The Pintigans This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     The old man looked with a critical eye athis painting and softened as he realized he had done almost every detailof the background. He gazed out the window, then at his artwork. Thescenery was identical, but something was missing. His wife, Mrs.Pintigan, placed her hand on his shoulder. He knew she was tired ofalways being second to his work, but he couldn’t leave itunfinished. He had a vision; it would be gone bymorning.

"I’m sorry," he said. She smiled, butthere was a longing in her smile.

"I’ll make you asome tea. Looks like it’s going to be a long night," shewhispered. She walked down the hallway, looking at all their photos.Most people their age had pictures of children and grandchildren, butthey had pictures of the assisted. She picked up the cracked teakettle.

I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to break it! Pleasedon’t get mad at me. I just wanted to surprise you with a cup oftea. Please don’t make me leave now, you know I’m not ready.I really am truly sorry.

Sometimes the old woman had flashbacksof the children they had helped. They would usually be memories fromlong ago, but this one was from only a few days before. After theincident, she and Mr. Pintigan had agreed that Leo had stayed with themtoo long. Instead of becoming independent, he had become too attached.

Suddenly she realized her husband was painting his memory of thenight Leo left. The sky had looked exactly like tonight. He was making amemory. He made them whenever they got attached to one of the assisted,so that the children would always be with them. All her husband had leftto do was to paint Leo, but that would take a long time. He would renderevery detail, his uncombed hair and freckles. She mustn’t distracthim, or the memory would change and all the hard work and teachingswould get erased; Leo would return to what he was before.

The oldman closed his eyes and painted. It wasn’t hard drawing Leo, buthis character and personality were almost impossible to capture.But it had to be done, or Leo would be gone forever.

* * *

Leo had left the Pintigan residence a week ago. As heclosed the door, he took one last look at the house. It was plain butrich, and he wondered what was the secret to the old couple. It was darkoutside, but the darkness no longer scared him. He was a man now. He wason his way to find the secret to life, as the couple said. He used toscream at them to leave him alone, but that was all before. Now he wasactually going to live.

He walked through the forest. The treesseemed as though they were closing in on him and he felt like a littleboy again. The trees are my friends, he thought. That’s what Mrs.Pintigan had told him. She always seemed so wise, but then she’dhad a lot of practice with the others. But there was something about theway she treated him, as though he were special. She and her husband hadalways been so kind, except when he’d wanted to paint with Mr.Pintigan’s colors. Then the old man would respond with a harsh"No!" and leave the room. Leo never understood why. He askedMrs. Pintigan why his paintings were so special and she’d onlysaid, "He has his reasons."

Leo decided to rest."You mustn’t try to take shortcuts," Mr. Pintigan hadtold him, so he decided to stop for the night. "Day one," hesaid to himself, and fell asleep.

"Here, this was one of myfavorites when I was a little girl ... it is called SleepingBeauty," whispered a woman with long blond hair.

"Ew,Mommy, that’s a story for girls!" laughed the boy.

Thewoman glanced at him with amused annoyance. "Shhh. Once upon a time..."

Leo awoke. He hadn’t dreamt of his mother for avery long time. He dozed again.

"Child, don’t bescared. You’re alright."

"Who are you? I want mymommy!"

"My name is Mrs. Pintigan and this is Mr.Pintigan."

He followed them, not knowingwhy.

"This will be your home for a while," sheexplained.

"But where is Mommy? She promised she would come.She said ‘Wait right here and I’ll be back,’" theboy cried.

"Mommy’s not coming back. She was in anaccident. She got hurt."

"Mommy’s gone?" theboy cried.

"Only a part of her, but you can still seeher," the old man spoke for the firsttime.

"Where?" asked the boy,comforted.

"Oh, you will learn in good time, child,"said Mrs. Pintigan, showing him inside.

The sun’s raysbrushed his face. He opened his eyes and took a deep breath.

* * *

"It is complete!" announced theproud man. The painting was beautiful. A young boy walked toward thesunset; the rays making him look as if he were glowing. The woman sighedin relief. The boy would make it; the painting ensured hisfuture.

"You need some sleep. Tonight has exhausted you.It’s not good for your health," said Mrs. Pintigan. They wentto their bedroom, but neither could sleep.

Mr. Pintigan heard hiswife’s muffled crying, "Are you alright?" he asked.

"I don’t know what is happening to me. I usuallydon’t get this emotional when one of them leaves," the oldwoman answered, wiping her eyes.

"This one was special,which is why the painting was so easy to make. We all knew he would notbe left alone," explained her husband. "It’s time for usto sleep now. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?"

* * *

Leo had already made his breakfast when he startedwondering about the Pintigans and what waited ahead. He knew he mustfind a village and start a new life. He thought about helping others asthe Pintigans had helped him. But he knew they had a secret to theirsuccess. Mrs. Pintigan had always told him he would make a great writeror storyteller. He loved to sit with her on the grass andwrite.

Leo took his notebook from his backpack that the couplehad organized for him, and began jotting down words: Mother, Journey,New Life, Painting, Sun, Pintigan ...

He jerked back. Rearrangethe letters and there it was, the secret to the elderly couple. Helooked at his words again: Pintigan and painting. Why hadn’t herealized it before? The paintings must mean something!

***

"Do you think we should explain everything tohim? He needs to understand." Dawn had come and Mrs. Pintiganworriedly woke her husband.

Mr. Pintigan held her close andmurmured, "You need not worry, he will figure it out. He is bright.Also, if he does not figure it out on his own, how do you supposehe’ll manage? What do you plan to tell him, ‘We helpchildren who deserve a future and after we train them for real life, wesend them off. Then we paint a magical picture to ensure their futurewill be bright?"

She sighed heavily, "I guess you areright. I trust Leo and love him, as if he were my own son." Sheclosed her eyes, and drifted back to sleep.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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