How the Elephant's Child Lost Her Voice
1111 words long
Haven't we already covered that whole "be careful what you wish for" thing? All right, then.
Notes from the author:
Word prompts can resonate strangely. “Grayed trampoline” made me think of an elephant, despite that one doesn’t usually jump up and down on an elephant. “Muzzle” and “filly” made me think of a young talking animal that wouldn’t shut up. The combination led me directly to Kipling.
Most times I see the Just So Stories getting riffed on, it’s played for laughs, like when Thursday Next encounters the Painted Jaguar and her son in the Well of Lost Plots. Never was one of my favorite jokes, that. Seemed a little color-by-numbers. I wanted to try playing it for what-ifs instead. Let’s see what happens.
“You look like you could use some help,” said the youth.
My hackles rose at the very implication. Me? champion wrangler, need help? Bah! But the truth was, I probably could use a hand. For all my wrangling experience, this was my first time dealing with an elephant’s child, and she was trying the very limits of my patience. “Yeah, all right,” I said, after taking a series of good, deep, anger-management breaths, “what can you do?”
The youth doffed cap and bowed, an antiquated gesture made even more impressive by the tangle of long golden hair spilling out. It tumbled down and covered the youth’s face for a moment, then vanished as the youth swept it all back up and under the cap in one economical movement. “I’m Puck,” the youth said, “animal handler extraordinaire. I can give you a handle on yours. If you wish?”
I winced instinctively. One doesn’t refer to an elephant’s child as an “animal,” no more than one does a human. By virtue of their power of speech—and universal speech, at that—they’re considered people, even by the strict standards of the Wrangler’s League. Thus they are not ethically susceptible to those methods of breaking and taming which the League advocates for species not recognized as people.
I have certain disagreements with the Wrangler’s League, despite that I’m a card-carrying member. Most of them have to do with those breaking and taming methods. If anything, I try to treat my charges as if they were all officially people, regardless of whether I’ve heard any particular one utter a word. But in the case of this elephant’s child, I was prepared to make an exception. I had never seen a creature more in need of a firm spanking. Too bad I’d get kicked out of the League if I tried.
So, “All right, come on then,” is what I said to Puck....
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for December 9, 2016. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (1111 words) from Patreon as an ebook or audiobook depending on their pledge tier.
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