When I am looking for a place to be with only me, there is a place where I can go. It is a place that I call the elephant tree. It’s down the way a piece beyond the pasture and by a stream. I walk there to think and soak my feet. I sometimes feel that the cool water filtering between my toes is where my mind goes to seek the words that I use to create the stories I write.
It was not too long ago that I stopped to cool my feet when I heard a voice above me.
“Ahem” I heard someone say. I looked, but I could not see anyone. “Ahem” the voice said again. “That certainly is not perfume I smell. In fact I smell a smell that is awfully stale.” I looked again but still there was no one to see.
“I’m sorry” I said. “I thought I was alone. Where are you?”
“Up here,” the voice said. “Above you.”
I looked up to see who that was above me. I coughed and sputtered, snorted and gagged because I could not believe who I could see in the tree above me. Not a word did I say so the voice in the tree above me said, “What is wrong? Have you never seen an elephant in a tree?”
“Of course not,” I replied. Elephants do not belong in trees and are never seen in trees” “Certainly you cannot climb a tree.” “How did you get in the tree,” I asked?
“I put myself here,” he replied.
“How so,” I said. “I cannot believe that you could put yourself in a tree.” “But, if you did, why would an elephant want to be in a tree?”
“I did put myself in this tree and I did so to hide from the little boy that lives over that way,” the elephant replied indignantly pointing through the trees with his trunk.
Then I heard a tiny young voice echoing through the woods, “Oh, Mr. Elephant, where are you?”
“Shush” the elephant said.
I put my shoes and socks back on my stinky feet and left the two friends to finish their game of hide and seek.
I walked back toward the place I called home. I came across another part of the little stream and decided that I still needed to soak my weary feet. I sat on a rock and looked into the tree above just to make sure there wasn’t another elephant in a tree. I removed my shoes and socks and placed my weary tired feet into the cool water and sat and thought about the elephant in the tree.
No, I thought, you didn’t see an elephant in a tree and I convinced myself that was in fact true. I could not have seen an elephant in a tree. I was just tired. I must have fallen asleep and was dreaming.As I relaxed and my feet began to feel better and then I heard the little boy’s voice again.
“Oh, mister elephant, where are you?’
Oh, no, I thought. Maybe I wasn’t dreaming.
I listened to his searching voice hoping he would go into another direction. But his voice got closer and stronger.
“Oh mister Elephant, where are you?”
Then he was upon me and gasped in his surprise to see me dangling my bare feet in the running water.
He paused for a moment and then decided it was okay to speak to me. I am sure he thought I could be of no harm to him with my bare feet dangling in the water.
“Have you seen an elephant?” he asked.
“As a matter of fact I have,” I replied
“Could you tell me where he is?” he said“I am not sure if I should,” I answered.
“Why not?” He demanded. “It is important that I find him”
“I sort of promised mister elephant that I would keep his secret,” I replied.
He came closer and said in a soft low voice, “If you tell me where he is, I won’t tell him that you told me.”“That wouldn’t be honest,” I answered.
Well, maybe not, but I have to find him and I have looked everywhere,” he said.“I am very sure you haven’t looked everywhere,” I said. “Have you looked under the rocks, or in the bottom of the brook or even in the trees?”
“That’s stupid,” he laughed. “I know you’re teasing me because an elephant is too big to hide under a rock and an elephant is too big to hide in a small stream and an elephant cannot climb a tree.”
“Maybe and maybe not,” I replied. “He could be a magic elephant. Maybe he used his big ears and flew up into a tree.”
He paused for a few seconds and then he took his shoes and socks off and dangled his feet in the water about 10 feet from where I was dangling me feet in the water.
“My mother told me never to get to close to strangers,” he said. Do you suppose this is far enough away? I am not to close, am I?”
“No,” I smiled. “I am pretty sure you’re safe where you are.”He was thoughtful for a few moments and the said, “I never considered an elephant flying with his ears. Do you really think they can do that?”
“It’s possible,” I said. “Elephants are not supposed to talk either, but mister elephant talked to me.”His eyes got wider, “Really, what did he say?”
“He doesn’t like my stinky feet.”“Is that why you’re washing them?”
“No, they were sore, but they feel better now.”“If you will tell me where he is I will give you half of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
“Do you have any potato chips”?
“No, but I have two Oreo Cookies. I will give you one of those.”I decided I had teased him long enough so we struck the bargain for the cookie and we went back down the path to find mister elephant in the tree.
“Is he really in a tree?” the boy asked. “How did he get in a tree?”
“Yes,” I answered. “He told me he put himself in the tree.”“Oh,” was all the boy could say.
The boy and I walked side by looking for the tree with mister elephant. When we arrived at the elephant tree, mister elephant said, “Oh it’s you mister stinky feet. I guess now I will have to call you mister squealer with the stinky feet.”
“I guess that’s true," i said. "I did show the boy where you were, but he was very worried about you.”“He sold you out for a cookie,” the boy chirped in.
“Figures”, mister elephant said. “He’s probably some kind of politician.”"Hey elephant,” a strange voice said. “What are you doing in a tree?”
“Oh, hello donkey,” mister elephant said. “I’m hiding from the boy.”
“It looks like he found you,” donkey said.“No he didn’t,” mister elephant answered. “The man with the stinky feet sold me out for a cookie.”
“He must be a politician,” donkey said“I am not a politician. I was just concerned for the boy.”
“You’re it mister elephant,” the boy said. “It’s my turn to hide. You count to one hundred while I hide.”
“I can’t,” mister elephant said.“You can’t count to one hundred mister elephant“, the boy and the donkey said in unison.
“Don’t be ridiculous, I can count to one hundred,” mister elephant said with disdain. “But, I cannot get myself out of the tree.”
“Why not?” I asked. “You put yourself in the tree so you should be able to get yourself out of the tree.”“That is not necessarily true,” mister elephant replied. “Just because I was able to put myself in a tree doesn’t mean that I can put myself out of the tree. Cats do it all the time.”
“This is not good,” the donkey said.“Let’s call the fire department,” the boy said.
“No,” both the donkey and mister elephant yelled in unison.“Why not?” the boy asked.
The donkey said, “It’s because of the press.”“What does ‘the press’ mean?” the boy said.
“The press is the newspapers and the TV news,” I answered.“Are they bad?” he asked.
“No, they are not bad,” mister elephant said. “But, they will tell the world about me in this tree and donkey on the ground and then someone will say donkey put me in the tree because I represent the Republicans.”“And then someone else will say it’s not fair for mister elephant to be higher up than me,” donkey said. “Then someone will put me in a tree.”
“Then,” mister elephant said, “They will put me higher up the tree until the branches won’t hold me anymore and they will break and I will fall out of the tree. Then someone will blame donkey because he represents the Democrats. I would rather stay in the tree.”“What are we going to do?” the boy said
“I’m hungry,” mister elephant said. “And I’m thirsty.”“You can have my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Oreo cookie,” the boy said.
“I ate my Oreo cookie,” I added. “But, I’ll get you a hat full of water.”
“Great,” mister elephant said. “A baseball hat full of water, an Oreo cookie and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich are not what I would call a gourmet meal for an elephant!” All of that should last me about thirty seconds. Look at me folks I am an elephant. E-L-E-P-H-A-N-T…elephant. I usually get about a ton of hay per day.”“I wouldn’t be so uppity if I were you,” I said. “You put yourself in the tree. You only have yourself to blame. You do not want us to call someone that could help so you’ll have to eat what we can give you until we figure out how to get you out of the tree.”
Another voice entered below the tree. It was the boy’s mother and she was very, very upset. “Young man, you were supposed to be home one hour ago. I was worried and upset.”The boy, testifying in his own defense, said that he was helping his friend, mister elephant. The mother was leery, very leery. “I do not see an elephant. All I can see is a mangy old donkey, and a man with a wet baseball cap.”
Mister elephant said from the tree above her, “Ma’am, do you suppose you could fix me a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?”The mother looked up and saw mister elephant in the tree above her and fainted.
“Oh great,” the donkey said. “Now we have an elephant in a tree and a dead woman under the tree.” We better hope the fire department doesn’t show up now. We will all be arrested for murder.”“Is my mother dead?” the boy gasped.
“No,” I replied. “She just passed out. Sprinkle some water on her face and she should be okay.”The boy was very gentle. He did not sprinkle water on her. He took his shirt off and got it wet from the brook and slowly wiped her brow until she woke up.
She sat up and looked back into the tree. “Oh my God,” She said. “There is an elephant in the tree. For lands sakes how did an elephant get in the tree?”“I put myself here,” said mister elephant. “How many times do I have to say it? Do you have any more of those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? I am really, really hungry. But, I don’t want any more of those Oreo cookies. I seem to be allergic to chocolate.”
Then he sneezed and the whole tree shook.
Of course the donkey couldn’t resist. “Now I suppose we will have to call the doctor? If the doctor comes then he will call the paramedics and they will call the fire department and they will call the police and the police will call the reporters and the next thing you know, we will have fifty news vans parked everywhere. Man, talk about an ecological disaster.”Mister elephant was becoming agitated. “Be quiet donkey. Why don’t you take the boy’s mom to make me some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? I think about three hundred should do it.”
“That’s the solution,” donkey said. “We’ll just feed him until his fat rear end breaks all the branches and he falls out of the tree.”“That’s just fine by me,” mister elephant snorted. “Just get me food, any food. But, I really want some more of those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”
The boy’s mom took the boy and they went to find some food for mister elephant.I could hear her muttering to herself about going to the store for bread and peanut butter.
Mister elephant said, “Please hurry, my stomachs killing me.”I sat down by the brook and said, “I’ve got a head ache and my feet are still killing me.”
Mister elephant said, “Don’t take off your shoes and socks again. I don’t want to smell your stinky feet. That smell will kill me.”“Great,” Donkey said. “Take your shoes and socks off and let your stinky feet kill him. When he falls out of the tree, you can bury him and we can all go home.”
“Funny, funny, funny,” mister elephant groaned. “I don’t have to smell his feet; your jokes are killing me.Just then one of the boy’s friends came to the tree and started laughing.
“It’s really true,” he giggled. “There is an elephant in a tree, and an ugly donkey.”“Are you really a politician?” He asked me.
“I am not ugly,” donkey said.“I am not a politician,” I groaned.
“Yes you are,” mister elephant and donkey said in unison. “You sold out for one lousy Oreo cookie.”The boy’s friend couldn’t wait to tell everyone about the elephant in the tree, the ugly donkey and the politician. They never had a politician in their neighborhood and certainly not an elephant in a tree.
The boy’s friend told his mom. His mom called her brother who was a local newspaper reporter. The reporter came with a photographer and the evening paper had a picture of a frightened hungry elephant setting in a tree.The headlines read: “LOCAL POLITICIAN PUTS ELEPHANT IN TREE”.
Naturally the story was picked up by the evening TV news and before dark there were news vans from every major news source in the world.
Nobody bothered to feed the poor hungry elephant. Everyone wanted an interview. Every person in the neighborhood was on one channel or another all across America and the rest of the world.Animal cruelty was being reported. Political tricks were being reported. The donkey was accused of kicking his political rival into the tree. I was asked what office I held. I was asked to run for Governor and finally one group wanted me to run for president.
Everyone knew the “real” story and every “real” story was different than the other “real” stories and they were all wrong. However, that didn’t bother the news media because each and every one of them had a “scoop”.The Republicans accused the Democrats of demeaning their national symbol. The Democrats put an ad on TV disavowing the “ugly donkey” as their symbol. Their handsome donkey was somewhere in Maine stumping for an election.
The Republicans adopted the “elephant in a tree” as their new campaign slogan to show the entire world the cruelty of the democrats.
The Democrats accused the Republicans of campaign lies.
The elephant was still hungry and decided no one was going to bring him any peanut butter and jelly sandwiches so he decided to do what he should have done before the whole mess began.He put himself out of the tree simply by jumping. He landed with a great thud but all the news people were so busy gathering news that they did not see or hear the only news that was happening.
Mister elephant walked away without a word to anyone.
I could hear him mumbling to himself as he walked away, “I wondered if she made my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches yet.The donkey followed behind mumbling something about being called ugly.
When the news media finally figured out that the elephant and the donkey were gone. They all took off in different directions looking for the terrorists that had captured the symbols of our fine and upstanding political parties. They were sure the terrorists were holding them for ransom.Since I was no longer part of the donkey and elephant story, I was not considered important anymore.
I took my shoes and socks off and resumed soaking my stinky feet in the cool water.Every time I return to the elephant tree I secretly hope to find Mr. Elephant and Mr. Donkey waiting there to talk to me but then again I am always happy when they are not. I think I have had enough politics for one year.