Once again I want to thank anyone who voted on the Fantastic Story Competition. Even though I didn’t win, I had a wonderful weekend at Dutch Comic Con at Utrecht and it was a great honor to read my short story, The Elephant In The Room, to so many enthusiastic members of the audience. You can now also read my story below. Congratulations to Marjolijn Ahsara and her beautiful story Death’s Diner for their victory.
The Elephant In The Room
by Julia Neugarten
It was a Tuesday afternoon like any other when Ian Jones-McWorthington-Smith came home to discover an elephant in his living room. He didn’t see the elephant right away, as he was busy putting his groceries in the fridge. Then, quite suddenly, the elephant sneezed. It happened just as Ian was putting the eggs in their rightful place, and one of them slipped out of his hand at the unexpected noise. The egg’s name was Patricia. Faster than you’ve ever fallen before, unless you have previous experience with falling to your death, Patricia made her way towards the linoleum of the kitchen floor. She screamed, but no sound came out because eggs don’t have mouths. As she saw the floor approach she thought, first, that it was a damned shame because she had been the tastiest egg in the carton, then, that it was a good thing not to end up boiled or fried or, heaven forbid, scrambled, and then, in her final moments on this planet, Patricia thought of her mother. Finally, with a dull splat, her shell shattered on the kitchen floor.
Ian looked over the kitchen counter towards the living room and saw the elephant for the very first time. It was a magnificent creature, skin a soft, beautiful grey. It had big floppy ears; African, then. The elephant was about the size you’d expect an elephant to be. Ian’s living room was about the size you’d expect a living room to be in a one-bedroom flat in Hounslow. This posed a problem, because the elephant could hardly even wiggle its tail in the space available to it.
“Hello,” said Ian cheerfully. He had never seen an elephant before.
The elephant didn’t respond. Ian returned to his groceries and dug out a head of lettuce. The elephant extended its trunk, reaching over the kitchen counter, and took the head of lettuce right out of Ian’s hands. Ian chuckled and went to sit down on the couch. It was a complicated process, as he had to crawl between the elephant’s thick paws to reach the sofa, but Ian was not a large man, and the feat was easily accomplished. Lying on his side with his neck tilted at a 45 degree angle, he could even see the telly. Ian and the elephant watched reruns of Doctor Who.
When suppertime came around, Ian went to heat up yesterday’s leftovers. He regretted not having bought more lettuce, but one could hardly plan for the unexpected appearance of an African elephant in the living room. Instead, Ian threw the elephant a loaf of bread and filled the sink with fresh water, so the elephant could quench his thirst by reaching over with its trunk. Before going to bed, he also put down a bucket, placed strategically between the elephant’s hind legs. Almost immediately, the creature took a quite spectacular dump. The turd landed squarely in the middle of the bucket. Ian heaved a sigh of relief and went to take out the rubbish, which now included a rather impressive amount of elephant dung. Just as he was about to fall asleep, Ian realized he wasn’t sure whether elephants slept standing up. He hoped to Heaven that they did.
The next day was Saturday. Ian had a lie in, but he was awoken around eleven when the doorbell rang. The sound did not seem to disturb the elephant. It was Mrs Next-Door, come to lend some eggs for her weekend fry-up. Unfortunately, after Patricia’s untimely demise, the rest of the eggs in the carton had made a suicide pact and launched themselves with remarkable velocity against the refrigerator door, and so Mr Jones-McWorthington-Smith had no eggs to offer. Just as he went to give Mrs. Next-Door the bad news of the eggy suicide pact in his fridge, she spotted the elephant in the room.
“Oh, my!” exclaimed Mrs Next-Door. “Mr Jones-McWorthington-Smith, is that an African elephant in your living room?”
Ian affirmed that yes, indeed, it was.
“What’s his name?” enquired Mrs Next-Door.
This question startled Ian. He hadn’t thought to ask. Sheepishly, he admitted: “I hadn’t thought to ask.”
“Well,” said Mrs Next-Door, looking him over with clear disapproval. “Do. It’s rather impolite, you know. We have a pair of zebra’s in our pantry. Their names are Josh and Donna. Wonderful houseguests.”
Ian nodded, apologized again for his dearth of eggs, and let Mrs Next-Door go.
“What’s your name?” he asked the elephant now, more than a little ashamed at his manners. “David,” said the elephant primly. “Might I have something for breakfast?”
“Of course,” said Ian. “I’ll go to the shops at once. We’re out of eggs, anyway.”
What might we learn from the tale? One should never ignore the elephant in the room, and if one has enough food and shelter to share with others, it would be impolite not to.