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THE ELEPHANT AND THE ANT
By Mark Head.
On the afternoon of the thirty first day of June or thereabouts, just before the regular three o’clock monsoon shower, Alfredo Y Don Conquistadon, a many times removed son of ancient Inca and Spanish heritage, suddenly found himself walking across a muddy pathway rutted by rainfall and the passage of animals that went down to the river nearby to drink.
As this tale is a tropical one, it is needless not to add that there was a sacred Bo tree that had a little shrine underneath it, and for once, no sign of a resident hermit with no hair and lots of orange cloth draped about her or him.
Halfway across the muddy pathway, Alfredo felt all his feet beginning to vibrate. Looking carefully about him, he saw nothing but the ruts of the pathway dance before his eyes. When the afternoon sunshine suddenly became absent, he realized he was about to be involved in some kind of experience. He began to run to get to any side of the pathway.
Alfredo had suddenly realized that perhaps the elephants might be coming down that very pathway for their afternoon constitutional by the riverside, and judging by the sounds he heard, there were an awful lot of elephants. As luck would have it, he did not arrive at the other side of the pathway; for when everything suddenly became very black, he felt and heard the squelch of himself being at the slimy vortex of a muddy GLOP!! that made his antennae go quite limp, for Alfredo Y Don Conquistadon was an Andalusian ant.
Ordinarily, the life story of anyone being trodden on by a three tonne elephant could for most practical purposes be considered quashed in a permanent sense, but for Alfredo, this was just the beginning of a most unusual adventure, for he was saved by an accident of birth. That particular elephant’s foot that trod on him just happened to have a cleft in it, and it was in this very cleft that he was to make his home, experiencing much of a foot’s life after the sole of the foot landing above him became a new horizon and enabling a better understanding of the true function of angels’ wings after seeing stars during his own personal compressional experience.
Over the next day or so Alfredo somehow survived the rhythmic footfalls that occurred without falling out, and his view of the world whenever he did so only made him the more determined to remain where he was. It must be noted that Alfredo had a fear of heights, suffered from vertigo, and strongly disliked being mud dried alive.
As time went on he learned to tell the time when the elephant, whose name he eventually discovered was Albert, developed a thirst; for it was at these times that Albert liked to get his feet, and sometimes even all of him, wet at the local watering hole; which we all know is the socially acceptable thing to do from time to time. Since Alfredo was very fond of breathing air, he soon learned to design a sort of schnorkel device out of straw debris that could invariably be found stuck in Albert’s foot, and he used it whenever Albert decided to go walkabout in the middle of the river. Later on Alfredo learned to waterproof the doors and windows of the house he built as well, but these were early days, for he had first to learn how to make a house that could withstand the regular pedestrian traffic that he personally found himself subject to without being crushed by the monotonous drudgery of regular footfalls.
Alfredo discovered that these pedestrian earthquakes had a certain rhythm to them. There were, for instance, always three heavy tremors and then a light one, which ex-cited the scientific mind within him to such an extent that he would have sent off a paper relating his experiences to a professor uncle of his in scientific language, which he knew could only be understood after many years of intense study and a degree in sociology wordcraft mastered by none of any worthwhile discipline. He reluctantly realized, however, this would make his story fully open to any interpretation and that perhaps no one would believe him no matter how logically he presented his case. Besides, he had not seen any mailboxes locally and had no stamps upon his person. With great reluctance, Alfredo, being young, promptly forgot this non existent potential and went off to explore another idea.
Before building his house, Alfredo found it necessary to explore every foot of his universe, with the exception of the dizzy heights, and discovered that the most comfortable foot to be on by far was the one he had arrived on, for the others ( he only found three more) caused rebounding discomfort for they bore the brunt of the load the favoured foot should have carried.
Eventually, Alfredo’s house was made in true Inca style. Every time a stone became caught in Albert’s cleft foot, he lassoed it so it would not fall out; his Spanish ancestors would have been proud of him, for it was they who had in stabler times, so Alfredo claimed, been vaqueros and had the ability to lasso anything that moved. Every stone he shaped had corners that were not square; the purpose being that if movement occurred after emplacement in the walls the stones would have a tendency to settle back into their original positions.
Alfredo’s water supply was a simple one. Every time Albert put his foot in the river, the little cistern he had built behind Albert’s toenail would immediately become flooded, which could, if need be, supply the average ant’s needs for weeks on end. Alfredo did, however, try to psyche Albert into getting into the river before the other elephants, for he well understood the desirability of a clean water supply after much harangement from a wife he nicknamed Hulot, M, behind her back of course, for there was no argument with the chronic ablutomanic tendency that had the honed hearing of a tone deaf darling wife.
The day finally arrived when Albert discovered Alfredo’s existence, for Alfredo’s industriousness had begun to cause a question mark in Albert’s mind. This may or may not have had anything to do with Alfredo’s desire to grow a cactus patch, for it so happened the seedling of a cactus that Alfredo was particularly fond of eating just happened to find its way into Albert’s favoured foot. Alfredo thought this too good an opportunity to miss, so he then and there decided to cultivate a vegetable garden; he had always intended, so he said to his wife during the rare times they were on speaking terms, to do exactly that, and when at last the opportunity presented itself did not hesitate. Unfortunately he reckoned this time without the good offices of his landlord, whom, on making an inquisitive trunk call, removed the cactus patch and much of Alfredo’s residence as well.
On observing the ruin of his new house, Alfredo began to become dimly aware of the necessity of living in harmony with his surroundings; but it took a few more trunk call excavations for the point to sink home. Although by nature an intelligent fellow, he was unfortunately a slow learner and could only improve his situation by repetition of experiences. Pondering deeply over this and other philosophical matters, he rebuilt his shattered abode time after time until the lesson was learned.
Finally deciding that he lived in an expanding universe after all, Alfredo decided one day to overcome his fear of heights and explore more fully the moving mountain he lived on; but first he had to make ropes, pitons, and all the other paraphernalia usually associated with mountain climbing. The ropes were spun from hairs dropped by long furred animals, and the grappling hooks were made from hippopotamus baby safety pins, which, as every mother knows, become lost from time to time and could be found at any hippo creche and there were many of these for there were many hippos in the area much concerned with mounting games called jig a jig and results therefore inevitable. After much preparation, the journey began.
The way up the shoulder slope was a long and arduous one, and many times Alfredo nearly changed his mind about his journey. There were also times when he nearly fell off; but this to a mountain climber was of occupational thought only and overcome by a stout heart, which Alfredo, much to his surprise, occasionally found himself in possession of.
When at last Alfredo approached the summit, he was nearly swept off the shoulder by a blast of ear swept air. It was a hot day and there was no wind. The heat was oppressive so this intermittent gale was a surprise to him. At the third blast Alfredo nearly lost his purchase altogether and gave vent to his fear by making an Inca mountain call in the middle of one of those winds. That wind suddenly died. The head of Mount Everest Albert moved slightly. And listened. Again Alfredo shouted.
Again Mount Everest moved, awaiting the call of the unseen Muezzin.
A black robed fly, white turbaned and quite obviously deeply replete from the humour of tracts contained within a dog-eared copy of sardonic verses it was reading concerning the question of how much fet was in it for a fatwah sandwich that had no salt for flavour, took a wrong turn and buzzed in at just the wrong moment into Albert’s middle ear trumpet, and chuckling deeply at a comment made in the book, became the cause of a veritable Jerichoan shaking in a very short space of time, for Albert the elephant immediately trumpeted his awareness of this intrusion into his inner citadel and shook his head vigorously.
The fly shot out of his ear. Alfredo, grimly hanging on, saw this fundamentalist creature tumble robe over turban out of that mountainous cavern buzzing for help as loudly as it could whilst clutching closely to the winds of change by rapidly beating its wings in desperate angel mode. Alfredo, by nature a helpful creature, could only feebly wave an antenna, which was very nearly a fateful straw for him, for that mannerless fly grabbed it as it shot past and nearly held on, almost dislodging Alfredo from his hold. It was enough to slow the fly down, however, and he grimly observed it buzzing off a moment later without so much as a thank you and continued on reading its book as if nothing had happened. Alfredo was not impressed and formed a definite opinion of the common house fly he was never to lose.
Albert the elephant, however, was so irritated by the fly’s political intrusion that he kept on swinging his trunk around his head in a circular motion that quite swept Alfredo off his numerous feet, and it was only judicious use of spike and grappling iron that saved him from a fate worse than that of falling into obscurity.
When Alfredo finally recovered his lost equilibrium, he was quite alone. No more was he to feel the rhythmic footfalls of his elephant friend, nor the slosh slosh wash of the alluvial wash that fertilized his vegetable garden, no more experience the subterranean rumblings he heard every morning isuing forth from an anal cavern far above that shortly after erupted moist solid fertilizer boulders downwards at speed; sometimes , and a foul gas cloud that he discovered was flame potential for he had a small stove alight one time and became immolated in flame for a moment luckily extinguished by the firth flowing from Albert’s pizzle when Albert suddenly decided now was a good time time to go walking in the river. Alfredo now found himself somehow on the ground attached to a short piece of frayed climbing rope. Around him were the muddy runnels of animal tracks that led to the edge of a river not far away, and there was a sacred Bo tree that had a little shrine underneath it, and for once no sign of a resident hermit with no hair and lots of orange cloth draped about her or him.
Wearily, Alfredo Y Don Conquistadon, recognising where he was at last, picked himself up and trudged across to the other side of the pathway, keeping a wary ear open for the sound of elephants that might arrive for their afternoon constitutional at the river side. On the other side of the pathway was a chilli-pepper bush, and it was to this very bush he made his way. Surveying the situation for a moment, a firm decision was made regarding the climbing of this bush, and a short time later the object of his climb hove into view. Impaled on the topmost twig of this bush was an airline ticket, and it was the very one that Alfredo had glided down to earth on when someone accidentally opened the window of the aeroplane he was in and out flew Alfredo, passenger number L28, ticket and all.
Alfredo reached out for the ticket and grabbed it.
At that moment a gust of wind flicked the ticket with Alfredo clutching it up into the air and it carried him many a mile until at last he saw a tarmac with an aeroplane parked upon it.
There was an open window on this aeroplane, and it may or may not have been the same one Alfredo had left earlier but who knows. Narrowly missing the edges of the window, he managed a reasonably well controlled crash landing on the seat itself, and looking up, saw the laminex label of seat number L28.
“Tickets, please.” called the air hostess. Alfredo produced his ticket, and the hostess looking at it handed it back to him after no hesitation.
Alfredo’s answer to the inevitable question
“HaveaGOODTRIPandENJOYyourHOLIDAYSir?” was in the affirmative, with the addition that, all the same, it would be nice to get back home again and could you please make sure all the windows are closed because something funny happened earlier the last time they were opened.
“Yes Sir” the hostess said, looking somewhat strained.
“I’ll make sure the windows are closed.”
word count 1978