My friend says there is this elephant that lives in a house near our street. Apparently, the house is made up of only four walls and a roof. Four walls and a roof for an elephant house—that’s it. It must be a big house; it would have to be for an elephant to live there, elephants are pretty big.
I know it’s an elephant that lives there because my friend said he rode past it on his bike and saw its trunk sticking out of the window. The window is at the front of the house. There’s nothing else there he said…just a window. A house with just one window, four walls, and a roof, which an elephant lives in. That’s what my friend says.
Apparently the trunk just sort of hangs about most of the time, twisting ‘round like a cobra in a basket; reaching out for something–or someone. But get this: my friend says that if you feed the elephant a peanut (elephants of course love peanuts) it will tell you a secret. A secret! It will place its trunk to your ear and whisper you a secret. So I said to my friend, “Big deal, I know lots of secrets.”
But my friend says that, “This is a special secret because the elephant never tells the same secret to more than one person. Not ever, not even once.” This elephant must know a lot of secrets!
So I decided to get a peanut and visit the elephant—half because I wanted to see if my friend was right and half because—I guess I just like collecting secrets. I like hearing them and knowing them. Sometimes I drop a few and they end up with someone else but usually they stay just mine. Most of the time anyway.
My friend drew me a rough map, even though I had been living in the town for like, forever. It’s funny, the map he drew me pointed to a strange court I had never seen before…and I’ve ridden pretty much everywhere. This court looked like it was off somewhere near the back-roads, way behind Oppy’s Milk Bar but before The Jetty—kind of just in the middle of the two, beside the park where we get chased by nesting magpies and near the church that we cut through on our bikes. It’s in this weird spot, as if you weren’t looking for it particularly or had a hand drawn map you wouldn’t be able to find or even notice it. It’s—just—there.
Almost as strange, is that I couldn’t buy just one peanut, even after I begged the lady at the supermarket I still had to buy the whole bag which used up all the money I had in the tin beside my bed. So I ended up just buying and taking the whole bag with me—tucked under my arm—juggling it and the map as I rode to where it said the elephant lived.
It turned out the map was right, there was a court hidden amongst all the other places I had been to so many times before. How I rode past it for so long, I’ll never really know. Maybe it was the way the trees seemed to shield its entrance, or how the birds called loudly, distractingly taking your attention somewhere else. But today I didn’t just ride past it—I found it, thanks to the map my friend had drawn with the small pencil he had been using all year at school.
The court looked like the other courts I had seen before except in it stood only one house, with four walls, a window and a roof just as my friend said. There were no other houses, only tall, thin trees that stood like soldiers of some sort, standing opposite one another in a line, running alongside the road that lead to the solitary house at the end of the court. It wasn’t a particularly big house but big enough to hold an elephant I guess, that’s if there is even an elephant in there, for there was no sign of one. No noise, no stamping and no trunk hanging out of the house’s only window, just an eerie silence. Even the birds who called as I entered seemed to have disappeared—It was like this court was on its own time and the world outside just kept going on around it.
I parked my bike on the front lawn, which was beautifully kept considering that if there was an elephant inside that house, it wouldn’t be able to get out to tend to it. Those four walls had nothing else to them except for the window, which sat curtains drawn staring out at the still world. No door or anything. As there was no other house in the court and the court itself was so hard to find, who else kept the grass so short and green? This thought made me look around to see if I could see any signs of anyone, or anything else that could perhaps live here, but as if the court had heard my thoughts the window of the house slid open and a long trunk slithered out between sun-flower decorated blinds.
Now I’d seen elephants in the zoo and on TV and stuff, so I knew what a trunk looked like but this thing was huge! Like, it could totally have just snatched me up then and there and dragged me into that house never to be seen again. Except elephants don’t eat people, they eat peanuts, which is what I had tucked under my arm. So like my friend said to do, I tentatively walked up to the window as this massive trunk swayed watching me.
As I approached, it slowly twirled over and laid the tip of its trunk out almost expectantly like an open palm. I slowly removed a peanut from the bag ensuring I didn’t lose eye contact with the anaconda like trunk; through trembling hands I then placed the peanut gently into where I thought its palm should be.
I couldn’t help but take a few steps back, as I wasn’t sure what was meant to happen next. Was I supposed to put my ear to the window? How do these secrets work? I’ve collected secrets before but never any like this. The landing of a peanut shell at my feet quickly interrupted my thoughts, or should I say half a peanut shell with a peanut still in it. I watched the trunk bring the other half inside the window before reappearing outside again to sit watching me— perhaps testing me on what I would do next.
I stared down at half a peanut lying between the lush grass at my feet wondering how my secret was to come; perhaps through a written note? Yet still the trunk just sat perched staring at me, almost daring me to do something. I slowly pulled another peanut from the bag as if any sudden movements would cause the trunk to suddenly strike, but it again expectantly turned itself upside down and laid the tip of its trunk out like an open palm. As before, I placed a peanut where I thought its palm should be, only for it to break the peanut again in two, throwing one half on the ground towards me with the other being brought inside the house through the window between drawn blinds. The trunk then reappeared again, sitting up serpent like, to watch and see what I would do next.
Again, frustratingly a secret never came or even started to appear. There was no gesturing motion for me to come over for a whisper in my ear like my friend said, just a trunk slightly swaying hypnotically like a cobra ready to strike—anticipating my next move. Well I for one had had enough; I grabbed the entire bag of peanuts and threw them roughly at the stupid trunk. The trunk recoiled like a party whistle as the bag hit it, back into the house and the window slammed down after it. I stared at the window for a while, hoping that the trunk would appear again but it didn’t. I just stood there in the silence, sheepish that I had lost my temper over a secret. Like, I collect them and all but still, this was just peanuts.
I didn’t know what to do next, except get out of there. You know when you are so embarrassed or ashamed, your body tells you to run—to run as fast as you can—as far away as you can—to anywhere that you can get to? That’s how I felt. I hoped the trunk wasn’t hurt or offended and if there was an elephant attached to the end of it: I hoped it wasn’t hurt or offended too. I hoped the court wasn’t angry with me either; I just had to get out of there. I turned and went to pick up my bike, but I felt something suddenly tug on my shirt. Looking down I saw it was the trunk. It raised itself to stare at me, right between my eyes almost touching my nose, causing me to go somewhat cross-eyed. Was it angry? Was it going to drag me into the house, never to be seen again like I? I could just picture the headlines: Missing Boy Last Seen Riding With Bag of Peanuts.
I braced myself for the inevitable, but the trunk slowly moved away from me and picked something off the ground: it was the bag of peanuts, that wasn’t full of peanuts anymore but half -peanuts that had all been split in two, with the other halves nowhere to be seen. The trunk held it out to me, gently pushing them into my hand. I looked at the trunk as it slid back towards the window, watching me and waiting to see what I would do next.
I tucked the bag of half peanuts under my arm, picked up my bike and waved an awkward goodbye to the trunk and the elephant that might be attached to it. I didn’t dare turn around to see if the trunk was still watching me as I rode my bike down the path between the tall tree guards to the entrance of the court. I suddenly felt the refreshing sensation of a cool breeze on my face as I exited. The birds began to call again, or perhaps they never stopped; I rode hard and fast from the court to where I knew my friend would be.
Sure enough, he was throwing stale bread between the ducks down at the pond trying to cause a war between the competing broods, before my arrival caused all but a few of the braver ones to disperse to the safety of the water.
I told him what had happened and he smiled at me before I’d even finished, like he already knew.
“I thought it didn’t tell anyone the same secret?” I said to him.
“Mate, it didn’t tell me a thing”, he replied, removing half a shelled peanut from his pocket, holding it out in the palm of his hand.
We couldn’t help but give each other a strange smile as we watched the ducks fight over the remaining pieces of stale bread, seagulls now looming to steal an opportunity to snatch their share.
We sat, quietly watching the squabble, both holding a bunch of secrets that were just peanuts.