In the end, it was the pig that had stage fright.

"We were supposed to have a baby pig, but the baby pig got sick and went to the vet," said Mission Crest Elementary School principal Michelle Murphy.

Murphy was to have kissed the piglet as a reward for her students reading for a million minutes in March. In fact, her 935 students put in a total of 1,330,042 minutes of reading.

"We had a good 80 percent of the students read 100 minutes or more this year," she said. "They really read a lot during spring break and last week to make our minutes."

And on Monday, April 6, Murphy had her date with a pig.

"We faked the kids out. We had pigs of numerous sizes, like a plastic pig and Beanie Babies. I worked my way up to various sizes and kissed a goat, which is no big deal," she said. "He was so cute. He was only three weeks old and he had slept in my office for an hour ahead of time."

And eventually, she worked her way up to the substitute pig, who was definitely not a piglet and definitely not comfortable with his moment in the spotlight.

"The pig was agitated and wouldn't come out," said Murphy. She ended up giving the pig two pecks on the head.

The kids didn't mind, though.

"The kids were ecstatic. The only thing they were sad about was that they didn't get to see [the actual pig-kissing] up close, because we don't have a stage," Murphy said. "I think it helped motivate them, especially at the end."

Now the question is what Murphy will do for next year's reading reward.

"Last year I was on the roof for a day," she said. She has one restriction, however: "I will not eat anything. That's a 'no.'"

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.