Table Twelve: Joseph Suglia

Look at her.

You look at her. Her hair is brown and falls to her shoulders. She is wearing a blue paisley skirt, a blue paisley blouse, a white sweater, and black pumps. Her legs are unpantyhosed and thin.

She looks mistily into the misty distance. She is looking mistily down Clark Street.

Fifteen feet down Clark Street, which is bordered by street lamps, telephone poles, and trees that do not resemble eucalyptus trees, a young boy is riding an elephant. You see the young boy riding the elephant. She sees the young boy riding the elephant as she looks mistily into the misty distance.

The boy is hooting and mooing and bowing and wowing, making zoo noises as he rides the elephant up Clark Street. He is wearing his Professional Cougar Handler T-shirt and his Django Unchained baseball cap. The elephant welcomes the boy, allows herself to be ridden by the boy.

Charging up the hill is a herd of angry elephants. Charging north, behind the elephant and her boy, charging up Clark Street.

In the distance, the street is thronged with elephants, bellowing pachyderms. You see their shadowy figures, their raised trunks and sky-high tusks.

Like a herd of nasty mastodons, the elephants give their long, triumphal elephantine calls and stampede in an interwoven mass, trampling all that is in their path.

You can feel the frisson of the elephantine wanderers. You see the fissured sidewalks. A seismic seizure runs through the city. They are coming. The elephants are coming. The herd of elephants is coming.

The elephants are attacking the parked cars. The elephants are attacking the moving cars.

The elephants are attacking the cars, their ears billowing out like sails. Their trunks folded between their tusks, the elephants are batter-ramming the Toyotas and the Sports Utility Vehicles and the vans and the trucks and the taxi-cabs.

The herd of elephants, two hundred feet ahead, is lingering over the unmoving cars. They are dallying with the cars, fondling them with their heavy flaccid trunks. And then smashing them into pieces. The elephants are rampaging, squashing the black Ford sedans and the red sports cars. Two elephants are toppling a bus. You see a daemonic elephant, mad mammoth, charging a Lexus.

A triad of dark-skinned elephants elevates its trunks, lifting them into the air in unison, the wormy black tubes of the pachydermatous renifleurs.

(A renifleur is one who takes pleasure in odors.)

Diabolical elephants.

The dinosaurian trumpeting of the elephants fills your ears.

Glancing nervously at the coming beasts, you slip by. You glimpse a red-headed woman as you make your way to the alley.

—The foxhunters are now being hunted by the foxes, the red-headed woman says. The elephant poachers are now being hunted by the elephants, the red-headed woman says as she observes an elephant wrapping its trunk around a street lamp.

Her voice is so soft that it sounds almost voiceless. And is she not correct? It is now the animals who poach humans, their quarry. The object of their venery is humankind.

From the perspective of the alley, you watch all.

Twenty feet ahead of you stands a gigantic bull elephant. The elephant hauls its body forward, flapping its mammoth ears.

Flapping its mammoth ears, the elephant is running toward the Wal*Mart. Its ears are striated with blood vessels and look like truck-flattened human testicles.

Foaming with rage, the elephant swipes and slashes at the Wal*Mart with its tusks in upward-gouging thrusts. The elephant is attacking the Wal*Mart, as if it were angry at the Wal*Mart. Pettish, mean elephant. Standing on its hindquarters, the elephant shakes the building, its trunk pointing straight upwards. Its forelegs are slamming and pounding the building wall.

Mortar is precipitating to the street.

And now you see the humans rushing out of the Wal*Mart. The humans are courting elephant flies, flies that buzz in their human hair.

See the humans wheeling shopping carts freighted with computers and electronic devices, racing from the Wal*Mart. There is a party in the city and a feeling of upheaval, with adults seizing upon and tearing open commodities that have lost their commodity value. They are orgiasts in search of an orgy, bacchantes in search of a bacchanalia. They rush out of the Wal*Mart, wheeling shopping carts busy with electronics and CDs and DVDs and telephones.

The bull elephant squints, as if the sun had burnt its eyes to wrinkled pores. You peer at the lewd mammoth with awed admiration as it trundles down the street and noses a telephone pole with its heavy trunk. Human exiles are ensconced behind the display window, watching the behemoth mastodon.

Driving on the left side of the road, a white van is passing the elephant.

The tusker advances on the vehicle, blowing bellows. The tremendous elephant skids to a stop and expels a clarion call.

Blowing a gust of air out of its trunk, the elephant stands on its hindlegs and bellows.

The elephant charges the van, rattling its metal. The elephant is assaulting the van. Crashing glass and crushing steel.

Billowing flags flapping, its ears are magnificent.

Time passes.

Squeezing out of the alley, you survey the ruins. A train of battered, crushed, squashed, torn-apart vehicles litters the sides of the road, unencumbered by human life.

You are stung by the punishing sun. The heat, it is immobilizing.

You see lumbering toward you now a herd of slow elephants. Docile elephants, benign elephants. Coming from the north.

They march down the broken street, their legs moving like mobile palisades.

A crowd of humans is staring at the elephant brigade. Standing on the sides of the road, they are watching. Breathing fitfully, an old man stares at what he has never before seen: a herd of elephantine wanderers trundling through the city of Chicago.

You feel a second frisson while watching the crowd—the seething crowd—as it surrounds the elephants and pats and pets the elephants as they slowly trundle south on Clark Street.

It is then that you notice, for the first time, the silence of the elephants.

The legs of the elephants are like pillars, shifting grey columns, soundlessly moving. Elephants do not pound as they walk; they tread gently. Deep-creased, deep-wrinkled pillars, their legs.

Like an enraptured lover, you advance down the street, following the train of elephants, the holy pachyderms. Sacred beasts in a train, they are filing before you, a circus animal parade march. But who is the ringleader?

Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia


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