Killing the Elephant
On that day – the one on which he killed the elephant, but before he actually shot it dead – he found himself in the passenger’s seat of his mother’s car as she drove alongside a wheat field down an old rural road on their way home from the market. He sat there staring at the black screen of the phone in his left hand, fiddling with the window controls under his right hand, trying to ignore the silence. His mother sat with her hands intently on the steering wheel, her eyes shifting over to him with each periodic fluttering of her hair. The corners of her mouth shriveled downward as she watched him stare blankly at his phone.
“Has she messaged you back?”
Her son wouldn’t respond. His head just turned for his eyes to look out the window as he cracked it open and shut it at slow, tedious intervals. She looked back ahead of her, over the steering wheel at the road.
“I think I’ll just go see her. Just show up and try to figure things out,” he mumbled. Most of his words slipped out through the window into the passing countryside, carried away from his mother’s ears.
“Look, hun,” she said with a bit of enthusiasm. Her gaze was focused at and upward angle above the road. “A hawk.”
He looked over and there – above the road, sitting on a power line – was indeed a hawk.
“God, I love hawks. They’re so gorgeous…”
The predator spread its brown wings, exposing its ruffled white breast before dismounting its perch, and dove down towards the golden field below.
“…graceful but vicious,” she finished.
When the bird reemerged from the wheat there was a small furry animal clutched in its talons. The hawk seemed to make a point of flying by the car for the mother and son to observe its majesty. Neither he nor she could make out what sort of poor creature the hawk had caught, but as it flew away they could both see the reflection of daylight in the little mammal’s eyes. They seemed to look right at them. The eyes looked right at the two voyeurs in the car with an expression of what they both assumed must be the rodent equivalent of indifference, as if to say “yes, well, here we are. I suppose this all really was entirely inevitable. After all, I am a rodent and she a hawk. This sort of thing happens all the time. Anywho, enjoy the rest of your drive. I’m off to be eaten. Probably atop a tree branch somewhere. I do hope it overlooks a lake at sunset. I do love lakes at sunset…”
Once the predator and its prey had flown out of sight, the mother looked back at her son who had resumed staring intently at his inactive phone. He had stopped futzing with the window controls.
“Have you talked about her with the doctor at all?”
“Shrinks aren’t doctors, Mom.”
“If they can give you drugs, they’re a doctor.”
“So Sam in the dorm above me is a doctor? Here I thought he was a philosophy major. Or was it communications…?”
“Don’t be a smart ass.”
“Better than a dumb ass.”
She looked at him as the corners of her mouth curled down and inward once more. “Why do you do that?”
He turned the phone over in his hand nervously and said “because. Talking with your mom about girls at my age is… weird.”
“Hunny,” she smirked. “I hate to break it to you, but… we’re weird.”
He didn’t really respond to her attempt at humor because the comment was more true than funny. Instead, he finally clicked his phone on and watched the screen flicker to life. There were no notifications, no messages, so he sent a quick text to a friend and clicked the phone off once more.
The silence grew tense and awkward. They both felt it. Then his mother went to turn the radio on just as he began to speak.
“Shit,” she fumbled with the car stereo to turn it off. “What?” She found the right button and turned it off. “I’m sorry, hun. What was that?”
But it was ruined. He forgot what he was going to say.
“At any rate,” he thought aloud. “I figure she’ll probably be at the party tonight. She’s usually at those things…”
But she wasn’t, and after the boozed-up twenty-somethings and uninvited high-schoolers had left their mess, he and his roommate began to clean their crime scene of an apartment. There were plastic cup castles on tables, cloudy swamps of bong water and spilt rum on countertops, and a badlands of chips, shake, and beer cans littered across the carpet. It was three in the morning.