August 12

World Elephant Day


It wasn’t scientifically possible that elephants would breed so quickly.

Like…well, like rabbits.

Apparently, a herd of baby elephants had appeared in the wooded area at the north edge of Curtis Pellinger’s suburban community.

Melanie ran eagerly into his home office to tell him the news.  “Marky’s parents already took him to see them.”  His six-year-old daughter swayed from side to side as she spoke, the motion barely helping to contain her excitement.  “They’re running and playing and there’s a bunch of them.  Can we go see?  Please, Daddy?”

Curtis had three accounts to close out this afternoon, but he knew he’d get nothing done while Melanie was so impatient.  It would be easier to give in and take her now, and focus on his work later this afternoon.

Besides, his daughter had clearly gotten her story wrong.  There couldn’t be a whole herd of baby elephants.  If anything, perhaps a single animal had escaped from the zoo.

Or, more likely, it wasn’t an elephant at all.  Some neighbor’s dog had gotten loose, an unusual barrel-torso breed that Marky confused with an infant pachyderm.  After all, Marky wasn’t exactly the brightest kid in the neighborhood.

On the walk there, Melanie riding on his shoulders most of the way, his daughter said something implausible that convinced him even more that Marky’s account was fanciful.  “No,” he’d said firmly.  “Baby elephants can’t do that.”

“But Marky said.  Marky said.”

“Remember what Marky said about dinosaurs?”  That should have been enough to remind Melanie of her friend’s dubious relationship with facts.  She grew silent for a while, as if in contemplation.  When they nearly reached the edge of the community his daughter began fidgeting and kicking her legs, so he had to lift her off his shoulders and hold her hand while she walked beside him.

Melanie was close to the ground when they approached the line of spectators.  He strained to look over his neighbor’s heads at the field in front of the wooded area.

“There they are!”  Melanie’s arm extended, her index finger pointing high.

She shouldn’t be able to see anything yet.  The people were blocking her view.  Except…

Marky had been right.  There was a whole herd of them.  And they were…bounding.

Baby elephants leaped in the air like rabbits.  Their gray wrinkled forms arced in the field, higher than the heads of human spectators.  Playful and cute, yes, and his daughter was certainly delighted.  But Curtis also found the spectacle profoundly disturbing.

Because he thought about how quickly this herd had materialized, and how similar strange groupings might be arising elsewhere in the world.

He thought about these cute animals leaping, tamping down overgrown grass when they landed here in this out-of-the way field.  But small animals will grow larger, and full-sized elephants leaping in large herds would cause far more destruction, wherever they landed.