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Flash Fiction

The Elephant

Winner of the Lightship International Flash Fiction Prize 2012

Baby Elephant

One day my husband came home with a baby elephant. The kids begged me to let it stay. Still in shock I said, Okay, but I want nothing to do with it, and so my husband became the elephant’s minder. He took it for long walks. Everyone in town made a fuss of it. The schoolkids adored it. Soon the elephant became a local celebrity.

We kept it in the kitchen. This made cooking tricky as the elephant was always in my way. Also, it was greedy and stole from our plates when nobody was looking. It barged into the hall to eat cat food, or sneaked muesli from the rabbit hutch. Outside the school it swiped ice creams, waving them high in the air before gulping them whole. That really upset the kids – but they still loved the elephant.

I needn’t tell you how much dung that elephant made. My husband ran behind it with plastic bags and a shovel. When it decided to pee, he’d have to hose down the patio. My husband lost weight with all that running, but the elephant got fatter. Before long it was too fat to sleep under the kitchen table, so we took away the table and ate our meals in front of the telly.

The elephant liked to follow me. Once it tried to go upstairs, but I wasn’t having it. I didn’t want squashed cats – or squashed kids, for that matter. I got my husband to put up the child gate.

It annoyed me that the elephant was always blocking the door when I was about to go out. I never took it with me. It used to try and grab my umbrella. We were having a lot of rain that Spring, and my husband was continually mopping giant muddy footprints.

One day we took the elephant to the park. We were surprised to see that other people had elephants, too – huge, lumbering adults the size of the family caravan. While the kids were playing ball and dodging the elephants’ tree-like legs, I noticed the strain on my husband’s face. I knew he was thinking of the extension he’d have to build. The sheer cost of it. I could see he envisioned a lifetime of shovelling dung.

We got talking to the other elephant owners. They all agreed that elephants were docile, loving pets. But, they said, wait till it’s a teenager.

Later, my husband and I had a conversation – our first for several weeks, as he’d been so busy with the walks, and I was forever trying to smuggle food past the elephant. On top of this we had jobs to go to.

My husband admitted to feeling stressed. He loved the elephant but it was restricting his freedom. He was beyond tired. I burst into tears. I wanted my kitchen back.

He told me about some elephant fanatics who could rehome our pet. They had five already. They’d recently lost a beloved, elderly male and were looking for a calf. Their elephants lived in a field with a large barn and a bathing pool. Our elephant would be happy there.

The kids were distraught. We promised they could choose a small caged rodent instead.

A man came in the middle of the night to collect the elephant. He said to us, You’ll have to help me into the van with it. It was raining. I felt a tap on my shoulder. The elephant was holding out my umbrella.

The Saga of Albert and Victoria

Published online in ‘What The Dickens’ magazine 2013


Prince Albert was the only white rabbit in a bunch of greys and blacks. My daughter chose him because he reminded her of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Indeed, Prince Albert seemed to have the same comic urgency about him, though his eyes weren’t pink, they were cornflower-blue – weirdly, the same colour as my husband’s. Prince Albert needed a companion, so our daughter chose a cross, black, fluffy female and named her Queen Victoria. We were besotted. My husband built a hutch under the loggia and the garden quickly filled with rabbit paraphernalia.

Through the summer we watched Prince Albert and Queen Victoria nibble, munch and grow. Word got around that we had rabbits, one of each sex, and people started to issue warnings. My neighbour said: ‘Be careful. You’ll be surprised how fast they can breed.’ She’d moved twenty rabbits from her office to the conservatory, then the garden, and finally, the allotment. Then a Spanish lady told me she’d bought a lop-ear and, a few weeks later, a ‘friend’ for it. Within a year they had a hundred rabbits. ‘It was a nightmare,’ she said. ‘Even the babies were having babies. In the end we helicoptered them all to the top of a mountain.’

We had no choice: one of the rabbits had to be neutered. But which one? We put them in a cat box and took them to the vet. They surprised us all right. Albert was a girl. Victoria was a boy. Everyone thought this was hilarious – except our daughter, who was mortified. She refused to rename them Victor and Alberta, and so Prince Albert became Queen Victoria and Queen Victoria became Prince Albert. Poor Albert got the short straw (so to speak) and was nominated for castration.

We watched the rabbits for signs of amour. By day they blissfully nibbled each other’s ears; at night they folded together, one black, one white, like yin and yang. Our daughter said they were in love and she wanted to be a bridesmaid at their wedding. We tried to explain why brothers and sisters couldn’t marry and have babies.

On Castration Day, a Friday, we put Albert in a cat box and our daughter carried him to the vet before she went to school. We collected him later. He was alive. We were given drugs, syringes and instructions. Albert needed warmth and attention so our daughter invited him for a sleepover in her room. On Saturday we let him out to nibble grass and on Sunday he moved into a two storey bachelor hutch with an asphalt slide. Victoria gazed wistfully across the garden at him.

We couldn’t bear it, so we got her a sister. Princess Alice.

We’re not sure if Alice is a man.

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