So, there is no question that the world needs more elephants. The more the merrier, say I.
On the loose and living the good life.
Tanking up on fresh food.
Swilling up at the water holes.
Getting a mud bath on the muddy shores,.
Getting a dust bath in the dust fields.
And making a hellova lot more baby elephants.
And those elephants still alive (and – alas- they are getting easier to count) should be left alone by the vicious human beasts who slaughter them for fun and ivory.
An Elephant stampede would come in right handy.
Now, I’m partial to Elephants, having written a book of short stories where an elephant holds his own in conversations with God.
Yes, God gets a good talking to, though the Almighty does manage to give as good as He gets.
So, I’m all for WORLD Elephant Day.
In fact, I’d give them a whole Week.
Nay, a whole Month.
Alright, a whole Year!!
They’re BIG animals. They can handle it.
What sights indeed are these, that cause the racing clocks to pant their minutes in counterpoint to a life still learning the difference between wretchedness and love?
The swing goes up and the swing goes down, and then goes up again. If you are on that race, with childish yells, and up-down-mess-it-around feelings in the pit of your stomach, they haven’t lowered that coffin lid yet.
No, not yet.
What sights indeed are these, that make a heart argue the worth of dying, and ring the bells across the hill when there is no hand upon the rope?
There are happy tunes on the breeze and, yes, even the unicorn lifts its head with twitching ears and mouth agape.
And even (so it has been recorded, in long-ago books) our Lord Jesus God would pause in His ministrations at the wonder of it all.
What sights indeed are these, that ease the night’s passage and sow the fields full of restful dawn?
A race against the end is run by all of us; when the kitten kicks and purrs through her ball of string, or when the ancient’s cane tap-taps across the room. Eyes, whether young; or dim; or blind; can still open in amazement, and still marvel at the ever-changing newness.
Marvel and rejoice.
What sights indeed are these, that turn all tunes into rhapsodies of joy, and make the moon do gypsy dances through the night sky?
A sky of stars that shower and shake and stream across the galaxies to cram unto the ends of the distant universe. Grains of sand upon the shore would take sensitive fingers, and a lifetime of counting, yet still could never fill this distant space where even numbers stand in awe.
Zeros with mouths agape.
In Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the ‘missing’ diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. There are some estimates that Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote.
08 June 1917
A Gypsy confronted me today, and I was in the mood for a bit of sport. Her age was difficult to tell – certainly a decade older than me. In her swirl of shawls and dangling jewellery, heavy make-up on her face, she could almost have been in disguise. She peered at me with an intense sigh, attempting – I am sure – to penetrate my own disguise.
“You are a Jew,” she said.
“And you a Gypsy,” I replied.
She seemed pleased with my response, for her professional smile became real.
“You state the obvious,” she said. “As becomes a Doktor of Laws,”
I replied. “But to your eyes, do you not state the obvious?”
“Are you going to banter with a poor old Gypsy woman, instead of barter? That would make you suspiciously like one of us.” She said this with a growl in her throat.
“The Gypsy and the Jew,” I said, feeling the challenge which I so miss. “Perhaps an opera – but I think it’s been done to death.”
“They will try to do us all unto death,” she said harshly, and turned away.
I had the fear she was going to leave me without another word, but what she did was to spit fulsomely onto the street.
“They can’t kill us all,” I said, but I knew she heard the doubt in my voice.
She slowly faced me again.
“So. Even a Doktor of Laws can have hope. That is refreshing – but foolish.” She took my hand and felt my palm roughly with her thumb, although all the while her eyes never left my face. “You are going to travel.”
“Travel is a vague word. One can go on many types of voyage.”
“And reach many destinations,” she added, still holding my hand. “If you take away my vagueness, you take away my trade.”
“Then let me pay you for your services right now.”
This transaction would make her loose my hand, which is what I wanted most of all. She had frightened me, for her eyes and face were full of truth. I know the truth. I know it when it presents itself, stark and unobscured. I search out truth endlessly, yet still can flee at its approach. As in her eyes. But she gripped me more fiercely, and pulled my hand up.
“The coin, Herr Doktor.” Her voice was now soft. “The coin can wait.”
She at last lowered her eyes and looked closely at my palm. She rubbed the lines and whorls of my skin. She touched her finger to her lips, and spread the moisture along my hand.
“Your lifeline, Herr Doktor,” she took a quick look in my eyes, “of Laws. You deceive with the youth upon your face. Is that not so?”
“If your eyes stop at the mask, then no, the years have not etched themselves deeply.”
“Not on your face, Herr Doktor of Laws.” Her grip was intense. “But on your palm…” She hissed. “You will soon embark upon that final voyage.”
She released my hand, rubbed her fingers across her sleeve.
“But you will not go in haste. There will be many stops along the way.”
Suddenly her face was full of the most beautiful smile, and her laughter was genuine.
“I see you do not complain of vagueness now.” She held out her hand. “The coin, Herr Doktor of Laws. This time I have truly earned it.”
I dug deeply into my pocket, and feared that I may have overpaid her. But, perhaps, that is not possible.
“Caleb and I agree.” The old nun glances at Dorkas, then looks back to the Kgosi. “You must have your people move with them.” She speaks loudly, so other ears will hear. “Whether they join us, or we join them – we are all in this together.”
“My people – ”
“Will follow the crook of your finger.” Caleb is now standing on the other side of the Kgosi. “That’s what Dorkas told me, and I see she is right.”
“Am I now to trust the wild animals?”
“They are here.” Caleb points. “One must assume they are trusting us.”
“It seems to me.” Dorkas speaks softly. “Their leap of faith is greater than ours.”
“I will do as the white witch tells me.”
“No.” Dorkas puts a hand on his arm. “You must overcome your human limitations. You must act with the conviction of these other animals. This is not an order for me to give.”
“Talks With Devils wants a lot from me.”
“And I plan to get it.” Her grip becomes so fierce she pulls the Kgosi toward her. “And I plan to get it here, from this second forward.”
Letsolathebe looks around the tight circle of faces. He does not see fear or hesitation, and he regains his confidence.
“You seem ready to walk into Hell.”
“It’s an easy walk.” Mother Ursula smiles.
“Is it an easy walk back?”
“Jesus did it with alacrity.”
“I am not the God woman’s God.” Letsolathebe wonders at the comment. “To say that puts a great burden on me.”
“Our Lord was also a human being.” The old nun chuckles. “And looked a lot more like you than me. It is as a man we know Him, and through His trials as a man that we more fully understand God.”
“Didn’t He die first, before He entered Hell?”
“There are drawbacks,” admits Mother Ursula.
“I can not tell my people that death is merely a drawback.”
“Perhaps we tell them too much as it is.” Caleb raises his voice, and Shona does likewise. “Perhaps it is time we listen.” He turns a slow arc to address their silent followers. “Listen to the other animals.”
“Listen?” asks Letsolathebe.
“And smell, and use all our senses.” Mother Ursula answers. “To become like them, so we can more truly become ourselves.”
A sigh of intense interest spreads to the furthest reaches of the assembly, then quietly ceases without question or comment. They all stop to listen to the animals. The other animals.
As the sounds of the people become just breath and heartbeat, the other animals keep their silence, and keep to their waiting, but their tension eases. Their erratic pawing of the ground, which had sounded so loud on the rough, hard earth, stops altogether. They no longer search for predators, or flex their legs for immediate flight.
After a long period of time, the other animals begin to move.
They move in unison, with tentative steps of invitation. Each and every person present is startled by the slow and careful approach of one of the other animals. They no longer mingle in a random way – they are choosing partners. The people stand silent and tense, and some shiver when an erratic flip of a tail catches them by surprise.
“Jesus,” whispers Shona.
The other animals sniff their way, hunting for scents which are compatible. They rarely hesitate, although the ones which have their young are more cautious, with many a backward glance. But the young follow their parents without deviation.
The presence of young animals makes the people less cautious. They feel no threat from these small animals – if anything, they have the desire to protect them, and save their future. The people began to regret they have not brought their own children, even though they realize their offspring are far more defenceless than any of these active cubs and kids. Their children can in no way fend for themselves.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Letsolathebe marches forward without another glance, barely noticing that the child’s hand has slipped into his own. They hold onto each other for dear life and expected death, as they race toward the flickering flame held high by Mother Ursula.
“Oh boy.” Caleb sighs.
“Do we follow?” asks Shona.
“Follow?” Dorkas shakes her head. “We join them. We match them. We become one with them.” She looks at Caleb.
“Mother Ursula may be right.” He smiles. “When is the last time we had Satan on the run?”
“Now or never,” says Dorkas. “It’s as easy as death.”
Caleb makes a slight bow to Dorkas, and to Shona, and then speaks loudly so she will translate with the same force.
“It seems to me this is the perfect time for Talks With Devils to have her say face-to-face.”
And as the three begin to race headlong into the darkest part of this darkest night, the thousands of their brethren and the thousands of the other animals are right at their heels.
And that beast.
That beast of time and terror.
That beast attached to life like a nodule of cancer.
That beast as strong as any lust.
That beast spread so deeply across the expanse of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan.
That beast, recognizing in its fetid mouth the taste of defeat, lingers on the periphery of one glowing candle.
“You will never win.” Mother Ursula speaks softly. “In spite of all your victories, we are still able to care for each other.”
And that beast, afrighted by the light, and sacrifice, and the raw power of life, moves elsewhere.
“God woman.” Sekgoma tears across the rough ground and throws his arms around her. “Mother is safe?”
“This is a madness you have brought us I don’t wish to see again,” chides Letsolathebe. But he too puts an arm around the old nun’s shoulders.
“None of us can promise that.” Dorkas is breathless.
“Talks With Devils is always so strict.”
Letsolathebe takes both her hands, and leans forward to kiss her on the forehead. And then he does the same with Caleb.
“I am the Kgosi, and I tell you this. Tomorrow night we will dance, and drink, and feast.”
His gaze sweeps over his people and the thousands of the other animals.
“But no roasted flesh.”