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A short story in small instalments: PART XIV

Olivero Russo leapt to his feet. But before he could become properly terrified, he was pitched backwards fiercely, into a memory.

He was seven or eight years old and he was playing with Jolly. His father had bought a pregnant sow and they were to raise and sell the piglets. “We should have seven or eight,” his father said, looking approvingly at the sow’s belly, scraping the earth. “Twelve, if we’re lucky.” But when it came time, all the piglets and the sow herself died—all save one. Olivero Russo was given the job of feeding the runt, and he named him Jolly.

“Don’t name him,” said his mother, “he’s to be butchered.”

“But look how he wags his tail,” said Olivero Russo, laughing as the little pig butted, trying to get the milk as fast as possible. “He’s so funny and happy! That’s why I call him Jolly.” Jolly had a black face and white body, and he had a wet, mobile nose and sharp little hooves, and he followed Olivero Russo everywhere. At night, when his parents thought he was asleep, Olivero Russo would open his window and Jolly would be waiting there, blinking up at him. He had a rope ladder which his father had helped him make for playing pirates, and he used it to reach Jolly and bring him up.

“You must be quiet,” Olivero Russo would whisper, and Jolly seemed to understand. They slept nose-to-nose, and before dawn, Jolly would be snuffling in Olivero Russo’s ear so that he woke giggling and stifling his giggles and saying, “Shhh—” and he’d take Jolly out. Until Jolly got too big, and then the pig would lie all night under Olivero Russo’s window.

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