…And once there was a little boy running around the library, of all things! He ran up one aisle, down another. Through one hall, out of another. Up the stairs, around the corner, down the escalator, and past the front desk.
Well something had to be done about this! Miss Librarian went after him. She thought she had him trapped in one row, when he showed up in another. She almost caught him in the non-fiction aisle, when she glimpsed him crossing the hall.
This went on for a while, until finally she had him cornered in the reference section.
“What is going on, young man? This is a library, not a race course!”
The boy, a little out of breath and with his hands on his knees, looked up at the librarian, and said, “Sorry Miss Library Lady, I was looking for something.”
“What could you be searching for with such enthusiasm” she asked.
The boy said, “Huh?”
“Why are you running around here like crazy?!”
“Oh,” said the boy. “Well, I’m looking for a elephant.”
“Excuse me!” Said the Librarian, quite taken with surprise.
The boy said, “My mom told me that there are many things in the library. She said there are trucks and trains and planes and buildings and monsters and fairy lands and jokes and tricks and…”
“Okay, I get it,” said the Librarian, as she tried to take this all in. “And what are you looking for,” she asked quizzically . “An elephant?”
“Yeah,” said the boy. “My mom told me that now that I know how to read, I can find all sorts of things here, like soldiers and boxes and dogs and wolves and foxes and trees, although I haven’t seen any of those things either, and bulls and cats and frogs, but no girls, please, and houses and fleas and…”
“Alright, alright, I’ll help you find an elephant!,” the exasperated Librarian said. This was followed by a round of “Shhhhhhhhh!” that came from all around them.
“Now see what you made me do.” Said the Librarian in a much more quieter tone. “Come with me,” and she held out her hand. The boy took it, and they walked out of the reference section. “You just can’t come running through the library like it was a park, young man,” she explained. They walked down a corridor and headed for a door. “People come in hear to read, and it’s not good to disturb them.” She opened the door and led him down an aisle of books. “So you must learn to be more quiet. Do you understand?”
“Yes ma’am,” said the boy, as they stopped before a section of books.
“Good. Now have a seat right here.”
The boy sat on the floor, with his back to the shelves. The Librarian looked upon one shelf, selected a book, and handed it to him. He looked at it, then turned it over, then flipped it over, and then he held it over his head, all the while trying to figure out what it was.
“Excuse me, but this doesn’t look like an elephant”
“Open the book and you will find your elephant,” she said.
So he opened the book….
…And found not just one elephant, but a lot of them. Huge animals, almost as big as a house! They had long white tusks and big gray ears and legs as thick as trees and gray, wrinkly skin and long, long noses that they used like hands to grab the leaves from the tops of trees. And their big eyes had long lashes, and looked at you like they had something to say. Everything about them was big except for their thin short tails.
They were deep in the African Serengeti, in a herd of at least twenty. They were mostly women and children, for the men liked to hang out with their buddies or go for long walks. And they were always on the move, going from one watering hole to the next, sucking up all the water through their long trunks, or going from one tree grove to the next, picking each leaf with the ends of their trunks very delicately, like ladies. They were always hungry. In fact, they ate so much they had to keep moving, for as soon as they found a nice grove of trees, they would eat every leaf until there was no more. Then it was off to the next grove of trees.
This kept them pretty happy. Sure, they were huge and ate lots and lots of food and had to keep moving just to get a bite. But that is exactly how they liked it, for staying in one place was boring. This way they could get around and visit with other herds and trade stories, or visit a place they liked because it was pretty and scenic. They were so big none of the other predators would come after them, or they would get stepped on. So there was no place they couldn’t go, and nothing to stop them from doing it. So life as an elephant was pretty good.
Except for one baby elephant. The problem was, she couldn’t reach anything for her trunk was too short, much shorter than the other baby elephants. Sure, there was plenty to eat. And if there was food that she couldn’t reach her mother would grab an entire branch with her trunk and give it to her. But she couldn’t reach it on her own. This made her sad, and she would cry. When her friends came upon a bush they would pretend to be like the adults and only pick from the top of the bush. She could only take from the middle, no matter how much she strained. Her friends would say, “Don’t worry, you will grow into your trunk one day and eat like the rest of us.”
This only made her sadder. “One day?” she would ask. “What good is a short trunk if you can’t use it? I, too, want to eat from the tops of trees, or to grab hold of a branch, or just to spray water on my back when it’s hot. But I can’t do any of that because my trunk is so short. This thing is useless, and what’s the point of having something as useless as this?” Then she cried some more, even louder than before.
This drew the attention of her mother, who walked over to her and asked her what was the matter. So the young one told her mother all about her short trunk and how she can’t eat from the tops of bushes with it. It’s fine when they are in a watering hole because all she has to do is lean down and take a drink. But how can she be like everyone else if her trunk is so short. “It’s useless!” she screamed, and cried some more.
“There, there little one. Nothing is ever useless. You just have to find out what that trunk can do”, said her mother.
“But how do I do that? This thing is so short I can barely wiggle it”, cried the little girl elephant. She tried to wiggle it around but it didn’t move too far. And then she cried some more, shedding some really big elephant tears.
Now, now” said her mother, “that is no way to act.” She wiped the tears off her child’s face with her trunk. “Let me tell you a story…”
… about some ants that had a great big anthill that was just beyond the trees. Ants are very busy insects, just like bees. They had three round parts to their bodies and each part had two legs, giving them six in total. They also had long antenna on top of their heads that they would use to feel around. They would gather food and present it to the queen. She would eat the food and lay eggs. The eggs would hatch and make more ants. These were very tiny creatures that needed as many ants as possible to help defend the anthill from other ants, because ants were always trying to steal their food. So the more ants the better. And every ant looked just like the other, except for their smell. That was the only way to know that one ant from another.
Well one day, the queen laid an egg that was a little different. When it hatched out came an ant that was like all the other ants except for one thing. Usually an ant has six legs, but this one had seven! What an odd thing to have in the anthill. The other ants didn’t know what to make of this, so they started picking on him.
“How’s it goin’, seven legs?”
“Hey, look, it’s seven legs!”
“What goes ‘scritch, scritch, scritch, scritch, scritch, scritch, thump, scritch, scritch, scritch, scritch, scritch, scritch, thump? Seven legs!”
And they would all laugh and laugh. This made seven legs feel bad, so he ran outside the anthill to be alone. He hated having seven legs. The extra leg didn’t help him at all; it just lay there, being obvious.
“Oh why did I have to have seven legs?” he cried to no one in particular. “It’s not like I do any less work. Why can’t the other ants like me for who I am?” He sat there and cried some more, feeling quite sorry for himself.
It was then that he noticed a movement under a leaf way down at the base of the anthill. Then he noticed another, and another. Then he saw a rival ant run from under one leaf to another. ”Oh my gosh, we’re being ambushed!” And this worried him greatly. He didn’t want to move, because if he did they would see him and rush the anthill, too fast for him to get help. “What do I do, what do I do?” he thought to himself.
As he got more and more fearful, his seventh leg began to tremble. In fact, it trembled so much it thumped on the hill and made the ground under him vibrate. As the ground under him was the anthill, the ants inside of it heard the noise. “What’s that noise?” said one ant to another. “I don’t know, but I’m going to take a look outside”, said the other ant. When he went outside he saw the rival ants putting themselves in position for a raid. He ran back inside and gave the alarm.
“We’re under attack, we’re under attack!” he yelled through the anthill. The other ants came running, ready to fight off the intruders. They emerged from the top of the anthill, and barreled down the slope, looking for a fight.
The rival ants saw them coming, and said to each other,” they’re on to us, run!” And they all ran away.
One of the ants saw seven legs, and asked him, “Was that you making all that ruckus?”
Seven legs, a bit shyly, said, “Well, yes. When I saw those other ants trying to sneak up on us I didn’t know what to do. Then my leg started shaking, and you guys came running out.”
All the ants yelled. “Hooray, you saved us!” They picked up seven legs and carried him back into the anthill, all the way to the Queen. They told her the story, and the Queen pronounced seven legs as her favorite ant. All the ants went “oooooh” and hoorayed some more.
And from that day on, none of the ants picked on seven legs ever again. This made seven legs very happy, and he went on to live a very good life.
“…So you see” said the mother elephant, “ just because you don’t know what your trunk is good for yet, it doesn’t mean it’s useless. It will just take some time to find out.”
The little elephant listened to her mother, and she said, “Okay, I will wait to see what this little trunk of mine can do.” Then she added, “But it better happen soon, or I am going to have a fit.”
“Oh, hush,” said her mother, who then swatted her behind with her trunk, which sent her daughter scampering off.
A few days later they came upon a pond. It was not too deep for the children as long as they stayed near the edges, and deep enough for the adults in the center. They stayed awhile and played in the water.
After an hour another group of elephants came by. They saw the pond and said to themselves, “We can push those other elephants out and have the pond to ourselves.” The elder of the herd yelled out, “You elephants have been in there long enough. Now we will have the pond.”
The elder of the first group yelled back, “Sorry, this is our pond. You will just have to go and find your own.”
At this the second elder said, “What nerve! We will teach you some manners. Come on, girls!”
The other elephants rushed the pond. The first group ran up to meet them. There was a fierce struggle as each group tried to push the other out of the pond. First one group was winning, then the other. The younger elephants stayed out of the way, or they might get stepped on. Some of them began to fill their trunks with water to spray the other elephants.
The little one with the short trunk bent down for water. But she slipped! She rolled over, and when she was right side up again, she was right next to her mother!
Her mother was losing to a bigger elephant. She was being pushed back very slowly. She saw her daughter beneath her and yelled out, “Run, before I step on you!”
The little one looked at her mother, and then the other elephant. She still had water in her trunk, so she fired, right into the eye of the other elephant. Usually when an elephant has a trunk full of water they spray it like a stream. In this case what came out looked like a water cannon ball. It struck with a lot of force, and made the larger elephant say “Ouch, that hurts!”
She took a step back, and her mother pushed more. The little one refilled her trunk and fired again, and between the two of them they were able to push the larger elephant out of the pond.
Then they went to help the others, and in short time had the pond back.
The second elder yelled out, “We’ll get you next time!” Then she and her herd walked off.
Everyone congratulated the little one with the short trunk. Her mother said,” I told you that trunk has a use.”
This made the little one very happy. She was no longer upset with her trunk. The other baby elephants ran up to her. “Wow, that’s a really neat trunk,” said one baby elephant. “Do you want to play with me?” This made the other baby elephants cry out. “No play with me, play with me”, they all said.
And from that day on she loved her short trunk. She was happier with it than the others were happy with their normal trunks.
Eventually she grew up to be a fine young lady. Her trunk grew too, and to its normal length. She was finally able to eat from the tops of trees, just like her friends, and while she did miss her short trunk, she liked the leaves at the tops of trees more.
…and the boy closed the book. He said to himself, “Wow, that was a really neat book. Wait ‘til I tell the librarian lady.”
He got up, and with the book under his arm, he went in search of the librarian.
He found her at her desk, looking through more books. “Excuse me, miss library lady,” he said. “I finished the book.”
The Librarian said, “Well, what did you think? Did you find your elephant?”
“Yes I did! I even found some ants I didn’t know I was looking for. Thanks.”
“Well, I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“Sure, it was great,” said the boy. He carefully put it down, and then he said, “Now I need to find a Rhino,” and he turned and ran off.
The Librarian watched him run off and slowly shook her head in aggravation. She then got out of her seat and went after him…