca with him. She shouted, "Onward! Onward!"

Baloo and Kit followed the sound of the pig crashing through the jungle until they could hear it no more. Suddenly, they found themselves walking through a short tunnel where the trees grew so closely together that their leaf canopy blocked out all vestiges of sunlight.

Baloo stretched out his arms to avoid running into a tree. He carefully picked his way through the tunnel, heading towards the dim light at the end. He wondered, "Hey, who turned out the lights?"

When they emerged from the tunnel, they heard their boss say faintly, "Kit? Baloo? Where are you?"

Kit looked up. Rebecca was several feet above them in a tree. "We're down here, Miz Cunningham!" he shouted.

"Where's the pig?" Rebecca asked uneasily, unsure of how she got in the tree in the first place.

"Isn't he with you?" Baloo asked.

The pig was, in fact, up the tree too. It had gotten so scared while running through the pitch-black tunnel that it hadn't watched where it was going.

With a loud splintering sound, the branch that the plump pig was perched on snapped from the trunk. The pig and Rebecca crashed to the ground with both the pig and branch landing on the bearess's legs.

Baloo and Kit leaned over their boss, who was lying spreadeagle on her back. The pig calmly took a bite out of the branch.

Smirking, Baloo said, "Doncha think it's time you admitted this was all a stupid idea?"

Rebecca, her head reeling with pain and confusion, stammered, "Well...actually..."

Before she could say more, a roar reverberated throughout the jungle.

"That sounded like a...a lion?" Baloo said, hoping that the lion was far, far away on the other side of the jungle.

ROAR!

Rebecca gulped, scrambling to her feet. She inched closer to Baloo. "Lion? You sure it wasn't the pig pretending to be a lion?"

A large, fully grown, very hungry male lion leapt to a boulder a few feet away from the truffle hunters. He roared again to warn them to run and hide. He was on the hunt, and they were the prey.

Scared out of his wits, Baloo muttered shakily, "Nope. Lion. Definitely lion." He put a big fake smile on his face and offered the pig to the lion. "Nice kitty. How about a big, fat, juicy pig? Oh, yum. Doesn't he look good?"

"No, Baloo, you can't!" Rebecca cried, pulling the pig towards her.

"But...but!" Baloo protested, keeping his frightened eyes on the lion.

"This pig's still gonna make me rich," Rebecca averred.

"You ever heard of the phrase 'dead broke'?" Baloo murmured, watching with horror as the lion crouched, preparing to spring. "Well, you're gonna be 'dead rich'."

The lion pounced. Baloo and Kit, with the lion in pursuit, ran one way while Rebecca and the pig ran another way.

Or actually, the pig ran while Rebecca, clinging to the leash, was swept through the thick underbrush. She discovered how difficult it was to sing with a mouthful of leaves. "When the wind blows...cough, cough. When the bow breaks...cough, cough. And down will come baby, cradle and all...ahhh."

When the song ended, the pig plopped down on a pile of grass and fell asleep as if he didn't have a care in the world.

"You dumb pig! I've had it with you." Furious, Rebecca went to kick the snoring pig, but before her foot made contact with the pig's hide, it rolled over on its back. She found herself sitting on the moist ground - lost, tired, and truffle-less.

She started to weep from exhaustion and disappointment. Baloo had been right once again. Blast that bear! The truffle idea had been silly. If she had listened to him in the first place and had bought a pontoon instead of a pig, everything wouldn't be higgledy-piggledy now, and she still would have $250.23.

Rebecca reached for something, anything to dry her tears with. When she opened her eyes, she noticed that there was a truffle in her hand. Her tears turned to a crow of triumph. "Victory! A truffle!"

Her prize obtained, she began to gloat over her success. "I knew it! I knew this pig would find me truffles! Why, if Baloo were here, I'd tell him."

Because the pig heard her talking, it awoke. It was ravenous, as always; ergo, it ate the closest edible thing - the truffle that Rebecca held.

"My truffle! You ate my truffle!" Rebecca wrenched the pig's jaws open and yelled threats into its cavernous mouth. "Give me my truffle! If you don't find me another truffle, that's going to be the last mouthful you ever..."

Detecting a delectable odor, the pig turned its head and, seeing hog heaven, squealed happily.

Rebecca's eyes followed the pig's. Before her was the valley of the truffles. Truffles as far as the eye could see. They were hers! All hers! She was filthy, stinking rich!

She slid through the truffles and scooped up as many as she could. To the tune of "I'm in the Money", she sang, "I'm in the truffles! I'm in the truffles!" Spying an enormous truffle that would fetch an enormous price, she yanked it out of the ground with a greedy, "Come to mama!"

The pig let out an agitated squeal.

But Rebecca ignored the pig's warning. Instead, she rebuked it with a "Quiet!" and automatically reached for another truffle. "Look at the size of this one. And ugly, too." She peered closer at the 'truffle'.

It turned out to be a pygmy - a short, fierce-looking alligator wearing a grass skirt, a yellow-and-black striped collar, and a red feather headdress. She was surrounded by pygmies identical to the one she held by the tail, and, although they were half her size, all of them had very sharp spears.

"Oh, pygmies! Truffle, anyone?" Rebecca said with a nervous chuckle.

The Pygmy Village

The pygmies lived deep in the heart of the jungle. Their ancient civilization revolved around their god - Oogachaka. According to pygmy legend, Oogachaka would bring great things to the pygmies if they sacrificed a pig to it once every moon.

It had been many moons since the last pig had been sacrificed. Pigs were scarce in that part of the jungle, because the pygmies over-hunted them. Pork was their favorite dish. However, the pygmies thought that their lack of pork was due to the lack of sacrifices, consequently, angering Oogachaka. But now, since they had captured an especially large pig, perhaps the great and powerful Oogachaka would be appeased and once more favor them with a bountiful supply of pork.

Dusk was falling when the pygmy warriors returned to their village carrying the spoils of the hunt - a pig and a person. Both captives dangled from a stout stick, to which they were securely tied hand and foot. Because the pygmies were so short, the captives backsides almost scraped the ground.

Rebecca became more frightened with each jostling step that the pygmies took. She peered around the pygmy in front of her to catch a glimpse of where they were taking her. Up ahead was a clearing. By flickering torchlight, she could vaguely make out a cluster of grass-roofed huts, all adorned with alligator heads over the doorways. If that wasn't scary enough, a larger-than-life stone statue of Oogachaka - a ferocious-looking alligator - stood at the far end of the village. Large, dark, and forbidding, Oogachaka stood with claws outstretched, teeth bared, as if ready to devour its prey.

As Rebecca and the pig were paraded through the village, the pygmies' repetitive chant of "Oogachaka, Oogachaka, Ooga, Ooga, Oogachaka..." became louder and their dancing became wilder.

Rebecca tried to wriggle out of the ropes, but it was futile. In an attempt to reassure herself, she murmured, "You're pygmies, right? You like pigs, not people. So I'm safe, huh?" Then, desperately, "Where's Baloo when I need him?"

Back to the Chase

Through the dark jungle, Baloo and Kit ran as fast as they could. They ducked and dodged their way through the obstacle course of trees, occasionally stumbling over roots. Damp leaves slapped their faces, and prickly shrubs scratched their skins.

"Is the lion still back there?" Kit puffed.

ROAR!

"There's your answer, kid," Baloo panted. "Man, if Becky ever gets me involved in one of her cockamamie ideas again, I'll...I'll..."

ROAR!

"Yeah, that."

"I don't know how much more of this I can take, Papa Bear."

"Well, like I always say, if ya can't outrun 'em, out-climb 'em." Baloo picked Kit up and tossed him into the nearest tree.

Kit reached down and helped Baloo up. They sat on the branch, trying to catch their breaths.

"I read...somewheres...that lions don't climb...trees," Baloo gasped out, holding the stitch in his side. "We'll be safe up here."

They held their breaths as the shadowy form of the lion halted under their tree, then circled it three times. Both bears expelled a sigh of relief when it softly padded away.

Baloo and Kit yelped when the lion leaped out of nowhere, sunk its claws into their tree's trunk, and started to climb.

"Oh, man!" Baloo whimpered. He lifted Kit up to the next branch and scrambled up after him.

But no matter how high they climbed, the lion was always right behind. To make matter worse, they were running out of tree.

Watching the lion come closer, Kit said, "I thought you read in a book somewhere lions don't climb trees, Baloo."

"Can I help it if this lion didn't read the same book?" Maybe it was llama, not lion.

The lion climbed to the branch beneath them and swiped his huge paw at the bears, prompting fearful yelps.

Baloo quickly looked around for a means of escape. Spying a nearby vine, he cried, "Ah-ha!" He seized the vine in one hand, tugged on it to make sure that it was secure, and scooped up Kit with the other hand. "Hang on, partner. I saw this once in a movie." With a weak Tarzan yell, Baloo leapt off of the branch.

Unfortunately, the vine snapped, sending Baloo and Kit hurtling to the ground where they landed in a pile of leaves.

Kit surfaced, saying sardonically, "Is that what happened in the movie?"

To save face, Baloo murmured, "Uh...yeah, yeah. Exactly."

ROAR!

Kit took off with Baloo right behind him. They ran and ran and ran, not caring in what direction as long as it was away from that lion. A few minutes later, they happened to stumble across the pygmy village.

"Man, talk about jumpin' out of the fryin' pan into the fire," Baloo whispered as they crept up behind a wall separating the jungle from the village. He cautiously peered through a hole in the wall.

"Who are they?" Kit asked, listening to the chanting.

"Pygmies."

"One of them sounds like Miz Cunningham."

"'Cause one of 'em is Miz Cunningham." Baloo picked Kit up, allowing him to see through the hole. He pointed to where the pygmies were prodding her and the pig towards the statue. "That gal would hafta go an' find herself pygmies."

Anxiously, Kit said, "We've got to do something, Baloo."

"Yeah, but what?" Baloo's eyes flitted over the tables set for dinner, the large, black kettle situated at the base of the statue, the firewood stacked underneath the kettle. Then, he saw that the pygmies were forcing Rebecca and the pig up the statue. Despite the jungle heat, the big bear broke out into a cold sweat. Rebecca wasn't going to be a guest for dinner, she was going to be the dinner. He, himself, had often wished that he could get rid of his boss, but he had never wanted her to get killed to death. This called for some serious action.

On the Other Side of the Wall

Rebecca and the pig were forced at spear point up the steep, narrow stone steps carved in the back of the statue.

On the top of the statue's head, a terrified Rebecca gazed out over the village. They were high, very high. The pygmies' incessant, "Oogachaka, Oogachaka, Ooga, Ooga, Oogachaka" froze the blood in her veins. From the hungry, harsh tone in their voices, she knew that they weren't saying 'how do you do'. And then there was that huge kettle far below...

They had never warned her about people-eating pygmies in business school. "Superior business sense can be dangerous," she shakily murmured under her breath.

The pygmy warrior forced the pig down the slide-like nose of the statue. Squealing, the large porker tumbled into the water-filled kettle below.

"That's better," Rebecca said nervously, hoping that she wasn't to meet the same fate as the pig. "Now, if you just...ah!" Without warning, the pygmy pushed her off the statue, and she fell pell-mell, head over heels, splashing into the kettle.

She surfaced, spluttering indignantly, "How dare you!" to the pygmies adding handfuls of truffles to the kettle. "Why, you little sawed-off...mmm-mmm!" A pygmy had stuffed a truffle in her mouth. Rebecca wrenched it out, saying dolefully, "Truffle stew, and I'm in it. Well, I said I'd find truffles, didn't I? What a stupid idea."

"Oink," said the pig while a pygmy added salt and pepper to the pot.

"Don't rub it in," Rebecca retorted to the pig. She continued, "Sometimes I just get a little stubborn, but I'll never let it happen again. Ever!" She pounded the kettle's lip with her fist for emphasis. Just then, she noticed that a pygmy was rubbing two sticks together in an attempt to light the firewood under the kettle, consequently, cooking her and the pig alive. "Ah! If there is an ever!" she shrieked.

Over on the far side of the village, beside the wall, a pair of pygmies set a table for the impending feast. Baloo reached through the hole in the wall, grabbed them by their headdresses, and yanked them over the wall. The disgruntled pygmies were quickly bound and gagged, striped of their garments, and hung upside down from a tree branch.

Baloo and Kit slipped the pygmy clothes on over their own.

"Well, whattaya think?" Baloo asked. On the large bear, the small pygmy clothes were an extremely tight fit. The grass skirt stretched across his ample stomach was straining at the seams.

"You'll never make it as a pygmy pinup, Baloo," Kit pointed out. "You're too big."

"Aw, don't sweat it, Li'l Britches. No one'll notice." He confidently strolled out into the village and grabbed the first pygmy he saw by the hand. He twirled him like a top until the pygmy was dizzy. "May I have this dance?" Then, he started a conga line, singing, "A-doobie-doobie-do-bah. A-doobie-doobie-do-bah. C'mon, wallflowers, don't be shy."

"Follow da-da big one!" a pygmy told Kit.

One by one, the pygmies joined the conga line until almost all of them were dancing behind Baloo, saying, "Oogachaka oo-bah. Oogachaka oo-bah."

For a few seconds, Kit watched the conga line. He was amazed at Baloo's ability to turn any situation, no matter how perilous, into a party. Then, he remembered what the diversion was for. He hurried over to the kettle. "Psst! Miz Cunningham!"

"Kit? Is that you?" Rebecca whispered back, relieved.

"And Baloo."

"Baloo?" Rebecca cried.

Hearing his name, Baloo waved at her from the conga line. He was really getting into the groove. Not only were the pygmies real party animals, they were mean bongo players.

"Miz Cunningham! Quiet!" Kit warned.

Rebecca crawled out of the kettle. "Right, right. Quiet as a mouse."

The heavy pig crashed to the ground and shook itself like a dog.

"Just let me grab a few of those truffles." She scurried back to the kettle to gather the prized, slightly soggy, mushroom delicacies.

Meanwhile, the pygmies had caught on that their sacrifice, not to mention their dinner, was escaping and that Baloo was awfully large for a pygmy. Fun and game time was over. It was back to being savages as usual.

Kit, seeing that the pygmies were no long dancing, tapped Rebecca on the leg to get her attention. "Miz Cunningham!"

"I mean at fifty dollars a truffle, we can still..." Kit tapped her more urgently. "Just a second." She popped her head out of the kettle and looked over. Scared, she dropped the truffles.

They were once again surrounded by spear-wielding pygmies, and none of them looked happy.

"Uh, one more time?" Baloo said with a wan chuckle, his hands in the air. A pygmy stuck him in the backside with a spear, meaning for him to join the other hostages. "Wonderful, Rebecca. Simply wonderful," he said in a voice dripping with sarcasm. His diversion had worked, they had almost made it out, and then she had to go and blow it for some stupid truffles.

"I"m sorry. It was just an idea," Rebecca said penitently. Then, her eyes lit up. "Wait! I have another idea."

"Oh, great. How are ya gonna get rich now? Sellin' these guys cookin' utensils?" Baloo murmured cynically.

"No. The pig. The pig." She pointed to the pig who was standing right in front of them.

"Oh, yeah," Baloo said softly, an understanding smile creeping to his face. It frightened him that he was starting to think like his crazy boss, but it wasn't half as scary as the pygmies and their spears.

"One," Rebecca said.

"Two," Baloo said.

"Three," Rebecca said.

At the top of their voices, they yelled, "Bacon!"

Hearing the 'B' word, the pig reared on its hind legs, snarling and spitting. There was fire in its beady, black eyes.

"Ooo...sheema! Goombah!" the pygmies said in fearful awe. Translated, it meant: "Psychotic pig on the loose! Let's get the heck outta here!"

As expected, the pig tore through the village, wreaking havoc.

While the pygmies were busy running for cover, Baloo, Kit, and Rebecca made their escape.

"Which way?" Rebecca asked as they sprinted into the pitch-black jungle.

"Away from here!" Baloo answered.

Zibaldo Border
Dawn

Like any other typical morning, the border guard clocked in. He had just gotten his yo-yo out of his lunch box when he heard a commotion behind him. Turning, he saw that it was the three bears and pig from yesterday. They were running as if their lives depended on it - which it did.

"Yeeooow!" Baloo screamed as he plowed over the guard and crossing gate with Rebecca, Kit, and the pig right behind him.

Rebecca panted, "We're running! We're running!"

The guard had just popped his head out of the soft earth, asking, "Hey, you three, wait a second! Where do you think you're going?" when the entire pygmy tribe trampled over him, pressing him further into the ground. To add injury to insult, just when he was getting up a second time, the littlest pygmy hopped on his head. Bruised and battered, the guard decided that lying there for a while might not be such a bad idea.

Racing towards the dock, Baloo said, "If we can just make it to the Duck, we'll fly outta here."

Kit and the pig made it to the Sea Duck first. Standing on the edge of the dock, staring at the broken pontoon, the boy said, "Uh, Baloo..."

"Oh, no!" Rebecca gasped.

Heart racing, Baloo puffed, "I forgot. I forgot."

"What are we gonna do now?" Kit asked.

Baloo said, "I don't know, but we better think of somethin' quick."

All hurried to get aboard the Sea Duck. If nothing else, it would provide shelter from the pygmies and their spears.

The Sea Duck

Fifteen minutes later, the Sea Duck was soaring through the sparkling ocean on its way back to Cape Suzette.

"So where're we goin' to try to get rich tomorrow, boss lady?" Baloo teased. "Zambeezeee to catch rare fishies? Or maybe to the top of Mt. Neverrest for kumquats?"

Rebecca leaned wearily against the pilot's seat. That had been one of the longest twenty-four hours of her life; she couldn't believe that at this time yesterday, she had been dropping Molly off at the sitter's. She murmured, "Nowhere."

"Nowhere?" echoed Baloo with mock-shock. He winked surreptitiously at Kit in the co-pilot's seat.

"Yes, nowhere," Rebecca reiterated firmly. "Honest, Baloo, I've learned my lesson. I was just being too stubborn to admit I was wrong."

"You might say you were being pigheaded." Baloo laughed.

"Pigheaded," Kit chuckled. "That's a good one, Baloo."

Rebecca laughed along with them. She thought that her flight crew deserved to say 'I told you so' after saving her from the pygmies. "Speaking of which, as soon as we get back, I'll get a refund on the pig." She could use the money for future moneymaking endeavors. In the back of her mind loomed A Million Ways to Make a Million Dollars. There was an idea about a gas station that had caught her eye.

Baloo grinned at her. "S'okay by me, but it seems a shame to give the pig up now. I mean, the Sea Duck's flyin' like a dream."

As it turned out, the pig was exactly the right size and weight to be a pontoon. The porker was tied to the pontoon strut, enjoying the warm breeze blowing in its face. "Oink, oink," it said happily.

The End