“WHAT? NO.” by Scott Bryan

One time, at least, an elephant ate a bat. 

It wasn’t a mistake, either. Nothing is.

It wasn’t like the bat was flying around, all willy-nilly, and the elephant was yawning, as pachyderms have a tendency to do, and the bat just, like, zigged when it should have zagged, and instead of a mouthful of cud or hay or greens, delivered by way of a droopy, rough, wet schnoz, the poor elephant unintentionally brought down their ill-equipped herbivore’s chompers (humiliated and hiding behind the impressive tusks of fortune which had been bestowed by whatever glue-sniffing god to whom elephants pray [Do you think elephants pray to Ganesha? No. That doesn’t seem right. I guess most people would assert that elephants don’t pray at all. Then most people would put their hands on their hips and authoritatively nod their head, proud of their superiority over such a staggering creature]. Crap, what was I saying? Oh yeah, the elephant didn’t accidentally clamp down) on the soft, light, furry flesh of the bat.

Nope. That’s not what happened at all.

“Grandpa, did you mean the elephant’s presence was staggering? Or that the elephant was staggering around?”

What? No.

What I meant was, the bat was in no danger whatsoever. This wasn’t normal, predictable, or fair. The elephant swung their mouth wide and lifted their girth away from the ground like a monkey lifting its paws off the earth for the first time, quite a feat for such a colossally distributed animal. 

“Does ‘colossally distributed’ mean there are a lot of elephants, created by a god to which they do not (or can not or choose not to) pray? Or does it mean elephants are big and have a strange center of gravity?”

What? NO.

Turns out, all of this was happening just as the hipster hangout across the way was closing down.

“For the day, or, like, going out of business?”

What? No.

They just finished the weekly open mic night, for Pete’s sake. The place was hopping! All the residents of the town had gathered to partake in some spoken-word by candlelight. 

A young person recited a piece of epic power and profundity, and the audience, dressed in slacks and pressed shirts and beatnik scarfs and glasses, who pretended to give their friends bored, disinterested eye rolls while whispering critical comments under their breath, were actually riveted, so enthralled with the young sycophant’s performance they quietly snapped their fingers in time with their own heartbeats.

The background repeated like a cheaply made cartoon, the same doors passed multiple times. They elephant chomped down only a short time after the emotional monologue crescendoed to an ovation-inspiring conclusion.  

Do you get the point o’ this whole endeavor, youngin?

“I think so. You’re saying if we are inactive, we will never see the possibilities for improvement or adventure. Whether the elephant chomps down on the bat or the audience sits in silence or erupts in applause, whether or not the meaning of the action has been revealed, it’s our recognition of the importance of the moment which really counts, and we have no foresight as to where our actions will take us.”

What? No. I nearly impressed a member of the homecoming court at that open mic. 

The point is: The performer was me! 

As the two of us were trying to leave together, arm in arm, probably headed to a night of fumbling adolescent copulation, we witnessed a broken-winged bat tumbling down the throat of a full-grown elephant. That wrinkly grey mess was savage. We shrieked in horror, we covered our eyes. Our buzzing energy was flattened like the earth under the elephant’s dusty feet!

Talk about a mood-killer. 

I never saw that person again. They found their own ride home, never returned my calls. I assume they forever associated me with the ugly incident. 

“I feel bad for them.”

What? Who cares about them! They went on to marry a circus clown and I ended up entering into a partnership with the person who, upon coupling with me, brought about the birth of one of your parents! 

“You mean you got with Grandma? That’s good, right?”

Who? What? No. What makes you assume I’m the male? Grandpa is my name, not my title. Grandpa Chris Demonkovich. Would-Be Poet, Slinger of Yarn, Ivory Poacher.

“So you’re a lady?”  

Don’t make assumptions is all I’m saying. Here’s my point, young whippersnapper: 

I killed the elephant, opened his stomach, set that bat free on the same night I recited my poem. I’m a good person! But, for some reason, that night set off a chain reaction which led directly to this moment, and I’m none too happy about it! God, inasmuch as I have any concept of them, is punishing me, obviously. My life has been a steady downhill slide away from art and music and beauty and toward violence and disappointment and you! Every moment is worse than the last, this one included.

“What?”

No! You’re awful, grandchild. Just awful. I look at you and all I see is the result of my misfortune. 

Aside from the overwhelming monetary wealth I’ve amassed thanks to my unnatural ability to visit my neverending revenge on anarchistic elephants, I’m a pretty unhappy person. But I’ve never written another poem.

“Well, maybe I’ll be able to carry your legacy. You know, appreciate life more than you were able to. Perhaps I’ll become a patron of the arts when I’m spending all your money, your ill-gotten ivory gains, after you are dead!”

Lord, I hope so. 

“What? No.”

ART BY BOB SCHOFIELD @anothertower

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