Mrs. Casey, may the angels sing her praises, taught English. In the first weeks of school, to take our measure, she assigned an informal essay on a subject of our own choosing.

Fully half the class elected to write a description of their bedrooms at home; I chose a picture in the French textbook that baffled me.

A black-and-white photograph showed a stiff, solemn man in a suit standing beside a perfectly enormous and equally solemn pig, and the caption read simply Truffle-Hunting Pig in France.

There was no explanation in the text and I'd never heard of truffles, so I forged ahead with an account of the truffle hunt, and the pigs, specially bred for their speed and spirit, galloping over the fields and leaping the fences in pursuit of the fleetfooted truffle which, when caught, would be stuffed and mounted and hung on the wall.

When Mrs. Casey returned our papers, she'd written in her neat teacherly hand in my margin, "It's never too soon to think of publishing, you know."

--- From When All the World Was Young
Barbara Holland
©2005 Bloomsbury Press
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