by Jennifer Dryden
Written for my dear friend John Askew.
Once upon a time, there was a knight who, at night, turned into a elephant. The elephant lived in the jungle but during the day, he lived in a grand castle just off the coast of the Galapagos Islands. The knight was deeply in love with a black bear and they would frolic in the vines and have contests with who could smash the most fruits. At the same time, the black bear was just a black bear and she was starting to wonder where the elephant went during the day. He was nowhere to be found.
Then one day, the black bear swallowed up enough courage to ask the elephant after she had just beaten him in a game of fruit smash.
“Where do you go after the sun rises until the sun sets?” she asked.
His trunk played with the twigs on the ground to avoid eye contact. He hummed under his breath, trying to find the words he had rehearsed so many times before as a human in front of his full-length mirror.
She prompted again, “Elephant, where do you go?”
Elephant opened his mouth and posed, “Does it matter?”
Black Bear nodded and leaned forward to make him look at her dark browns.
Elephant took a deep breath and put his trunk around Black Bear. “Would you believe me if I told you I don’t always look like this?”
“What do you mean?” she asked, black eyebrows furrowing in confusion.
“I mean, once the sun touches my left ear in the morning…” he paused, not sure if now was the right time. They’d been so happy together in their nights. Their nights were full of fruit-smashing fun and he had suddenly acquired feelings for her, something that made his huge tummy tingle, with what his human sister called “butterflies.”
“The sun, once it hits me, I turn… human.” he looks down and removes his trunk from her back. Can she bear to look at me? he wondered.
“I turn into a knight who lives in that castle we always thought we’d throw fruit at once we became brave like Lion.” (Lion lives just three streams down.)
Black Bear looked up at Elephant and she smiled. She smiled because she had a secret as well.
She began to play with the twigs on the ground that just moments before distracted Elephant from his confession.
She took her paw and touched the strong elephant’s chin. Their eyes met.
“You are brave like Lion. You are, Elephant,” she said, leaning in closer to whisper something in his left ear. “Once the sun rises and touches this listening ear, it reaches down to my height and enlightens the top of my head and…” She paused, nervous and scared this could change it, all of it.
“I’m the princess who lives across the jungle. The one with the green light on the end of pier. I’m human too, Elephant… err Knight.”
They embraced in the realization that they are more the same than not. They embraced because they worried for months and through so many fruit smashings about nothing. They then built a bridge connecting the two islands and castles and spent every day in each other’s human arms, where one was never bigger than the other. They were equal and… they were in love.
And they lived happily ever after.