Babs the elephant reached down into the lovely dust with her trunk and whisked it up her side. Her mother was next to her, having shown her this spot when she was a child.Dust baths made the elephants feel like she should.
“You weren’t there,” Barbara said to her mom. “They were gentle and kind.”
The matriarch threw a big trunkful of dust on her back. “There is no such thing. You have not seen what I’ve seen.”
Babs loved her mother and respected her wisdom. But there was something about the six shuffling men that touched her. They did touch herbody, but also they touched her heart.
Mother flipped the dust up to her forehead and let it flow over her broad face. “I’ve seen the graveyard of the elephants: tusks torn out and whole bodies left. This was man’s doing! You cannot trust them.” Her sides rippled in revulsion at the memory. To comfort herself she threw more dust on her side.
Babs knew of this memory. Her mother had a suspicion of men from long ago, and told her often she should feel the same way. She had not seen the elephant graveyard but it sounded horrible.Did the men really kill elephants this way?
Not all of them did, surely.
“Mother, these men were not killers.” She flapped her ears and the dust settled nicely behind them. “They wanted to know me. They separated and surrounded me. Each one touched me, carefully and then more insistently. They meant no harm.”
She was honored by their attention. They were so small and frail. And still, they wanted to know more about her. One of them caressed her trunk, while the other investigated her tail. They each had a focus and took the time to touch her intently.
Men walking were so funny: upright like birds, but without wings to balance them. How did they do it?
“Mother, they came not to hurt me, but to find out more. They were kind.”
Mother huffed. “In their hearts, they are killers.”
Babs swished her tail. She thought about the men who must have killed the elephants her mother saw. Who were they? What was in their hearts?
Then she thought of the gentle probing hands of the slow shuffling men. Their hearts had something other than killing. They seemed interested in knowing her.
“Mother, perhaps we just don’t know the men well enough. I cannot say what is in their hearts. We should meet more men and then we could really know what they are all about.”
Mother threw dust on her head. She threw dust on her belly. Then, as she tossed dust onto her back, she said, “I am willing to learn more about what men are.”
Babs flapped her ears with pleasure. “The world is big and you are very wise, Mother. I want to learn too.”