wildforce71: (triskell)
[personal profile] wildforce71


My mum gave me a smashing piggy-bank for my birthday. It was pink and round, with the word TAIWAN stamped on its underside in capital letters. I put it on the window-sill in my bedroom, and every week I put some of my pocket money through the slot on its back.

Then one day I decided I wanted to buy a new bed for my doll’s house. I took down the piggy-bank, prised open the rubber plug underneath it and shook it hard over my bed.

Nothing came out. Not a penny.

“It’s gone!” I shouted. “I’ve been putting money in here for weeks and it’s all gone! Where’s my money?”

“I ate it.”

“What did you say?” I could hardly believe where the voice was coming from.

“You fed it to me, so I ate it,” repeated the piggy-bank.

“Oh, you can talk, can you?”

“Yes, if someone talks to me.”

“In that case you can tell me where my money is.”

“I’ve told you, I ate it.”

“But it’s not in your stomach any more!”

“I’ve digested it,” said Taiwan. “Where else do you think pigs like me get our energy from?”

“It’s not good enough,” I said, giving him another shake. “I want my pocket money! Give it back at once!”

“I can’t,” he said crossly. “We’ll just have to go and get some more.”

“Where from?” I asked.

“Well, where does money comes from?” Taiwan said impatiently. “The Royal Mint, of course. The Royal Mint inside the Royal Palace of the Prince of Riches. If you climb on my back I’ll fly you there. But you’ll have to feed me first. I’m starving! And I can’t fly on an empty stomach.”

I fetched my collection of foreign coins and posted them into the slot.

With all this money the pig began to grow. He grew to such a size that he rolled off the window-sill, and soon a fully grown pink pig was standing in the middle of the bedroom. I climbed onto his back and Taiwan took off through the open window.

Backwards.

“Why are you flying backwards?” I asked, turning to face Taiwan’s tail so as to see where I was going.

“The Royal Mint is a long time ago.”

“Don’t you mean a long way away?”

“No, I mean a long time ago. So I have to fly backwards through time.”

I soon saw that this was just what we were doing. The air filled with smoke and flowers of fire burst in red blooms to right and left of us.

“What’s happening?”

“Gunfire,” said Taiwan, calmly. “There’s a war going on down there.”

I began to wonder if the pig was as clever as he seemed. “Do you mean to say that we might be shot down?”

Taiwan did not answer because just then we were overshadowed by the white billows of a vast parachute. And the man dangling on the end of it, wearing a sheepskin jacket and goggles, landed on the back of the pig.

“Oh, hello,” said the pilot. “I baled out. I’ve just been shot down.” His plane dived past and plunged into the sea far below. “I hope you don’t mind if I ask for a lift.” Taiwan grunted once or twice, but he did not seem to mind very much. “Why are we going backwards, old chap?” And Taiwan explained.

The pilot was pleased to hear that we were flying to the Royal Mint. “Actually, I’m a bit short of cash myself,” he said. “Left my wallet in the plane, you know.”

Next we passed an explorer riding in the basket of a huge hot-air balloon. “It must be a hundred years earlier than yesterday,” I thought, looking at his strange clothes and deerstalker hat. “Would you take me along with you?” he asked as we floated past. “The wind’s blowing in the wrong direction and I shall never get where I’m going.”

“If you come with us,” I told him, “you’ll only get to the Royal Mint.” He seemed to like the idea and climbed aboard the pig in front of the pilot and behind me.

We must have flown another thousand years into the past when Taiwan suddenly tripped in mid-air. We all nearly fell off.

“What a silly place to leave string,” he said grumpily. And with his feet tangled up in twine, he kept flying.

“Please to let go of kite,” said a little voice far below us. We peered down and there, high above the ground, was a Chinaman hanging from the end of the string. Above us, his kite flapped like a bright paper bird. Taiwan had got caught up in an ancient Chinese kite.

“Why pig not look where it is going?” Asked the Chinaman as he climbed up the string and joined us on the pig’s back. I explained that we were flying backwards through time. We all admired the kite and said how clever the Chinese had been to invent kites before anyone else. And our new passenger cheered up a lot.

“Chinese also invent banknotes,” said the little man when we told him we were going in search of money. Taiwan shuddered. “I never eat paper money,” he grunted.

We flew on, just beyond the start of Time, turned left, and the Palace of the Prince of Riches appeared on the horizon.

The Royal Mint grew green and sweet-smelling against the Royal Back Wall of the palace. It was guarded by a large, royal cat with an arching back - but he was no match for a flying pig, a fighter pilot, an explorer, a Chinaman and of course me.

While they were struggling and scrambling through the Royal Sage and Thyme, I crept in among the Royal Mint and picked the silver and copper coins that hung down from every plant, and stuffed my pockets with them. When Taiwan trotted up I posted the coins into his slot and we all climbed aboard for the return journey.

We flew forwards this time, of course, the pig’s ears crackling in the wind. But with four passengers aboard, Taiwan was soon tired and hungry again.

“More money! More money!” he grunted, and I posted a handful of coins into his slot.

“I’m sorry,” he grunted shortly. “But some of you must get off. You’re just too heavy for me.”

“That’s quite all right,” said the explorer. “My hot-air balloon has just come into sight. Look, it’s over there.”

The pilot decided to join the explorer in his travels round the world. And the Chinaman drifted back to earth on the end of his kite string. So I was left all alone, riding the flying pig. But before we reached home, I had to feed every coin I had picked at the Royal Mint into Taiwan’s slot.

“I’m still hungry!” He complained, and his empty stomach rumbled between my knees. I shut my eyes and wedged my fingers into his slot in case we crashed.

The next thing I knew, we had tumbled in through my bedroom window and the pig was lying on its side on the floor, small and stiff and shrunken back to its normal size.

I picked it up and shook it. Not a rattle. I peered down its slot. Not a penny. I ran into the kitchen and shouted to my mother. “There’s no money left in the piggy-bank!”

“Yes dear, I’m sorry about that,” she said. “I had to borrow it to pay the milkman. Let’s see - how much was in there? Here you are.”

She gave me two crisp green notes. I crinkled them in my hand, remembering that Taiwan did not eat paper money.

“Do you think that if I saved my pocket money every week…”

“Pigs might fly,” said mother.

“Oh well,” I said, “I will then!”


Geraldine McCaughrean, who writes amazing retellings of myths and incidentally wrote one of two stories that have ever made me feel claustrophobic while reading. But this one isn’t that one.

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