Friday, July 08, 2016

The Elephant In The Room



The Elephant In The Room
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Walter Pidlaski was sitting in his garage on an aluminium lawn chair, the kind with the intertwined strips of vinyl that sag under your weight. Walter's rear end pretty much touched the garage floor, but he didn't mind. He liked the fit.

He was drinking the backwash of a beer, and picking at the edges of a bumper sticker on the back of his pickup. The sticky piece of vinyl had almost worn completely away, but still managed to express the central philosophy of Walter's life — "Nobody Rides For Free." Walter was just about to reach into the Styrofoam cooler full of beer beside him, when the elephant stormed by the end of the driveway.

At first, Walter didn't give the fact that an elephant was trudging down Mission Bay Drive much attention. In these days of reality television, Walter figured pretty much anything goes. He even smirked when the elephant leaned back, in a kind of a squat, on the Pritchard kid's red Mustang and squashed the roof down to the passenger door handle.

"Thing must weigh a ton," Walter said to no one in particular, as his head turned from side to side, half-expecting to see a camera crew in hot pursuit of the mammoth beast.

Only when the elephant turned toward Walter's driveway, did Walter jump from his lawn chair and show some signs of concern. His heart raced for a moment as not one but eight tons of bone and muscle began a slow but steady route straight for Walter.

When the elephant abruptly stopped beside Walter's prized magnolia tree and sniffed at the blossoms with its long trunk like it was something out of a Disney movie, Walter realised that this big brute was as docile as any house cat, the kind that would wander off from the pampering of some blue-haired woman, who would then stick a picture of the feline fugitive up in the window of the supermarket and offer $25 for kitty's safe return. That thought prompted Walter to brew up the idea of keeping the big grey mammoth as a hostage. After all, Walter believed that everything had a price, everything from freedom to a can of peas. He figured someone must be looking for the elephant, and surely they would pay a tidy sum for its safe return.

Looking down the driveway at the huge beast, Walter quickly sized up the elephant and then mentally measured the height of his garage door. "No way," he groaned, "have to keep him in the back yard."

How Walter managed to get the elephant into his backyard is still a mystery, but he did. Somehow he managed to coax or cajole that beast onto the plush, green lawn of the backyard, where it seemed content to rip up huge divots of grass with its trunk and sling them into its mouth and then thrash at the chocolate-coloured Mimosa trees that lined Walter's kidney-shaped in-ground pool. Walter watched his lawn disappearing, shrugged in dismay, and then went in the house and called the police. He was sure that someone must have reported that the family elephant had wandered off.

Duty officer Jack Billings, who took Walter's call, simply chuckled when Walter asked if anyone had called about a missing elephant. The policeman laughingly inquired if the elephant was pink, and then dutifully ignored Walter's query. He told Walter to sleep it off and not to call back. Then he simply hung up and left Walter standing speechless with a phone full of dead air corkscrewed to his ear.

"Idiot!" Walter spit into the phone and slammed the receiver down on its cradle.

No sooner had Walter Pidlaski hung up the telephone than Billie LaPerrierre started ringing the front door bell. Through the peep hole in the door, Walter recognised the boy as the punk French kid from the Québécois family who were fairly new to the street. From what he had heard, the mother and father were members of some weird acrobatic circus that travelled across the country. He wondered if there was an elephant in their show, and just how much they would pay to get it back. His palms moistened with sweat as he unlocked the dead bolts and turned the door handle to open the solid steel door just enough to peer outside into the bright sunlight.

"I want my elephant back," the boy yelped at Walter.

Walter opened the door wide and looked at the boy with a feigned expression of disbelief. He said nothing. Instead, Walter appeared to assume the pose of a mime, his eyebrows raised, his hands hanging in a perplexed pose, his body assuming the awkwardness of a string puppet. Walter was no Marcel Marceau, but he did his best impersonation, since he assumed that mime was a language the French understood best.

"I know you have it," the boy continued. "I know because I saw you sneak it around the side of your house. I want him back."

"Get lost, Frenchie," Walter finally growled at the boy. "There's no stinking elephant here. Au revoir. À bientôt!"

"Yes, there is," the lad insisted. "He's in your back yard, and I want him back."

"Sorry kid, call the police. Tell the duty officer you're looking for your elephant. Maybe he can help."

With that said, Walter closed the front door on the boy and quickly walked to the back of the house to see what his new pet was up to. As he turned the corner from the hallway into the kitchen, he was swatted back against a wall by a massive grey trunk. The elephant was standing on the patio, where it had poked through the screen of the patio door, and was now using its enormous trunk to empty Walter's cupboards and eat whatever it could find that was even remotely edible. At the time of Walter's arrival, it was holding a family size box of Fruit Loops and emptying the contents into its mouth.

Walter's face flushed with anger when he saw the last of the Fruit Loops vanish. He leapt into the kitchen, waving his hands madly over his head and shouting to the great grey beast to go back to eating the lawn and drinking from the pool.

Sensing danger or perhaps mistaking Walter for a Baobab tree, the elephant flapped its ears and began to push forward through the patio door. The walls around Walter groaned and the plaster cracked. Walter was no fool. He had survived the wrath of his ex-wife for fifteen years and managed to survive the divorce with his senses and his possessions more or less intact, but this was a more formidable opponent. He scampered like a mouse back down the hallway and out the front door, where he bowled over young Billie LaPerrierre still standing on the front porch, and then flipped off the front step into a garden bed of flourishing red impatiens bordering a cascading Japanese maple.

"Where ...?" Walter choked out from a mouthful of peat moss, "where did that crazy elephant come from?" Walter's eyes squinted as he looked at the boy squirming like an rain-drunken earthworm on the sidewalk. The boy was trying to negotiate his way back to his feet.

"From here," Billie groaned as he pointed to his head that had just bounced off the front walkway and was oozing blood from his short black hair.

"What do you mean?" Walter asked with a deep cough that spit out peat in all directions.

"I made him up," the boy mumbled, "in my imagination."

"Liar!" Walter shouted through a second wave of peat. "Do you take me for a fool? No one can just imagine an elephant and have it come to life."

"I can, and I did."

For a brief moment, Walter reckoned he was either dreaming or losing his mind. Then a thought struck him like the boom of a cannon shooting a hapless human cannonball into a net fifty feet away. "Make him go away, then!" he blurted out. "Make him go away before he destroys my house!"

Billie LaPerrierre got to his feet and stood in front of Walter Pidlaski. A thin young hand traced the course of quickly drying blood sticking to his hair, and he shook his head slowly from side to side.

"I don't know," the youngster said, his hand still bracing his head, "I may have a concussion, you know. Things may not work quite like they should. Anyway, how much?"

Walter stared into the boy's deep hazel eyes. "Huh?" he grunted out more peat, "what do you mean 'How much?'"

"I mean, how much are you willing to pay to have me blink that pachyderm out of existence? After all, everything has a price, n'est-ce pas?"


 









 








 
 


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