The Big Book of Elephants
The elephant keeper sat outside the elephant enclosure reading The Big Book of Elephants. The weather was perfect for such an endeavor, breezy, and not too warm, with a slight scent of elephant and hay. Given the three different species of Elephantidae, the elephant keeper had much to learn. The Big Book of Elephants was printed on glossy, oversized pages and had many illustrations of the species of elephant who live in the bush and in the forests of Africa and Asia as well as on midways and also in zoos and in other enclosures, such as the one that he, the elephant keeper, was guarding while eating a large bag of peanuts. The elephant keeper wore an ivory ring. He had a comfortable seat. He had a tall glass with ice. So deeply immersed was the elephant keeper in reading The Big Book of Elephants cover to cover, trunk to tail, that evening fell and the elephant keeper’s glass was dry and his beard grew in and his nails grew long and his kids grew up and his wife ran off and his neighbors were rounded up and killed and his city’s name was changed and the elephant enclosure was empty, all of which he failed to notice. He sat and read (with great pleasure), a mountain of shells at his feet.
Dawn Raffel is the author of five books, most recently The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies, which NPR cited as one of the great reads of 2018. Her stories have appeared in BOMB; O, The Oprah Magazine; NOON; Conjunctions; The Mississippi Review; The Iowa Review; New Letters; Big Other, and in the anthologies Best Small Fictions, New American Short Stories, New Micro, Orpheus XO, and Short, among others. She is the recipient of a 2019 Christopher Award and has been cited in the Pushcart Prize and Best American Short Stories anthologies.