Don't Kill Another Elephant. Don't!

Matter Press for Compressed Creative Arts 2022

We owned nothing of value. If a thief broke into our project apartment he would look around and leave.

I had a Brownie Hawkeye camera with a shutter button on the right and another button on the left to lift and get time exposures, I kept it hidden because it was my most prized possession.

My older brother had a slide rule that he kept in his shirt pocket and whipped out to figure costs or percentages, and how much longer I’d have to live. He used it daily and slept with it hidden away in his pillowcase.

Our kid sister had a collection of different color hair bows and alternated with her Betsy Wetsy doll. She didn’t hide any of her treasures but kept them displayed on her three-legged dresser propped up by two books from a twenty-year-old set from the encyclopedia.

Our mother had two things she valued over us kids. The first was a Ouija Board that she used nightly with some of the letters rubbed off and the other was a gray ceramic elephant she kept on the bookcase. It was three inches high, and she had won it at a carnival when she was in high school. We would watch her dust it daily and set it on the kitchen table with her smokes and Ouija Board or solitaire cards, Then her sister Lizzy went on a cruise and brought my mother back another elephant. Soon she had a collection from the vacations her sister took. There was something about elephants that fascinated my mother.

My older brother and I fought constantly, mostly verbal, but occasionally shoving and hitting. I pushed him because he had bad breath and was standing in front of me only inches away. Mom’s elephants tumbled over and one landed and cracked a leg off, we were both scared of the beating we were expecting and worked together with Elmer’s Glue and a band-aid to put it back together. We put them back on the bookshelf and each grabbed an issue of the encyclopedia and sat reading waiting for mom to come home from a job interview.

She had one foot in the living room when she saw the elephants out of order, and she spotted the band-aid and walked over and picked it up and cradled it against her chest and we could see the tears forming. She didn’t speak to us kids but went to her bedroom and changed into a housedress and when she came back, all red-eyed, she took out our dishes and told our sister to set the table while she opened the can of ravioli and ripped up lettuce and sliced a cuke and a radish. She then mixed the salad with mayonnaise and Oysterettes.

The next morning mom still was not speaking to me or my brother but had our lunch bags ready for school with a pb&j sandwich cut on a diagonal and one cookie each from her Friday baking.

My brother told her that he was innocent, and it was all my fault. I was listening in from the hallway and heard her say she suspected as much. “That’s why we can’t have nice things around the house.”

The following week we picked up our sister from kindergarten and walked her home jabbering nastily at each other all the way, There was a note on the door telling us to get the housekey from the lady next door and in large all capital printing. DON’T KILL ANOTHER ELEPHANT. DON’T!

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