“There you are sir. Hold on tightly now, mind.”
“Got it. Anything else I should know?”
“If you want to stop, just shout out ‘Easy big fella’, and she’ll stop for you. Otherwise, enjoy the ride! She’ll take you in a circle around the pen, and stop right here to dismount again.”
Ivan felt the elephant’s leathery skin on his legs, his pale legs sticking out of his shorts to make a bright contrast to the grey all around him. He grabbed hold of the rope tightly and shouted out “Onward, steed!” giving the elephant a hefty kick with his boot. The elephant, perturbed by this, started to shamble forward, turning to follow the wall of the pen. Her ears drooped, and her tail gave a single, half-hearted swish. As she rounded the turn, she lifted her head and saw the other elephant, the big male who was her only friend and companion. It was a lonely life with just the two of them, their families long since ripped away.
“Easy big fella!” Ivan yelled out, pulling on the rope as if she were a horse. She slowed, as she had done a hundred times before, her eyes on the well-packed track. Ivan continued to jerk on the rope, all but forcing her head up; first she saw the trainer chatting up Ivan’s wife, then the open field beyond the fence, and the years of beatings pushed her over the edge. She started moving faster, Ivan yelling “Easy! Easy! Down boy! Woah! Stop!”. Coming to the short fence, her mind yelled “stop”, but her spirit and her feet shouted “NO! GO ON!”. She crashed through the shoddy wooden boards, and was suddenly free, in the field.
Ivan was screaming incoherently now, and even the trainer had torn his gaze away from the woman and was now chasing the elephant. But she ran, faster than she had run before, or so it felt. Her muscles, atrophied from years of wandering in a tight circle, were screaming, but she pushed on, heading for the field and beyond.
Behind, her ears perked at the sound of a shot gun being cocked, and her friend’s trumpeting to join her.