Lesson

Jake Yancy’s parents were like all parents, happy and scared when their small bundle of joy popped out. They did their best as best they could, squeezing him into their busy lives between work, sleep, friends and Netflix. Like most they won some and lost some, like us all they didn’t know which was which.

When Jake was four he sat at the old oak table swinging his feet from his chair, his parents smiling lovingly from the other side. His father held out his fist.

“Would you like a present?”

“Yes please Daddy.”

His father opened his fist revealing a small yellow disc. It glistened and winked at Jake.

“Thank you Daddy. What is it?”

“It’s money Jakey. If you’re good we’ll give you more each week.”

His mother smiled.

“I have a present for you too.”

Jake’s eyes lit up.

She put a blue pig in front of him. It had a cute nose, big smile and a hole on top.

“What is it Mummy?”

“It’s a piggy bank.”

“Oh. What’s that?”

She tapped the pig on the hole. “It takes care of your money. If you want you can put it in here to keep for later.”

Jake eyed the pig cautiously. He dropped the yellow disc into the pig, the pig squealed and its eyes lit up. Jake giggled, clapped his hands.

When Jake was five he sat at the old oak table, toes just touching the ground, his parents smiling lovingly from the other side. His father held his mother’s hand.

“Jakey, we have some news.”

“Uh huh Daddy.”

“Mummy’s pregnant, soon you will have a sister.”

“Why?”

“We wanted you to have someone to play with at home.”

“Oh. Thank you Mummy.”

“We will have to be extra good Jakey, mummy will be tired for a long while. We need to save time to do extra things.”

“How?”

“You do things quicker. Like your toys. When you put them away don’t play with them, just put them away. That way you save a little bit of time to do other things.”

“Like my piggy bank?”

“Yes, like that.”

When Jake was nine he sat at the old oak table, hands in his lap, his sister now all of four years old sitting to attention opposite him.

“I have a present for you squirt.”

Penny smiled.

Jake put a purple ceramic pig with green flowers in front of her.

“Ooh cute! Thank you Jakey.”

“It’s a piggy bank. Do you know what it does?”

She shook her head.

“It keeps your pocket money safe for later.”

Jenny tickled the pig behind its ears, tried to uncurl its tail.

“You’ve got gazillions!”

“Yes, but I’ve been saving longer. Watch this.”

Jake took out a silver coin, stuck it in the pig’s mouth. Its eyes glowed, the pig grunted and slobbered then swallowed the coin. Jenny giggled, hands over her mouth.

“Want me to teach you how to save money?”

“Yes please!”

“Later I’ll show you how to save time.”

When Jake was twelve he sat safely strapped into the Alfa Romeo’s race harness. His grandfather wrestled the car around the track once then pulled into the pits.

“I hope you enjoyed it, I’m sorry I haven’t more time.”

“It’s ok gramps, I’ve had a blast.”

“Perhaps a rain check?”

“Sounds like a deal.”

“You’re used to it?”

Jake laughed. “Totally. Mum and dad are the worst, but I understand. I’m just saving IOUs.”

“With the relations you’ve got you must have a few lifetimes worth.”

When Jake was sixteen his sister sat him down on his bed as she tried to straighten his tie. He fidgeted, all nerves and anxiety.

“Sit still or I’ll mess this up!”

“Sorry sis.”

She stepped back, regarded her handiwork.

“That’s better. You like her, she’s really cute isn’t she?”

“Sure is.”

“Cute ones need more money, I’ll get it.”

She turned, the bedroom walls covered in shelves, the shelves covered in blue and white ceramic pigs. She reached for the nearest white one.

“No, not that one, the last blue one.”

“Sorry.”

“No problem, just saving them for a rainy day.”

When Jake was eighteen he sat with his parents on the leather couch, his mother quietly crying, his father holding his hand in a vice-like grip. The specialist sat in the armchair opposite, impassive.

“I’m sorry. We’ve done all we can, all anyone can. There’s no cure.”

“How long?” his father whispered, suddenly old, frail.

“Six weeks, two months.”

“What will it be like?”

“No pain, just growing weariness until one night she falls asleep then doesn’t wake up.”

“Oh. It’s not fair, she’s only twelve.”

“I know Mister Yancy, I know. Take her home. There’s nothing we can do that you can’t.”

Jake was five weeks older when he sat down on the edge of her bed. Penny stared at him, propped up on her pillows. The house was quiet, their parents out.

“Well squirt, two weeks left.”

“Maybe, maybe a bit less. It’s the right time.”

“Just what I was thinking.”

She looked around her room. Her walls were full of shelves, the shelves full of ceramic pigs, some purple with green flowers, others yellow with stars. At the foot of her bed one white pig sat patiently.

“One of yours and one of mine?”

“That feels right.”

Jake picked up a yellow pig with one hand and the white one in his other. He held the pigs above Penny.

“Now?”

“Now.”

Jake tapped the pigs together, the porcelain cracking then disappearing. Lime green light cascaded into Penny’s open mouth as the hours, days and weeks of promises never kept infused her, renewed her until her life was no longer measured in days but in decades.

Jenny swung her legs around, springing out of bed to the sound of crunching gravel from the driveway below.

END

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