Continued from “The Day of the Elephant Pt. 1”
For two straight days the elephants rocked on their feet as if keeping time with a song only they could hear. They did not eat, or drink, or sleep; their eyes remained open as if watching what we would do, as we watched what they would do.
But one elephant did not rock. He was small, pink around the edges and followed me home from the grocery store where he had been living in the cart return stall. He jogged behind my car, and I admit I slowed down when he lagged behind. When we arrived at my building, he took one of the plastic A&P bags in his trunk and squeezed onto the elevator next to me, pushing the button for my floor before I could. I named him Darwin, because why not.
Darwin liked strawberry ice cream and red wine. Together. He raised his head before my phone would ring, and grunted twice whenever it was a telemarketer. I learned to stop answering when he did that.
Darwin slept beside my bed, and liked to be brushed with a coarse hair silver plated brush. He disliked my cat, who in turn loved him with a fierceness possessed by the delusional and ignorant, and Darwin learned to tolerate her with a patient indifference. Twice, Darwin prevented my cat from leaping out the dining room window when it had been left open by my boyfriend Josh.
In this way I learned that Darwin knew to display his true feelings, but act in accordance with my wishes.
Both Josh and my mother did not trust the elephants and begged that I turn Darwin out on the street. They joined a group devoted to herding the elephants onto boats and setting them adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. Sometimes Josh would erupt at the dinner table when I insisted on setting an extra plate for Darwin. To keep the peace, I asked Darwin to stay in the office whenever my mother or Josh would visit. He did, but I could sense the deep disappointment he felt for my choices by the way he dragged his feet when he walked.
“I heard one of them trampled a nun by Sacred Heart,” my mother said.
“Sacred Heart doesn’t have nuns,” I said.
“A teacher then. A kindergarten teacher, with two children at home who are now orphaned.”
From the office we could hear Darwin arranging and rearranging the office supplies on my desk–he was particularly fond of pens.
“It stinks in here,” Josh said. “I’m going to open a window.”
“Darwin doesn’t smell,” I said.
And it was true. None of them smelled. Not of musk or dirt–not of oiled leather or hay–not of any of the things I once thought elephants would smell like if I got close enough to touch.
“It’s unnatural,” my mother and Josh said together. “Something’s not right with them.”
And I found I could not entirely disagree.