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Today's Story by Jamie Loftus

I do not do what Ella would do.

One Hundred Bullets

My mother’s name was Ella, and now mine is too. They used to call me “Annabel,” but now I am Ella just as she was, and as my grandmother was before that, and no one will know the difference. I am one foot shorter than my mother was and three times smarter, but all they see is an admission price, the rings, the jesters, and the name “Ella.” They just want to have a nice day out with the family, that’s all, it doesn’t really matter which Ella takes the stage to march through her own shit.

My family is the same, every one; Ella Ella Ella Ella, and my baby will be Ella and so will hers, and we’ll pad through our own shit until kingdom come.

“Hey there, Ella!” Louie exclaims, pounding on my crate. Annie not Ella, I think.

Louie has a puckered little face, like someone just fed him a mouthful of lemons and told him his dog got hit by a car. He likes me because I don’t fight like my mother used to before I was big, and now that I am he thinks he’s going to make even more money than the past three Ellas combined.   He has a slick chart about it next to his desk. He trains us, is what Louie does, he takes us from our mothers and ties us to the ground so we know how to lie down for the show. Louie teaches me how to stand on two legs just like he does, he slaps the time around my arms and smiles when I don’t spray him with my trunk like my grandmother used to. Her name used to be Marylou, but then she became an Ella.

When you travel with Louie there are four square inches of freedom, and those are the holes in your crate where you can see out the window. My eyes are insatiable, and I count every car and every color I see when we go from place to place, could tell you every change of the weather and the sun. I’ve seen fields full of cows and of horses and goats, and they see a shriveled old man with a big truck that says “Ella.”

One day, we are in Cleveland – the air is cold and the audience brutal, making Louie sweat and me shiver.

Louie grimaces and tells me to lay down. I do.

Louie smirks and tells me to stand on two legs. I do.

Louie tells me to let the spangled ladies sit on my back and to walk in circles. And I do. I do everything just as I was taught, and just as I was taught, Louie takes out the whip.  I do not do what Ella would do. I run away.

There was one time when I was lying down in my trailer and my father lay next to me, then rested his head on my shoulder, kissing my head, and making me feel like I used to, a little more Annie and a little less Ella. It was perfect in that moment, until he peered right into my eyes, only to realize that I was not the Ella he’d been looking for.

I run for the first time, knocking the spangled ladies atop me to the ground and tearing the tent as I run. I feel something under my feet but it’s not important, unless it’s Louie, which would be the most satisfying crunch I’d ever hear. This is more delicious than any feed I’ve ever tasted, anyone I’ve ever met or held or cried with. I have marched through my own shit for the last time, I have rolled over and played nice for the last time.  I spray my trunk at the audience as they yell at the exact pitch that makes me want to sing, and Annie leaves the tent for the city beneath.

If Louie made it out (which, according to the thick mahogany paste lingering on my foot, is not a guarantee), he will surely hate every headline. “Ella escapes the circus, goes on killing spree!” they’ll say, and a picture with my eyes wild and my trunk flared. He’ll hate it so much that he’ll die of a heart attack if I haven’t gotten him already, which is really just fine.

It will take one hundred bullets to get me down. Annie runs as far and as fast as she can, out where the horses and the cows and the goats might be, but nothing’s for sure. Annie will go down a hero to herself and the enemy of her prisoners.

But not Ella. One thousand bullets could not take Ella down, they say, because there is always another in the wings waiting to be her.


Jamie Loftus is taller than the average man, but is not a man and, debatably, not average. She has a history of nasal congestion, and is generally referred to by people ten or more years older than her as “a good kid”. If anyone has seen her iPod, please let her know.


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