Authors: Jessie Haas
For the real Shaws,
Jean & Gay
To my mother,
who inspires me
hen Jigsaw had Valerie nearly trained, she moved away.
Jigsaw was an old pony by then. Valerie was his fourth girl.
The other three were grown-ups now. They had pictures on their walls of Jigsaw, with horse show ribbons, with Christmas wreaths. Pictures of them hugging him. Pictures in heart-shaped frames.
But Jigsaw had not seen any of them in years. Now Valerie was gone, too, so far away that her letters took a week to come. Jigsaw lived in a big weedy pasture on a lonely hill. Next to the pasture lived Valerie’s grandmother, in a lonely house.
The grandmother watched Jigsaw out her window. She was lame. She rode an electric cart to the mailbox to get Valerie’s letters.
The mailbox was at the bottom of the pasture. Jigsaw often met Valerie’s grandmother there, but she couldn’t pat him. There was a ditch next to the fence. The cart couldn’t cross it.
“What am I going to do with you, Jig?” the grandmother asked. “I can’t take care of you. I can barely take care of myself.”
Jigsaw had no answer. But as the days passed, the grandmother watching out her window noticed something.
Early every afternoon Jigsaw lifted his head. He pointed his ears toward the road and listened.
Then he trotted down through the weeds. He dodged the thistles. He hopped over the fallen log and got to the mailbox just as the mailman did.
The mailman parked his car. He took the grandmother’s letter out of the box. He put Valerie’s postcard in.
Next he pulled an apple from his pocket. He hopped across the ditch and gave the apple to Jigsaw.
Crunch munch slobber—Jigsaw ate the apple quickly. He reached over the fence again. He and the mailman sniffed noses.
“Poor little guy,” the mailman said. “Who takes care of you?” He looked up at the house, but he never saw anyone.
One day when Jigsaw and the mailman were sniffing noses, the mailman said, “Oh, look at you!”
Big brown burrs were stuck to Jigsaw’s sides. His mane was matted together. His tail looked like a fat brown stick.
The burrs were itchy. Normally Jigsaw didn’t go near them. But the rest of the grass was eaten down short. Jigsaw had to eat where the burrs grew or go hungry.
The mailman—his name was Mr. Shaw—looked around. Nobody was in sight. He ducked under the fence and started pulling burrs.
They came off Jigsaw’s sides easily enough. But burrs don’t come out of a pony’s mane without a struggle. Mr. Shaw looked at his watch. He had to get back to the post office soon.
went the burrs. “Sorry,” Mr. Shaw said. “Does this—”
“Hello!” said a voice behind him.
Mr. Shaw jumped and turned. There sat Valerie’s grandmother in her cart.
“Sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t be in your—”
“I’ve seen you feeding him,” the grandmother said. She had to move slowly, but she spoke quickly and didn’t always let people finish their sentences. “I keep trying to get down to talk to you, but you leave too fast!”
“I hope you don’t mind,” Mr. Shaw said. “He seems lo—”
“He is lonely,” said Valerie’s grandmother. “There’s no one to ride him anymore. Do you want him?”
“I—” said Mr. Shaw.
“He gets grass here, but that’s about it. A pony needs more care than that. Anyway, winter’s coming.” Really, winter was months away, but Valerie’s grandmother was right. Sooner or later it would come.
“Do you have children?” she asked.
“As a matter of fact,” Mr. Shaw said,
“I have twin girls. Kiera and Fran. They tell me our yard is big enough for a pony. It’s the only thing they’ve ever agreed on.”
“Then it’s settled,” said Valerie’s grandmother. “I’ll give you his saddle and bridle, and you can take him home.”
“But—” said Mr. Shaw. “But
I don’t have a horse trailer.”
“He’ll hop right in your backseat. Jigsaw can do anything.”
That was true, but the grandmother wasn’t perfectly sure Jigsaw would get into a car. She held her chin high and hoped for the best.
Mr. Shaw looked at Jigsaw. What should he do? He liked this pony. Fran and Kiera would like him, too. But there would be problems. Lots and lots of problems.
Maybe he won’t get in, Mr. Shaw thought. He led Jigsaw to the car and opened the back door.
“Up you go, Jig,” said Valerie’s grandmother.
Jigsaw had never been in a car. Most ponies haven’t. But he liked trying new things, and he liked Mr. Shaw.
He put his front feet in.
“Give him a boost,” the grandmother said.
Mr. Shaw pushed against Jigsaw’s rump. Jigsaw scrambled into the car. He leaned against the backseat. Then he lay down on it. He sniffed the mailbags.
“Don’t eat those!” Mr. Shaw said. He was nervous. He’d never had a pony in his car before. It was probably against post office rules.
f it was against the rules to have a pony in the car, nobody at the post office cared. Everyone rushed out to see.
A policeman brought Jigsaw a doughnut. A lady got him a carrot from her grocery bag. The postmaster gave Jigsaw a drink.
“Kiera and Fran are going to love him,” the postmaster said.
Kiera and Fran are going to fight about him, Mr. Shaw thought. But he didn’t say that. He got back in the car and drove Jigsaw home.
When Mrs. Shaw saw Jigsaw, she said, “I had a feeling you’d bring that pony home. Girls! Come see what your father’s got.”
Kiera ran from the bedroom. Fran ran from the tree house.
they both said at exactly the same time. Usually they hated when that happened. This time they didn’t even notice.
“He’s on our backseat,” their mother said. “Don’t you think we’d better get him out?”
Mr. Shaw helped Jigsaw out of the car.
“Oh, Daddy, he’s covered with burrs!” Kiera said.
“Daddy, he’s starving,” Fran said.
“Not quite starving, but he is hungry,” their father said.
Already Jigsaw was eating the lawn. Rip, rip, rip, went his teeth. A good green smell came up from the grass. It went with the good green taste in Jigsaw’s mouth.
While he ate, Jigsaw looked around. He saw a garden shed and apple trees. He saw a big yard. He saw Fran and Kiera. Two girls, just the right age.
That was as good as the grass. Jigsaw’s neck had missed hugs. Now someone was hugging him. His ears had missed kisses. Now someone was kissing him. Someone patted him. Someone took burrs out of his tail. Jigsaw was an expert on girls. He knew these were good ones.
Mr. and Mrs. Shaw stood back. “Amazing!” Mr. Shaw whispered. “They’re not—”
Mrs. Shaw said. “They will.”
But right then Kiera and Fran weren’t worried about having to share. They weren’t worried about taking turns. Their dream had come true: their own pony in their own yard, eating their lawn.
He was just the right color, too.
“Thank you, Daddy!” Kiera hugged Mr. Shaw. “I’ve
wanted a white pony.”
Fran was shocked. “He isn’t white! He’s
the perfect color for a pony.”
“He’s a white pony with black patches,” Kiera said. “Anybody can see that!”
“He’s black with white blotches,” Fran said. “It’s obvious!”
“He’s nothing of the kind,” said their father. “Exactly half of him is white. Exactly half of him is black. I searched everywhere for a pony like this, because I knew you’d fight about it.”
Kiera and Fran looked at their father. “That’s not true, is it, Daddy?” Fran said.
“This is the pony you’ve been bringing apples to, isn’t he, Daddy?” Kiera said. “You were going to take us to see him someday.”
“This is that pony,” their father said. “His name is Jigsaw.”
Fran and Kiera didn’t need to look at each other. Each knew at once that Jigsaw was not the perfect name for her pony.
“Midnight,” Fran said. “Look, his eyelashes are black.”
“Snowflake,” Kiera said. “His
Their mother said, “He’s a black-and-white pony. A black-and-white pony with no stall and no pasture fence. I think someone needs to do something about that.”