• Rebecca King

Hailey's Elephant Story

Updated: Jan 4, 2020

Peanut was an elephant. The biggest animal in the whole zoo. He had a big gray trunk and smelled like the grass he plodded around in with his big padded feet. Hot days were his favorite because they meant splashing and swimming in the water hole just outside the gate and he could already tell, this one was gonna be a scorcher.

He trotted along, graceful and light as he jogged to the water’s edge. His trunk was curled up on itself, hiding his favorite secret toy that he had found one night after the visitors had gone. It was a miniature orca, black and white and rubbery. It filled his trunk with the smell of popcorn just like the smell of the circus where he was born and just like the smell of his mamma that he still missed sometimes.

She had been happy for him when he was picked to go to Sunny Pointe Animal Park. “You’ll be the biggest animal in the whole zoo,” she had said. “I am so very proud of you for being chosen. It will be a good life for an elephant.” She hadn’t shown him the tears that fell from her eyes in those last few nights together, she loved him too much for that, but she had shown him that she was proud and her memory stayed with him always, just like his favorite orca toy.

Peanut slowed at the water’s edge and stepped gingerly into the pond. He was delighted to take his imaginary friend in with him. He let go of the toy and watched it float. Peanut liked to sink down further and further until his eyes were right above the water so he was looking straight at his toy and his toy was looking straight back at him. Peanut squirted the orca with his trunk and watched the toy bob on the water. The orca splished and splashed and if Peanut looked at it in just the right way, he sometimes thought it looked like the orca was really swimming with him.

Even with most of his head underwater, Peanut could hear exceptionally well. It was one of the advantages of having elephant-sized ears. That’s why he cringed when he heard the zookeepers climbing the tank to feed the sharks. He heard a rumbling and imagined it was the sound of crunching bones.

Peanut pulled himself up to his full height, nervous in spite of himself. A shark was staring back at him from inside the enormous tank that stood at the edge of the pond. It was chewing on something. Peanut knew the sharks were safely sealed off from the rest of the pond and he knew they were only fed dog bones, but he couldn’t help feeling uneasy. He snatched up his toy and started to leave.

“Where are you going?” asked the shark. “Don’t you want to play with your little whale toy?”

Peanut looked at the shark, surprised it could speak to him. The stench of the animal’s breath carried on the wind each time it poked its head above the water to talk and Peanut hoped the shark didn’t have much to say.

“What’s a big elephant doing with a little toy like that, anyway?”

“It’s just a toy that somebody dropped. It gives me something to look at in the water,” Peanut turned again to leave but added as he went, “And it’s a shark, not a whale.”

“Ha!” cried the shark. “That’s no shark. That’s Bambu the whale. She’s the biggest animal in the whole animal park.”

Peanut stopped and cocked his head back to the shark, “No, she’s not.”

“What? Did you think you were the biggest?” The shark chuckled, mocking Peanut.

The elephant walked on but his cheeks were flushed red from more than the summer sun. He dropped his toy on the pond’s edge feeling betrayed. Peanut was so upset he didn’t notice the lion’s tail had pushed under the glass wall that separated the lion’s pride from the elephant herd. He didn’t notice the tickling of lion fur on his padded foot. He didn’t notice the unevenness of the ground when he stepped on the tail, but there was no ignoring the lion’s really loud roar.

“What are you playing at, Peanut?” growled the lion through clenched teeth.

Peanut should have apologized. He should have been more careful. But it wasn’t his fault. He was upset and distracted. It was that stinky breath shark’s fault.

That’s when Peanut had an idea.

“I’m sorry, Stripes,” said Peanut to the lion. “I didn’t see your tail there because I was so upset about all the things the shark said.”

“Why would you care what the shark said?” scoffed the lion.

“Well, at first I didn’t. But then he said I was a fool for thinking I was the biggest animal in the zoo.”

“He’s got you there. Bambu is the biggest.”

Peanut couldn’t help feeling annoyed that the lion would side with the shark.

“And then,” Peanut went on, “he said you were a fool for thinking you are the scariest animal.”

“A fool, huh? That smelly faced shark is calling me a fool? I’ll teach him what it is to be scary.”

The lion bolted toward the water, bounding over the wooden gate and splashing down into the pond.

Peanut was stunned and frightened by what he’d done. All the more so by how the lion had reacted. He started toward the pond to tell the lion it was all a mistake, but by the time he arrived the lion was running through the muddy water’s edge. Peanut watched with growing horror as the lion went chomping at the water and the darkish gray body of the shark leaped up through the air and onto the grasslands.

Peanut tried to turn and run from the shark and the lion and the lie he had told but he only managed to go tumbling down the bank. He landed upside down on his head next to the body of the darkish gray…

“Hey, you’re no shark,” cried Peanut, “you’re a dolphin.”

“You come up with that all on your own or did one of the other wild animals in here help you?” asked the dolphin, rolling her eyes. “How did I end up in the zoo, anyway? I should be in the water park with Bambu.”

Peanut dropped back down to his feet and tooted his trunk with glee.

“That’s right,” he said, “Bambu is in the water park.” He picked up his orca toy from the pond’s edge and trotted home on his big padded feet. He was content in knowing that he was an elephant. The biggest animal in the whole zoo.

Story inspired by the following characters...

Elephant created by Hailey from Mrs. Reyes’s Class: big grey trunk, grassy smell, stomping and thunking sounds

Dolphin created by Edgar from Mrs. Zcavek’s Class: darkish grey

Lion created by Cash from Mrs. Reyes’s Class: stripes, really loud, smells like muddy water

Orca Toy created by Samantha from Mrs. Richeson’s Class: black and white, feels like rubber, smells like popcorn

Shark created by Gavin from Mrs. Zcavek’s Class: smooth, bad breath, sounds like crunching bones

This is a polished version of a story that was improved during a crazy game called But Why? Watch the game that created this story...

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