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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Elephant in the Room (12/05/13)

TITLE: Comical Friendly Elephant
By Sheldon Bass


I’m no stranger to embarrassment, but this day’s experience was to be the most remembered. There’s no reason to be nervous. I assured myself. I’m accustomed to speaking in public. Yet, my audience’s silent secret was the loudest thought in my mind. Am I missing something?

Addressing our affluent supporters in the assembly hall normally wouldn’t be so unnerving. Fifty faces, one-hundred expectant, shining eyes seated in folding chairs all directed toward the lectern. I’ve been the object of their stoic attention before, all garbed in finely tailored suits. A few are women, dressed accordingly, one of which, from the front row, offers the first clue. There’s an elephant in the room.

Her eyebrows arch so high she could be modeling for a MacDonald’s sign. Is that shock registering on her face, with distended bug-eyes? Aimed at me?

Quickly, I sidestep to safety behind the podium, and my obscured hand drops to check my zipper. It is up. Shirttail is not sticking out of it. Back to business.

I have to sell myself—command their full attention. So I launch with a bit of humor. One of my best jokes should do the trick.

“We have cause for great optimism today.” The pessimist farmer verses the optimist farmer joke.

Success. Chuckles sweep the room. On to the real business.

“Our African associates are very pleased to have Chidamoya Christian Mission on-board with the new health initiative. I had the privilege of briefly speaking with one of President Mugabe’s aides on the telephone. And, he has agreed to a meeting with our representatives in Harare, to discuss the fresh-water well project for the Shona tribes. As well as the continued reconstruction of the Chidamoya hospital.”

The crowd gasps in unison. What’s going on here? I see hands covering mouths, stifled grins, bulging eyes…. Here and there a giggle escapes. I turn to look behind me. Nothing out of the ordinary there. I didn’t eat eggs this morning, so there couldn’t be egg on my face.

Continuing my speech, which is more of a sales pitch, it becomes increasingly difficult to concentrate. My job is to keep the financial support for our mission’s projects in Zimbabwe flowing. But there is obviously an elephant—somewhere. What could it be? Apparently, I’m the only one who doesn’t know.

Time to pull out the big guns—my visual aids. The appealing charts that I had a colleague draw up to demonstrate the efficient use of monetary contributions thus far. Several pages are prepared and displayed on a giant easel standing behind me. Turning toward the easel, I extend my telescopic pointer. But the stifled giggles suddenly erupt into roaring laughter and applause. I spin around to find several fingers pointing at me.

I’ve had enough of this. I demand the elephant’s exposure.

“It seems I’m the only one who doesn’t get the joke here. Is there an elephant in the room?”

This elicits heartier laughter and more finger pointing. Now at the apex of my confusion, I call upon reason to disclose the beast. There is only one place in the room, which the audience can see, but I cannot.

Sprinting around to the front of the podium, I spy a white, furry head poke out of a hole that had been chewed by a disrupting rodent. It seems his timing of constantly exiting and reentering the hole was impeccable, coinciding with different elements of my speech. The roaring laughter had come when the big rat had waved its little arms as if directing applause for my pie chart.

I chuckle along with everyone else. But that impish rat! He is ruining my speech!

“Why don’t we take a brief intermission, while our uninvited guest is apprehended and removed?”

It seems Mister Rat does not like that statement. But he likes me. Crawling on top of the lectern now, he proceeds to scurry up my sleeve and perch atop my shoulder. He then emits a loud squeal as if scolding me. I’m not much of a dancer, but the jig I cut to get rid of my unwanted passenger must have been very impressive, judging by the applause of the audience. I finally brush him off, and he scoots out the door.

Turns out, our visitor was a lost pet named, Captain Jackpot.

Order is eventually restored, and we continue. Somehow, pledges for support of Chidamoya Christian Mission nearly doubled that quarter. Seems our elephant-in-the-room, was a friend after all.


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This article has been read 681 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Ruth Ann Moore12/15/13
This makes me wish I was in the room witnessing this event. I truly thought the "elephant" must have been the speaker himself. Very cute and unexpected. :)
Judith Gayle Smith12/15/13
You made me smile all over my face. . .

Please "throw a brick" for others to enjoy, comment and support your writing:


Hebrews 10:26-31 KJV
Anne Warden12/16/13
Beautiful writing!!! This story made me feel -- everything from sympathy to hilarity.

No, the ice and snow in Indiana didn't freeze your brain. It's a great story. I hope you win a high place for this one. Thank you for the comic relief.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/18/13
You have a wonderful sense of humor. You did a nice job of painting a picture for the reader. I could feel the stares, hear the giggles, and picture the rat.

The only red ink I have is you used the word elephant a lot. It didn't feel natural in the dialog. Instead I could envision the MC saying something like :"Okay, I feel like I'm missing something. Would someone please let me in on the joke? " I put my hands on my hips and exaggerated the tapping of my foot as I stared at the crowd.
Though not perfect, I hope it shows you what I mean. Maybe I'm wrong, but based on where she was giving the speech, I suspect there might have been guests who might not have English as their first language, which would make it difficult to understand the adage.

I know that's a tiny detail and it might feel like I am nitpicking, but only because I see the natural talent you have and little details like that could turn a great story into an outstanding one. You did cover the topic while building suspense for the reader. I also liked how you highlighted something that is important to you with the MC's speech. You conveyed a great message while telling an interesting and funny story.
Beth LaBuff 01/16/14
This is a fantastic and masterfully crafted story (almost seemed like a true account at times). I enjoyed the suspense you built for the reader, and then being "let in on the joke" was a delight. Great work!