“When I was a little girl,” Vittoria said, “I had my good points.”
“Hmmmm. Let me see. Okay, there was Tess.”
“Nope. A pig.”
Her father kept a cute, pink little pig in a pen on the vineyard below the spring at Nitrodi. She’d go down there every day and feed it persimmons from a nearby tree, or leftovers she brought from dinner. Tess grew fat and content. She knew Vittoria, and grunted and squealed when the girl arrived with delicious treats.
One day Vittoria overheard her father talking to one of the villagers. About Tess. About how good Tess will taste at the festival of N’drezatta next week. Vittoria ran away, weeping. How could her father think of such a thing? Didn’t he know that Tess and she had become good friends?
She had to do something. But she would need help. Gennaro. Yes, he would help her that night. Together they’d set Tess free before her father arrived with the big knife. Gennaro’s eyes got big. Oh, no, he said.. He couldn’t do that because he would get into big trouble. Vittoria replied that if he didn’t help her she would never speak to him again. Ever. And she would go to Manuel, who would be glad to be of assistance.
So that night Vittoria and Gennaro crept down the steep steps, and along the muddy path beside the stream, and down into the vineyard. Tess grunted and squealed, expecting a late night snack. They opened the gate. Tess would not move, she liked it where she was. “Come on,” Vittoria said. “Help me push her out!” Finally Tess waddled out of the pen. They shooed her toward the woods.
The next morning her father roused her from sleep. She looked up at his angry glare. “Tell me what you did with the pig,” he said.
Vittoria sat up, rubbed her eyes. “What pig?”
He smacked her. “You better tell me, or there will be more.”
“What happened then?”
“I wouldn’t tell him. He just had to buy another pig from a neighbor. He wouldn’t let me go to the festival. But I didn’t care, because at least Tess wouldn’t be eaten.”
“So that makes you a GOOD little girl, eh?”