A Parable of Pigs

by David P. Gontar (March 2013)

Long ago and far away there lived a brotherhood of pigs. They worked hard every day, and when their labors were done, they marched together to the table for supper. Each brought with him the fruits of his labors in his respective craft. Some made clothes, some household articles, and some tools of various kinds.  Some brought edibles from small farms. These goods were then exchanged appropriately before the commencement of the meal and, as each pig provided a commodity in order to partake of the bounty, all was well.  

One day a new pig sat at the table. He did no work. When asked for his contribution to the common weal, he indicated politely that, as he had just arrived, he would make his donation soon. In the meantime, he issued an IOU note for what he owed.  When he received clothing, for example, he gave a note. If he received bedding, he issued a note. And to the kitchen, he gave notes for his food. As payment was understood to be imminent, these notes were of considerable value, and circulated among the brethren. When payment was due, however, instead of rendering balance due in good faith, the new pig simply issued more IOU's.

Now as it happened, the debtor pig was a great gourmand, and in short order he grew to an immense size, so large that a place had to be cut out of the table to accommodate his girth.

As the months passed, and the Big Pig ate more and more, there was less and less for everyone else, which caused some consternation. Additionally, doubt arose over whether the IOU notes were ever going to be honored. For when the Big Pig wasn't eating, he was sound asleep.

Finally it became obvious to even the dimmest wits that the notes were worthless. As the brethren were often hungry, and having to scavenge for food and other necessities, they were producing fewer goods, and the little community was afflicted by want and deprivation. In place of happiness reigned gloom and despair.

One day when supper was convened, there was a huge roast hog in the midst of the table with a fine red apple in its mouth. Though they were very, very hungry, none of the assembled pigs wanted to sample this dish. Curiously, the Debtor Pig was missing. Had he been present and proceeded to jump in and consume his plates of pork, one cannot imagine what the others might have done. But, in his absence, this novel feast was given to the birds.

The Big Pig was never seen again. Some said he had emigrated to the fabled Land of Plenty, where everything of worth drops from the branches of trees. Other speculated that he had merely grown so large that he could no longer get about, and had rolled downhill somewhere. But no one really knew anything more than the fact that the Big Pig had gone. Thus the table was restored to its original dimensions, and the IOU notes were collected and used to heat the kitchen oven. The entire company returned gladly to its customary labors, and in no time at all everything was quite well once more.

David P. Gontar's latest book is Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays.

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