A Story about Elephants

by Russ Lydzinski

 

 

            Once upon a time, a family of elephants lived in the sky, mama elephant, papa elephant, and two, nearly full grown boys. The calves had no names other than the first elephant and the second elephant, for the order in which they had been born. The second was the cautious one, but the first always wanted to explore.

            Mama and Papa had two rules for their calves. Don’t walk on the clouds and beware of witches. Since most of their days were sunny, and because the calves had never seen a witch, they easily obeyed their parents.

            The second elephant played happily inside the sky house, but the first elephant spent his time looking out the window, wondering what was out there. One day, while mama and papa were knee-deep, squashing grapes in the basement for their wine, a white puffy cloud floated right up to the front door.
This was an invitation the first elephant could not ignore. He stepped on the cloud and tested his footing. The cloud held him firmly. Afraid to be alone, the second elephant followed.

            “Hold on to my tail,” said the first elephant.

            The second elephant left his toys lay, scattered about the floor and latched onto his brother’s tail with his trunk.

            At first, the clouds were thick and puffy, but after a long walk, they began to thin.

             “Watch out, or we’ll fall through,” the second elephant said.

            And, just then, they did, breaking through a thin cloud as if it were a rotted floorboard. Their massive legs flailed helplessly as they fell.

            They hit the ground with a thud, and squashed a worm that was reading a book.

            “Oh you poor little worm, are you okay,” asked the first elephant?

            “I’m a flatworm now. Millions of years of evolution, down the drain. At least my spectacles aren’t damaged. I can still read.”

            “Come on, we’ll take you to a hospital. Is there one nearby,” asked the first elephant?

            “I don’t know; but there’s a good witch who lives in a haunted house, down this road. Maybe she can help,” answered the now flat worm. “If we make it before nightfall,” we won’t have to worry about her evil stepsisters.”

            “No. Mama said we can’t go near witches,” said the second elephant. 

            “Is it far?” asked the first. 

            “Two miles as the cow flies,” answered the worm.

            “That’s not far,” said the first elephant.

            “It is if you’re little like me,” answered the worm, “especially if you’ve recently been flattened.”

            “Let’s get started then,” trumpeted the first elephant.

            The second elephant sighed but agreed to tag along.

            Midway to the witch’s house, the elephants’ stomachs began to growl.

            “Let’s stop for lunch,” said the second elephant.

            This sounded like a good idea to the worm, who was tired from carrying a book that was one hundred and fifty times bigger than he was. “A picnic,” he squealed. His voice sounded as flat as his body.

            So they stopped for a picnic. A picnic basket appeared, and out flew a red and white checkered tablecloth. They each had a cup, a saucer, a knife, a fork, a spoon, and a napkin. But there was a problem. The sandwiches and vegetables refused to come out of the basket.

            “What’s wrong, food,” asked the first elephant, “Why won’t you come out?”

            “Because,” answered a sandwich from inside the basket, “The dishes have gone to Birmingham and they aren’t coming back.”

            No sooner had the sandwich spoken than a spoon ran away, presumably to join the dish. Then a second spoon followed, and then a third.

            “Well!” exclaimed the worm, that’s not quite the way I read of it happening. Please, sandwiches; come out. We’re hungry.”

            Finally, the sandwiches agreed and they sat down for a happy meal, but before the first bite was taken, they heard singing.

            “Yo Ho Ho, and a bottle of rum,” rang out voices from the road. They kept their rhythm with loud synchronized footsteps, like marching.

            “Pirates!” exclaimed the worm, and he hid between pages 118 and 119. The resourceful worm had found an advantage to being flat.

            The elephants, being large, were not frightened.

            “Come join us for lunch,” elephant number one, called out.

            The pirates agreed because pirates are almost always hungry. They shared turkey sandwiches, vegetables, and Kool-Aid. The pirates brought peanut butter sandwiches and rum. Even the worm came out and joined them. He stayed very close to the elephants, but was careful not to be squashed again.

            After lunch, they walked together until the pirates took a separate road to the sea. 

            “Bye-bye,” called the elephants and the worm as they watched the pirates disappear down the road.

            “They were nice,” said the first elephant.

            “Yes they were,” said the worm, and the second elephant flapped his ears in agreement.

            The sun was getting low in the sky when they approached the haunted house. They had lingered too long with the pirates. 

            “This is not good,” said the worm. “The bad witches come out at night.”

            “Then we better hurry,” said the second elephant. We could get turned into prickly porcupines or worse.”

            The house was scary, with two floors and a pointy old roof. Pieces of slate lay broken in the yard. They climbed the rickety stairs onto a large wooden porch. Several slats were missing.

            The good witch came to the door, hoping to see her friends, the dwarfs, who had promised to help fix the house. The elephants explained what happened, while the worm looked on with a forlorn face.

            “I can help, but we must be quick. My stepsisters will be here soon. Watch for the moon. When it rises, you will see them in the sky. They must not find you here.”

            The elephants and the worm looked up to see the last of the evening sun falling off to the west. The good witch went inside but soon returned with a glass of smoky liquid.

            “Here. Quick. Drink this,” she said. The tips of her golden blonde hair fell into the glass, and turned a murky brown. 

            The worm made a face but gulped it down. He had no desire to meet up with the evil stepsister witches. As soon as he finished, a puff of smoke engulfed him. When it cleared, he was his old self again, all round and squiggly. 

            A gust of wind caused them to look up. A full moon lit the sky. A cow leaped awkwardly over it. Then, suddenly they saw the silhouettes of three witches, flying on brooms, straight toward them. They landed on the porch. Thud… Thud…Thud.

            “What are these creatures, stepsister, doing on our porch?” Cackled the eldest witch.

            “Just two elephants and a friendly worm, seeking assistance.”

            “Assistance, hey,” cackled the eldest. “I’ll give them assistance.” She raised her wand and started a curse. The worm tried to get between the pages of his book, but now he was too round and fat.

            Just then, the pirates charged up the porch steps, with swords drawn. One pirate, old greybeard, cut the wand of the eldest witch with his sword, down to the wart-filled skin of her hand. She was left holding a useless twig. The pirates cut all the witches’ wands, leaving them like toothpicks on the porch floor. The witches, in a panic, took to their brooms, but the pirates were too quick for them. They cut the broom heads off in mid takeoff, leaving the witches with useless shafts in their wart-covered hands, and their feet still squarely on the porch floor. They dropped the broom shafts and hastily ran into the forest. 

            The pirates laughed a hearty laugh, and the leader said, “Is everybody all right? Sorry if we scared you mam,” he said to the good witch.

            “Not at all,” she said. “Would you all like to come in for refreshments?”

            “No,” exclaimed the second elephant. Thankfully, his brother had the wisdom to agree. The worm thanked her once again for restoring him to his former self. Then the pirates, the elephants, and the worm, still carrying his heavy book, walked back the way they came. The pirates took the road to the sea, and the elephants escorted the worm back to his home.

            Home at last, the worm crawled into his hole. He left the book under a tree and covered it with leaves for safekeeping. The elephants sat down in the grassy field, near the craters where they had fallen. The second elephant asked the first, “How do you suppose we are going to get back up to the sky?”

            “I don’t know,” replied the first. “I don’t know how we got up there to begin with.”

            They were tired from all the days’ excitement and so they fell asleep.

            They awoke the next morning, surprised to find themselves on the clouds again, but they were very happy to be there. They tiptoed home, as lightly as elephants can, and decided always to obey their parents.

            Down below, the worm, with his spectacles, read his book. The good witch was happy because she didn’t have to live with her evil step-witches were gone and her friends, the dwarfs returned. She spent her time fixing up the old house while her dwarf friends painted. She laughed at the sight of them, little people on tall ladders.

            They all lived happily ever after, except for the evil witches, who spent the rest of their lives hiding behind trees.

Instructor Response

Russ—

Sorry for the delay in response. Our system somehow hid this in the clouds of cyberspace for a while. Well done. I know little about fantasy and children’s literature and this seemed so well done to me that I’m at a loss for giving help you don’t need. But I’ll dribble on anyway.

A good illustrator is hard to find, but I anticipate your looking. It would be a great collaboration. I’ve recently run a contest for illustrators–trying to support them and discover talent. That ends Nov. 16, but there have been very few submissions. I don’t think I found a way to promote it well. So no help there. Still, there are some real talents out there.

If you’re of the mind not to illustrate, you might consider augmenting the imagery, balancing the use of concrete images that enhance the imaginative fantasy. For example, the living in the sky may have more impact with some additional fleshing out. I got confused with the house and making wine in the basement by elephants. Difficult for me to visualize. And the cloud that comes I imagined as about the size of the house, but it turns out #1 and #2 take a long walk on it before they fall through. I was a little fuzzy on the witch’s house too.

Two things I found amazing in the story were humor and theme. A lot of smile-out-loud moments that seem unique and exemplify your abilities. And the messages echoed historical tales of learning. “Obey your parents” is the one that stands out with the impact of Little Red Riding Hood. I like too what I saw as a reflection of Dorothy on the yellow brick road. I also liked the kindness of elephants and worms, and how they dealt with strangers.

I don’t think you need necessarily to take this advice, but I point it out for possible future use. To enhance the imagery, especially when fantasy is a major feature, you can storyboard the scenes. Doesn’t have to be artistic. You could go through and sketch a panel for each scene. It would give you relative proportions of elephants and worms and clouds and flying witches. It could also anchor positions in the scene. It could help in the writing to be sure the worm could see a flying witch when he might be blocked by a book 150 times larger than he is. You used the warts twice. In storyboarding you might imagine gnarled and or black nails (don’t use that ever) or a missing finger that would enhance the potential of the reader to form their own images. Storyboarding in general is often helpful when you’re writing a short story or novel, and in revision things seem flat and uninteresting. It helps to focus on the imagined story world and generate ideas and images to help the reader climb into the story rather than observe the story from a distance.

All that said, I don’t think you actually need to change anything. A really enjoyable read. Memorable too. You’re good! Keep producing. You seem to be achieving quality storytelling that few writers can achieve today.

All the best,
Bill    

 

Once upon a time, a family of elephants lived in the sky, mama elephant, papa elephant, and two, nearly full grown boys. The calves had no names other than the first elephant and the second elephant, for the order in which they had been born. The second was the cautious one, but the first always wanted to explore.

Mama and Papa had two rules for their calves. Don’t walk on the clouds and beware of witches. Since most of their days were sunny, and because the calves had never seen a witch, they easily obeyed their parents.

The second elephant played happily inside the sky house, but the first elephant spent his time looking out the window, wondering what was out there. One day, while mama and papa were knee-deep, squashing grapes in the basement for their wine, a white puffy cloud floated right up to the front door.
This was an invitation the first elephant could not ignore. He stepped on the cloud and tested his footing. The cloud held him firmly. Afraid to be alone, the second elephant followed.

“Hold on to my tail,” said the first elephant.

The second elephant left his toys lay, scattered about the floor and latched onto his brother’s tail with his trunk.

At first, the clouds were thick and puffy, but after a long walk, they began to thin.

 “Watch out, or we’ll fall through,” the second elephant said.

And, just then, they did, breaking through a thin cloud as if it were a rotted floorboard. Their massive legs flailed helplessly as they fell.

They hit the ground with a thud, and squashed a worm that was reading a book.

“Oh you poor little worm, are you okay,” asked the first elephant?

“I’m a flatworm now. Millions of years of evolution, down the drain. At least my spectacles aren’t damaged. I can still read.”

“Come on, we’ll take you to a hospital. Is there one nearby,” asked the first elephant?

“I don’t know; but there’s a good witch who lives in a haunted house, down this road. Maybe she can help,” answered the now flat worm. “If we make it before nightfall,” we won’t have to worry about her evil stepsisters.”

“No. Mama said we can’t go near witches,” said the second elephant.

“Is it far?” asked the first.

“Two miles as the cow flies,” answered the worm.

“That’s not far,” said the first elephant.

“It is if you’re little like me,” answered the worm, “especially if you’ve recently been flattened.”

“Let’s get started then,” trumpeted the first elephant.

The second elephant sighed but agreed to tag along.

Midway to the witch’s house, the elephants’ stomachs began to growl.

“Let’s stop for lunch,” said the second elephant.

This sounded like a good idea to the worm, who was tired from carrying a book that was one hundred and fifty times bigger than he was. “A picnic,” he squealed. His voice sounded as flat as his body.

So they stopped for a picnic. A picnic basket appeared, and out flew a red and white checkered tablecloth. They each had a cup, a saucer, a knife, a fork, a spoon, and a napkin. But there was a problem. The sandwiches and vegetables refused to come out of the basket.

“What’s wrong, food,” asked the first elephant, “Why won’t you come out?”

“Because,” answered a sandwich from inside the basket, “The dishes have gone to Birmingham and they aren’t coming back.”

No sooner had the sandwich spoken than a spoon ran away, presumably to join the dish. Then a second spoon followed, and then a third.

“Well!” exclaimed the worm, that’s not quite the way I read of it happening. Please, sandwiches; come out. We’re hungry.”

Finally, the sandwiches agreed and they sat down for a happy meal, but before the first bite was taken, they heard singing.

“Yo Ho Ho, and a bottle of rum,” rang out voices from the road. They kept their rhythm with loud synchronized footsteps, like marching.

“Pirates!” exclaimed the worm, and he hid between pages 118 and 119. The resourceful worm had found an advantage to being flat.

The elephants, being large, were not frightened.

“Come join us for lunch,” elephant number one, called out.

The pirates agreed because pirates are almost always hungry. They shared turkey sandwiches, vegetables, and Kool-Aid. The pirates brought peanut butter sandwiches and rum. Even the worm came out and joined them. He stayed very close to the elephants, but was careful not to be squashed again.

After lunch, they walked together until the pirates took a separate road to the sea.

“Bye-bye,” called the elephants and the worm as they watched the pirates disappear down the road.

“They were nice,” said the first elephant.

“Yes they were,” said the worm, and the second elephant flapped his ears in agreement.

The sun was getting low in the sky when they approached the haunted house. They had lingered too long with the pirates.

“This is not good,” said the worm. “The bad witches come out at night.”

“Then we better hurry,” said the second elephant. We could get turned into prickly porcupines or worse.”

The house was scary, with two floors and a pointy old roof. Pieces of slate lay broken in the yard. They climbed the rickety stairs onto a large wooden porch. Several slats were missing.

The good witch came to the door, hoping to see her friends, the dwarfs, who had promised to help fix the house. The elephants explained what happened, while the worm looked on with a forlorn face.

“I can help, but we must be quick. My stepsisters will be here soon. Watch for the moon. When it rises, you will see them in the sky. They must not find you here.”

The elephants and the worm looked up to see the last of the evening sun falling off to the west. The good witch went inside but soon returned with a glass of smoky liquid.

“Here. Quick. Drink this,” she said. The tips of her golden blonde hair fell into the glass, and turned a murky brown.

The worm made a face but gulped it down. He had no desire to meet up with the evil stepsister witches. As soon as he finished, a puff of smoke engulfed him. When it cleared, he was his old self again, all round and squiggly.

A gust of wind caused them to look up. A full moon lit the sky. A cow leaped awkwardly over it. Then, suddenly they saw the silhouettes of three witches, flying on brooms, straight toward them. They landed on the porch. Thud… Thud…Thud.

“What are these creatures, stepsister, doing on our porch?” Cackled the eldest witch.

“Just two elephants and a friendly worm, seeking assistance.”

“Assistance, hey,” cackled the eldest. “I’ll give them assistance.” She raised her wand and started a curse. The worm tried to get between the pages of his book, but now he was too round and fat.

Just then, the pirates charged up the porch steps, with swords drawn. One pirate, old greybeard, cut the wand of the eldest witch with his sword, down to the wart-filled skin of her hand. She was left holding a useless twig. The pirates cut all the witches’ wands, leaving them like toothpicks on the porch floor. The witches, in a panic, took to their brooms, but the pirates were too quick for them. They cut the broom heads off in mid takeoff, leaving the witches with useless shafts in their wart-covered hands (Used this already. Maybe find something else.), and their feet still squarely on the porch floor. They dropped the broom shafts and hastily ran into the forest.

The pirates laughed a hearty laugh, and the leader said, “Is everybody all right? Sorry if we scared you mam,” he said to the good witch.

“Not at all,” she said. “Would you all like to come in for refreshments?”

“No,” exclaimed the second elephant. Thankfully, his brother had the wisdom to agree. The worm thanked her once again for restoring him to his former self. Then the pirates, the elephants, and the worm, still carrying his heavy book, walked back the way they came. The pirates took the road to the sea, and the elephants escorted the worm back to his home.

Home at last, the worm crawled into his hole. He left the book under a tree and covered it with leaves for safekeeping. The elephants sat down in the grassy field, near the craters where they had fallen. The second elephant asked the first, “How do you suppose we are going to get back up to the sky?”

“I don’t know,” replied the first. “I don’t know how we got up there to begin with.”

They were tired from all the days’ excitement and so they fell asleep.

They awoke the next morning, surprised to find themselves on the clouds again, but they were very happy to be there. They tiptoed home, as lightly as elephants can, and decided always to obey their parents.

Down below, the worm, with his spectacles, read his book. The good witch was happy because she didn’t have to live with her evil step-witches were gone and her friends, the dwarfs returned. She spent her time fixing up the old house while her dwarf friends painted (What? A chance to enhance imagery.). She laughed at the sight of them, little people on tall ladders.

They all lived happily ever after, except for the evil witches, who spent the rest of their lives hiding behind trees.

  1. Thanks Bill,

    Your assignments and responses have helped me become a better writer.

    Russ

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