Conversations with Beasts by S.A. Greene
… and the elephant said it’s true actually, I do enjoy walking round and round endlessly in circles, as you put it, but the lioness wasn’t having it, and the elephant said I’m a natural performer, the crowds adore me, but you can think what you like - you’re just jealous of my resplendent headdress, not that I blame you -you’ve only got that faux-mane of yours, and the lioness said ugh that manky old wig makes my skin itch and why the heck (language! the elephant said) can’t I perform as the woman I am since I’m better at killing than any male I know, and the elephant said this feminism malarkey might be all very well in the savanna, Valerie, but this is Frinton-on-Sea!
The lioness threatened to end the conversation right there, but I interceded, explaining patiently that these issues must be aired so that they can be given due consideration by the Board, and the elephant said I’m sorry if you were offended, Valerie, by anything I said, to be honest when they make me balance on my hind legs for the finale it hurts my back something rotten, and they exchanged some unflattering opinions of the roustabout and parted amicably enough.
Later, I looked in on the elephant. She enquired after my mother’s health and as I was reporting the prognosis the wind picked up sharply. I raised my collar and moved to the more sheltered side of the cage. I was about to resume my account of mother’s symptoms when I noticed that something was seriously amiss. The elephant had raised her trunk into a periscope and, though her front left foot was lifted eight inches above the ground, she stood completely rigid. Her honey-coloured eyes stared flatly at nothing, and her ears appeared suspended in mid-flap, like frozen blank flags. The only sign of life was the arhythmic twitching of her nostrils. I placed my hand on her flank and asked her in some alarm if she felt unwell.
Eventually, the elephant whispered that she’d caught the scent of distant water on the breeze and, sorry, but she’d fallen into another world, her second world, where she’d been elephanting with her kind, trumpeting and spraying, marching for miles and miles endlessly, but not in circles.
Making my way back to the station that evening, under an uncertain moon, I found myself pondering not for the first time the inexplicable ingratitude of elephants.
S.A. Greene lives and writes in the UK. She’s trying to complete a novel but enjoys a bit of flash and micro on the side. She won the People’s Prize for Retreat West’s May micro comp, and has been rejected by many prestigious literary organs. Twitter: @SAGreene1