the bridge

Violet made her way to the pasturelands with her rucksack. Instead of her ballet slippers, this time she’d come prepared with cleated boots. One of her dancer friends with a penchant for sport had loaned them to her. If she needed to make a quick get away, she’d be more prepared this time.

She spied Augromme long before he noticed her. He seemed harmless enough in this context. He was walking in slow circles, snuffling at the grass and occasionally lifting his tremendous head skyward to look at the birds. Birds were always attracted to his stewy smells.

She evaluated the brute for a long time. The elephant show needed a real bang next time. The problem was mostly determining if Augromme could be trained or not. She knew he was erratic and hostile but so was Marrionetta and she was the star. Violet had seen Augromme be sweet with the other elephants and they with him. She had seen him tortured by his nightmares, appearing to cry out helplessly about some imagined or timespun injury. She had seen him frolicking in the fields and he had also once attacked her. It was a definite risk to try and include him in the show. That was probably why she hadn’t mentioned the idea to Ungulen who almost certainly would have rejected it.

She also knew how much the poor animal ticketed for when they put him in the box. It was a lot. So the impetus to box him out twice a year would never diminish as long as people like Goren Hargus controlled the purse strings. All day in that tiny enclosure, becoming angry and frustrated, kicking and hissing for his freedom. What if he had hidden talents that could be harnessed? He wouldn’t have to be crammed in the enclosure anymore just to be gawked at for an undignified stretch of hours. Besides, she could really strut something majestic in her next showcase if she pulled this off.

She unpocketed a small woodwind, something crude another circus worker had made and passed around communal. She struck a long, pleasant D note down low on the pipe. Augromme noticed and turned towards the sound. When he noticed she was a person and not a bird, he began a steady trot towards her.

The trot started building and was threatening to become a stampede of one. Violet put the instrument away and took a commanding posture like she had seen Ungulen do. She thrust out her chest and extended a palm-faced arm. “Hold it,” she said.

Augromme responded. He slowed his advance. Then he sat down like a tremendous dog.

“Okay,” said Violet. She pulled out the instrument again and fingered a pleasant major chord in B. Augromme stood up again and started waggling around, snorting and billowing his ears. She rummaged in the rucksack and handed over a large jar of jam.

Augromme immediately scarfed up the jam with his trunk. She played the chord again, still low on the register. She didn’t want to spook him with anything too high and shrill. His trunk piqued up. More? his tiny black eye seemed to inquire. She pulled out another jar which he put away as well.

She played a new chord, something upbeat. To her surprise, Augromme did an intricate series of dance steps. It was sloppy and out of rhythm but she recognized it immediately. It was the bridge of the choreography she had taught the other elephants for the showcase. He had been paying attention after all.

“Interesting,” she said to him. He puffed himself a few times. But then, in a fluid strike, he stole the rucksack and galloped away.

“Hey!” But she didn’t chase him. She’d get another sack and come back tomorrow.

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