Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Mr Churdal lived in a box on the 1174th floor of his modest apartment tower, and for the first time in his fifty year box residency, he was unhappy. 

At some time in the recent past, two, maybe three years ago, he had taken to wearing his shirts backward. He would struggle to button them all the way up, ensuring the collar was tight. The resulting red faced throbbing of his head loaned him the appearance of evangelical zeal, and that look brought with it centuries of gravitas, of towering ecclesiastical edifices and pointed spires and rock hard shafts thrusting at the sky. As for thumbing his nose at clothing conventions, ha! How could he care less what those below thought, when everything below him was demonstrably beneath him?

He had, for some years now, devoted himself to the painstaking construction of a life-sized elephant leg. Correct in every detail, he had crafted it by hand and he knew every wrinkle, every notch, every stubbly bristle. It was dark in his box and difficult to see, but he knew it intimately and he loved its smell: polystyrene and two-part epoxy resin, linseed oil and Morocco-finished leatherette. He had come, with no small amount of pride, to call his construction, “The Elephant”.

The problem which was causing him discomfort had arisen because he'd broken one of his own sound and undisputed principles of being. He had opened a leaflet, junk mail advertising from a local zoo, and his attention had been caught by the image of a blurred and entirely indistinct elephant, its leg shown in high definition hyper-colored detail. He didn't read advertising leaflets. He did not. He had no reason to read such balderdash. He had shelves of literary masterworks with which to fill his bulging, throbbing mind.

And yet… And yet, he'd seen the picture. He'd read the caption. He could not unsee it. ‘There is nothing,' the leaflet claimed, ‘like the smell of a real live elephant.'

It was a shattering revelation and he would have dismissed it as an aberration, but he could not shake the feeling that his masterwork might one day be considered lacking. What if those who came after him - the anthropologists and devotees who would dissect his life in the centuries to come - found evidence of an oversight? The scandal might eternally blemish his legacy.

He needed a sweet snack. He fancied Greek, so he took down a volume of Joyce, layered some pages with crushed nuts and honey and baked the whole in the warmth of his Hands-Free-Itty-Bitty-Book-Light. But he ate without pleasure. His books, his books, were entirely lacking in information on the smell of elephants. He tried for metaphors, he sought out allegories, he came up blank. His only hypothesis, as he loosened his collar in despair, was shit. Elephants would walk in shit, their own shit, and therefore, logically they would smell of shit.

There was only one thing for it. Reluctantly at first, but growing more confident as the work progressed, he saved his leavings and began to build a lifelike layer of shit on the sole of the elephant's foot. And you know, it didn't smell so bad at all!

Meanwhile next door, Ms Coombangg felt her way through the darkness of her box. With fingers sensitized to Braille, she found the perfect place and carefully positioned the last bristle of her elephant's trunk. It was done, and not a moment too soon. The gallery owners would be there in half an hour to collect her magnum opus, this single statement piece for her one woman exhibition — Elephants: the Whole Truth.


Garth said...

Letitia does Sci-Fi! (and of the dystopian variety too) This may sound sexist (but wtf) there are so few women that do real sci-fi (a domain frequented by many spotty teenage male geeks, apparently)
Margaret Atwood; Ursula le Guin ... you're in good company

Letitia Coyne said...

Originally Mr Churdal's collar was blue, he'd painted his own wall murals and sky, he had scoured his text books, and ... something else... so he was an all-round everyman. But he got cut back in the interests of wordcount. Such is life.

I don't think it's a sexist question. More girls are encouraged into math/science subjects in highschool now, but it still seems to be the majority of male brains are more comfortable with hard edges and cold facts while female brains seem to cluster together in the softer world of emotion.

Never-the-less, I shall take the company of Le Guin and Atwood, and I shall skilfully cut and paste the comment and apply it to my next bestseller!! :)