A short, dark tale with a twist for an ending and a moral, too. Sort of.
Not Water for Elephants
by Chris Hugh
The golden sun beating down on the dry grasses, the acrid wind
coming over the savannah, carrying with it a scent that speaks to something deep
within every human, the breath of this world of gold and pale brown, the
ancestral home of all of us, Africa. And all that darn kid can do is tease the
He’s around 20, on a vacation from college, I guess. ‘Thinks he
knows everything. Just like I used to, a long time ago, back when I was tall, handsome and able to walk. “That bull isn’t
Babar,” the guide calls. “This isn’t The Lion King, asshole.”
I shift a bit in my wheelchair and raise my eyebrows at his
language, but the guide grins at me, and I have to shrug. The kid really is an
The bull elephant finally takes notice of him. It’s taken some
doing, but the idiot has managed to anger seven tons of testosterone-fueled
elephant. The bull charges and he runs. I guess he didn’t know elephants could
go fifteen miles an hour, but he’s pretty fast too.
But he’s running toward us.
100 feet away, the elephant is closing on the man, and the man is
closing on us.
The guide calmly picks up his elephant gun. Mwangi glances at him and spits out the side of his mouth. “Bwana, dude, Nduo's too big. You might kill him, but he'll trample you before falls down.” Then he saunters off, but
the tourists are panicked, frozen in place, watching the guide take careful aim, and I
can’t get my chair to move.
I flinch from the shot, we all do. Ears ringing, the other tourists
look back over the dusty grass and see that the elephant has got the man, but
I’m the only one who watched him fall. Thirty feet away, there’s not much left
of him, and the bull’s anger has evaporated. He examines the remains casually
with his trunk, then wanders away.
The others walk to the body and stare down at it. Mwangi stares
after the elephant. “Bwana, there is no blood trail,” I hear him say. “You
missed the elephant.”
The guide shrugs and starts herding the tourists back to the bus.
He wasn’t aiming at the elephant.
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