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Fiction #350
(published October 4, 2007)
Elephants and Elvis
by Julie Ann Shapiro
Elvis showed up singing, "You ain't nothing, but a hound dog." The other elephants in my family looked at him in his glittery white suit and cockatoo hair and didn't know what to make of the intruder.

I swatted my tail and moseyed on over to the soft grass land. This being my six set of teeth, I knew I'd be gumming it soon. Elvis came along. The other elephants say," He's an impersonator."

Like my other sets of teeth; they served their purpose. Only thing is, I didn't plan on having Elvis sitting on my backside and stroking my ivories. One of them is broken. It never grew to its fullest 'cause of a hunter years back. It's as yellow as the summer moon, not white like my teeth.

The herd says it's what makes me special. I've told them over the years it's what made me different. Same thing they always say.

I never understood this much 'til Elvis showed up. He got as bad as those flies on my head. They buzz 'til the lions come around. Nothing sends them fleeing like a fresh kill. As for Elvis, I'm still trying to figure out what it's going to take to get rid of him.

He said he's king. The only king in these parts is the lion and that's only because he can kill anything he wants. Elvis, he's got the moves, the younger elephants say; gyrating and a crooning.

No one talks of the elephants' melodies. Our songs can stop a safari jeep in its tracks, a herd of Giraffes even kicked up dust as their applause. Why Elvis he's got nothing on us, but that white shiny suit of his. Another day in the Serengeti and it'll be brown as the earth.

"Be as one with the dirt," I tell him. Like my old teeth they grind down, 'til there's nothing left. The other elephants say I'm not being fair to the King of Music. He's just here to pay his respects, they say to an old dying elephant.

"Let me die in peace and lose my teeth," I tell them all. "Once you can't bite, it's the end."

Elvis says, "Once you can't walk down a street without everyone following you it's a death."

"We each die in our ways," I say.

Elvis says, "I've died so many times I don't count anymore."

"But you're the impersonator," the other elephants say.

He answers," Yes, and, so the public fans must think."

We both say, "Ah". . . , and he says, "but you, you remember everything."

"Elvis, whoever told you such lies?" He puffs his cockatoo hair as I explain how I can't remember when I lost my first set of teeth or even my second, just a young-un back then life seemed so long. And now I feel a tooth chip and know it won't come back smooth and long again."

Elvis belts in song, "And I see a jeep on safari and no there are no fans."

I ask, "Why Africa?"

"Because I'm nothing but a hound dog."

"What's it mean?"

"A rascal, a user of people, in my time." He strums on my ivories.

"Will you leave them alone, please? An elephant's gotta have her dignity."

He lets go of them and slips off my back. I reach for him with my trunk. He moans. It's the wail of my family too. "We share this song," I tell him.

"I know, this human never forgets," Elvis says.

"I don't understand."

He says, "When I was a nobody I worked at the circus. All the other animals hated me feeding them, but not Telle. She always waved her trunk at me when I brought in fresh grass and filled the water trough. When her last teeth began to fall out she made me promise to go to pasture with her grand baby, to sing to her about the Hound Dog Man."

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