Saturday, March 24, 2012
Thoughts on why I wrote "SEEING THE ELEPHANT" and my revisied version
Doing something a bit different here. I wrote a short story last night, mostly as a way of trying to deal with all the senseless events that I see on the news: the killings, the wars, the horrors. They really confound me. We sit around and try to point fingers, but the way I see it, we are all to blame. None of us wants to point the finger where it belongs. As a society we are responsible.
And I don’t understand how one death can make national news and create such a wild outpouring of outrage, while other murders barely register a blip on our consciousnesses. What tunes us in psychologically where we express more outrage over one murder than another? Isn’t murder, murder? Have we “evolved” so much that we can assign murder numbers like an Olympic Event? “I give that one a 7.2, Bob. Should have been more blood and the victim wasn’t quite young enough to garner much sympathy.”
The following is a revision of last night’s short story. I slept on it and it “percolated”, as I like to tell my students. I went to sleep thinking about the story; where it didn’t work, what needed redefining, what needed to be cut. So, this story is the percolated one and still may do a bit more percolating and go through more revision. They all do, but I have to stop at some point, declare it finished, and move on.
Until then I think I’ll stay away from the news today. I can’t take any more hypocrisy this week.
SEEING THE ELEPHANT
He walked in a determined rhythm, head down scrutinizing each step, feet flapping against the pavement like dead fish.
“Hey, where you going, Elmer?”
Elmer answered without turning, “To see the elephant.”
“Okay, uh, you need some clothes on, Elmer. Why don’t you let me take you home?”
Elmer stopped and blinked like a child waking from a nap.
“C’mon, Elmer”, Ned opened the driver’s door of the police cruiser and stepped out. “I mean, look at ya. You can’t go around town like that.”
Elmer was naked as the day he was born, save for a blue ribbon tied in a dainty bow around his flaccid penis.
“But I gotta go see the elephant, Ned.”
“I understand. But first, let’s go get some clothes on you.”
“I walked into the jungle in Nineteen-ninety-nine, and I haven’t left yet”, Elmer mumbled. “What year is it, Ned?”
“Two-thousand and twelve”, Ned answered.
“I’ll be damned.”
A car pulled up alongside the police cruiser, slowed, and a voice called out, “Hey, it’s naked Elmer!”
Ned placed his hand on his holster, glared at the barely- legal-age-for-driving occupants, and the car sped away.
Elmer sank to the blacktop and starting sobbing, “They killed my boy.”
“I know.” Ned had been new to the force, but he was the officer elected that night to knock on Elmer’s door and tell him that his only son was gone. An innocent ten-year old bystander in a botched convenience store robbery. His killer the fifteen-year-old son of Mr. Taylor, the local barber..
“No more Dr. Pepper’s, Ned”. Elmer whispered, “I asked Cory to get me a Dr. Pepper”.
The crime scene photo had frozen the glittering shards of a shattered Dr. Pepper bottle scattered like diamonds and the small almost imperceptible hole in the middle of Cory’s puny little chest. All else in the photo appeared normal, small town, serene even. Ned had thought it looked like a twisted Rockwell. Lives had been changed in a millisecond of irrevocable decision. It didn’t make sense.
“Who killed him, Elmer?” Ned whispered.
Elmer reached his long spindly arms into the air and opened his palms wide. Bits of gravel were imbedded in the soft pads of his hands. “We did, Ned. We did it”, Elmer wailed. “We all have blood on our hands.”
Elmer fixed his eyes on Ned’s. Both sets rimmed red and glistening with fatigue, anger, confusion, and teetering madness. The pain was a sharp bayonet twisting its point into each man. Ripping into humanness.
Ned knelt down beside Elmer and put his arms under the naked man’s arms. He heaved, but it was no use. If Elmer didn’t want to move, he wouldn’t be moved. Ned sighed, and sank to the ground beside Elmer. What a fucked up day. First The Linley baby and now this.
“You know, Elmer, it wasn’t supposed to be this way” Ned said. “No, sir, was going to put in my twenty-five, stash me a little retirement, and plant some corn and beans on daddy’s old farm.”
Elmer stopped sniffling and cocked his head. “What you say?”
“Farm, I was gonna rest easy and do a little bit of farming after I retire. But this morning I scraped a dead baby off the road. Car accident out on
Old Thomas Road. Baby wasn’t in a car seat. Went right through the windshield. I couldn’t even tell it had once been a child. How do you retire, sit on your porch, drink iced tea, watch your corn grow, and forget something like that?”
Elmer shook his head, “You don’t.”
“”I know.” Ned sighed and took a toothpick out of his uniform pocket and stuck it between his teeth. “People think they know, but they don’t.”
“The elephant.” Elmer repeated.
“Yeah, the damned elephant” Ned agreed.
“Made me tie a ribbon to my dick.” Elmer offered.
“Before it’s over, bud, I might be tying a ribbon to my dick.” Ned paused and looked up the road. The sun was starting to set behind the
. Evening services would be getting out soon. He had to get Elmer off the road so none of the Baptists would have their sensibilities insulted by the sight of naked, raw flesh. But it was more that they didn’t want to see. Much more. First Baptist Church
Elmer stood and held his hand out to Ned. “Take me home, Ned.”
“You got it.” Ned palced his hands in Elmer's and allowed hismelf to be pulled to his feet. Ned brushed the back of his trousers free of gravel and noticed a stain along the edge of his pantsleg. Blood. Lindley baby blood. The elephant. The zebra, The jackal. Hell, the whole damned zoo.
Posted by Liti