John tells us that Dennis and Norton are stupid enough to believe him when he says that Mr. Pignati caught on that Lorraine was a phony and hung up. He doesn’t want them to know that Mr. Pignati had invited them to his house the next day to pick up the $10 donation he had promised. He says he doesn’t want anyone to take advantage of the old man even though that’s exactly what he intends to do. He remarks that he wasn’t taking advantage of Mr. Pignati the way Norton would have and in the end, it will be Norton who causes all the trouble.
He and Lorraine have an argument about going to the Pigman’s house. Lorraine feels guilty for taking advantage of him, but John is concerned that he needs $1.25 for a six-pack of beer and his mother won’t give him any money. (His father refuses to allow her to do that, because John put the airplane glue in the phone lock and now no one can use the phone. She Notes that his older brother, Kenneth, never gave them any trouble and John then tells us how his older brother works on Wall Street and is eleven years older than he is. John blames the glue on the ghost of his Aunt Ahra, an excuse he has frequently used in the past to explain the bad things he has done. (She had died in their home at the age of 82 and she had become his convenient, if unbelievable, excuse.) When he realizes that the $1.25 won’t be forthcoming that afternoon, he decides to call Lorraine to go with him to Mr. Pignati’s house for the $10 he had promised to their “charity.” Lorraine is determined not to go, but when John reminds her how lonely the old man is, she begins to crumble. He knows he only has to push her a little further when he sees her begin to bite her lip. He knows her very well.
So John and Lorraine visit Mr. Pignati. John describes him as being in his later 50’s, a fairly large man with a beer belly, who smiles and seems extremely glad to see them. With a white beard and standing on a street corner, John says, he would have made a great Santa Claus. His house is a bit full of junk and when he goes into the kitchen, John and Lorraine worry that he might be a psycho bringing a knife back out. Instead, he returns with three glasses of wine and the great big smile still on his face. He tells them he’s a retired electrician and that he has just returned from the zoo where he goes everyday. He claims he usually goes there with his wife, but that she is visiting her sister in California. He almost at that point seems to be on the verge of tears, but instead changes the subject. Then, he tells them that when they arrived he had been practicing how to memorize ten items. He seems so excited by the technique he’s using to do this that John observes that he looks just like a big happy kid. He teaches them the trick and is genuinely excited when it works for John. It doesn’t work so well for Lorraine, but John thinks that’s because she is so worried for Mr. Pignati. He follows up his memorization trick with an invitation for them to go with him to the zoo the next day. Their refusal and Lorraine’s movement toward the door seems to shatter the old man who quickly fetches the check he promised for their “charity.” He acts so much like he doesn’t want them to go - asking if they might like to go sometime and then asking them to look at his pig collection. He motions them toward a doorway covered with black curtains and John drags Lorraine into the other room after Mr. Pignati. Everywhere on a table and several shelves are all kinds of pig figurines. He shows them the first one he ever gave his wife before they were married: a large white pig with an ugly smile on its face. He laughs and says he gave it to her to remind her of him and he continues laughing at his own silly joke - p-i-g for Pignati.
John’s reluctance to include Norton and Dennis in their trip to Mr. Pignati’s house indicates that he, like Lorraine, is more than aware of the potential these two boys offer for trouble. It then makes us wonder why he would continue to associate with them. He seems to see them as a mild diversion from the boredom of his life and thinks he can control how far they might go. This is an idea the reader should remember by the end of the story when their relationship with Mr. Pignati goes terribly wrong.
Also, the reader should take a moment to analyze John even further. He doesn’t want Norton and Dennis to in any way harm the old man, while he is just as willing to take advantage of him. Perhaps John believes he has the self-control that the other two don’t have and that he can use Mr. Pignati without hurting him in any serious way. He shows us that he may be handsome and smart, but he is not yet mature enough to know that even the smallest hurt is still pain. His immaturity is further enhanced when he shows he knows Lorraine well enough that when she bites her lip, he only has to push just a little harder to get her to do what he wants. She is his best friend, but he doesn’t feel badly when he takes advantage of her. He likes to play tricks for his own amusement and he uses people for his own advantage.
John’s Santa-like description of Mr. Pignati as well as his comment that he acts like a big kid will reinforce Mr. Pignati’s basic innocence about people and his terrible sadness and loneliness. He loves the zoo, he is excited to show off his pig collection, and thoughts of his wife almost make him cry. These characteristics make what happens to him later even more poignant and will help explain why John and Lorraine feel the need to immortalize him in this record - to assuage their own guilt.
The figurine that means the most to Mr. Pignati is a big white one. It will have significance later when Norton breaks it looking for money.