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Elephant Heart

I was walking down a street in my town when an old man asked me if I wanted to know what the secret to life was.  I said, “sure, why not?” and he said it was to milk out and spread the maximum amount of joy from every single moment.

Ben found the armchairs on the Internet.   We had found each other at work.  Both of us divorced, me since many years ago and with two teenagers.  We decided to get rid of my old loveseat and an end table that had belonged to Ben’s previous apartment. We simply put them outside with our garbage, and the next day they were gone.  Then we decided to buy the two leather armchairs.  They looked good in the picture, and they were cheap.

When Ben got to the house, he found a sad man in his forties and a couple of obliviously joyful little girls.

“My marriage is breaking up,” the man told him. “I am moving into a small apartment.  These chairs are really good, and not even a year old.  They’re recliners, you know.  They go back like La-z-boys. You’re getting a good deal.”

“You’re taking both?”  one of the girls wailed to Ben, though she was making a happy, goofy face.  “AAAWWWWW.”

Her sister chimed in for a while. The girls each sat in a chair, swinging their legs. They leaned back and the chairs leaned back too. Their father didn’t seem to notice.

When Ben had finished stuffing the chairs into the U-Haul and was about to leave, the man came up to the window carrying a giant stuffed toy elephant.

“You know anyone with little kids,” the man stated, rather than asked. “Maybe they’d like to have this.”

Ben told me he couldn’t say no.  The man just looked so desperate.  So when he came home that day we filled our living room with two new maroon leather recliners and one grey elephant.  The elephant was torn in the bum, and very heavy for a stuffed toy.  When we examined it we found it contained a broken gizmo that once made it talk; that was what accounted for the weight.

My kids asked us what an elephant was doing in the room.  I told them the story Ben had told me.  They didn’t say anything.

Everyone liked the chairs, but somehow we didn’t use the room as much as we had before.

One day Ben and I were going for a stroll in our neighborhood. I happened to look into an upstairs bedroom window of a house with green shutters.  There was a small child’s, perhaps a baby’s, bedroom, decorated in pastel colours, featuring a female version of our elephant.  Female, because it had long spindly eyelashes and a pink bow next to each ear. 

On Valentine’s Day, I took the day off to make a special meal for Ben.  I grabbed my reusable shopping bags, put on my winter jacket, my knitted cap with the flaps and my boots and headed toward town to shop for the meal. I carried the elephant, a tiny envelope pinned to his chest.  Inside the envelope I had put in a small glass heart I had found in the basement amongst my daughter’s abandoned craft kits, and a note:

To my beautiful elephantesse,
I saw you through the window.  Here is my heart. Please accept it.
I put the elephant on the front porch and continued into town.  I bought a bottle of wine, a steak, some tomatoes, mushrooms and artichokes.   On the way home, I walked by the house with the green shutters. The elephant had been brought inside. I smiled to myself.  I glanced up into the bedroom but couldn’t see inside; there were light curtains now that obscured the view. 
And downstairs, I suddenly realized, a woman was staring at me through the living room window. 

She was blonde and wore red lipstick.  She looked a bit like Drew Barrymore. She also looked completely terrified.


Anita Anand lives in Montreal, Canada.  Her stories and essays have appeared in, the Louisiana Review and  the Toronto Globe and Mail.

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