Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Cautionary Tale

Reckless and curious, a damn fool if
ever there was one, I married an elephant
old enough to be my mother, if I too
had been an elephant or if elephants
gave birth to human children, which some
book or another once convinced me they did.
This, I now know, is part of my problem:
I've read too many of the wrong sorts of books.

Still, the old elephant loved me,
and I love her even now.

We lived in Tanzania, where there
was very little for me to eat,
and where we were shunned by the other
elephants and I was constantly being
stalked by other wild animals and men.

You know what they say about married couples
eventually starting to resemble one another?
We were apparently a textbook case --or rather
I was. Despite having very little to eat,
I gained a great deal of weight.
My hair fell out and my skin grew leathery
and was covered with coarse bristles.

My wife's name was Tanika, or so I called
her --my lovely Nika-- and as I became
less and less a man and more of an elephant
I could not help but notice that Tanika
no longer looked at me the same way.

I gradually forgot the words to the
Johnny Cash songs she loved to hear me sing,
and my hands became so useless I could
no longer play the guitar, although
I could not have played the guitar
even if I were physically able,
as my guitar had been trampled
by other resentful pachyderms.

Even as I was feeling acute
disappointment at the fact that
I had not grown a trunk, it was becoming
increasingly clear that my bride
now regarded me as a freak.
She had fallen in love with a man
--that was her kink, I guess--
and could not disguise her displeasure
at the changes in my appearance.

Eventually there was some sort of
council of which I was not a part
(elephants only), and Tanika was
persuaded --I like to believe she
had to be persuaded-- to allow me
to be captured by one of the groups
of men that now always seemed to be
in the vicinity, studying me intently
with binoculars from the safety
of their Land Rovers.

The writing was on the wall,
and I didn't put up much of a fight.
I had once been an idealistic young man,
and had gone to Africa with the Peace Corps
to help people. To this day there's no way
to satisfactorily explain how a man falls
in love with an elephant.

All I know is that though
I had hoped I might be magically
re-transformed into the man I had been
before my folly, this has not happened.
I suppose I am tragic. Modern medicine
could do nothing for me, and I can't
deny that the transparent disgust with which
I am regarded by the medical profession
has caused me no small amount of humiliation.

I am not allowed to talk now.
I appear on stage for five minutes,
my legs shackled for dramatic effect,
preceded by a sad, sooty old dwarf
who breathes fire while standing atop
the shoulders of a giant who is
misrepresented as the "largest living
man in the world," a second-generation
Russian from New Jersey.

What, I often wonder, could I say if
I were allowed to speak? "Look at how
perilous love is? See the extent to which it can
make a man alien even to himself? Consider these
things and try to understand me when I say it was
worth everything I have suffered and will continue
to suffer to have loved and been loved, to have
experienced the extent to which love can transcend
the seemingly insurmountable obstacles of form
and transform a man in ways that are not even
visible to the naked eye?" But I do not say
anything, and take small comfort in the fact
that so many of those who gaze upon me
remain utterly convinced that I am not real.


  1. That's the story of, the glory of, love. What a beautiful tale you tell Mr. Zellar.

  2. "--that was her kink, I guess--"