Augromme’s second act

At first, Augromme had liked how much attention he was receiving from his jellybird. She would come frequently to see him. Far more often than the bucket-man ever did. In the mornings, jellybird visited the elephant pen. He knew it was morning because it was always cooler. He came to associate the cool and dewy fog of morning with her clapping, playing music, and interacting with the the other elephants. They seemed to be learning things all together but he wasn’t really focused on how or what it was. Sometimes too, jellybird would take him out on special trips to the pasturelands. This was always in the afternoons. It was hot and muggy. He hated the mugginess but he liked the wide open space. Also, jellybird always brought him extra jams and treats, just for him. He didn’t have to share with the other elephants. She always brought the stupid music box with her and then spent a lot of time listening to it and stomping around.

And then one day he had an epiphany. He came to understand that he was also being trained. It happened when, out on his own, he found himself doing little steps. One! Tra-la-la! Two! Tra-la-la! Three! and ball change! It came naturally. As if he had been doing it all his life. The practice and the exercises. The clapping and the music. He realized he was being included in whatever it was the other elephants were doing with jellybird. It was all related somehow.

It had stunned him when he first put it together. Normally his thoughts were so swirled and uncontrollable that the continuity alone was startling. Once he became accustomed to that, though, he became enveloped in a warm and beautiful feeling of inclusion. It was overwhelming. He started nuzzling the other elephants more and charging them less. His nightmares settled down. The world — still a bizarre collage — began to have longer and longer stretches of clarity.

He still had incredible mood swings. He was violent with the equipment in the elephant pen. He threatened jellybird sometimes though he always felt shame afterwards and cried himself to sleep. Sometimes when he became very disoriented, he began doing the steps that jellybird had showed him. One! Tra-la-la! Two! Tra-la-la! Three! and ball change! He could do it forever, he felt and — indeed — forever was a common measure of time for Augromme as entire days could slip by without any real comprehension.

The trouble started when jellybird began to change the steps. He only wanted to do the first steps. The regular steps. The steps that made him feel good. One! Tra-la-la! He would dance for her, show her he knew what she was saying to him. But then she would clap and make a disapproving sound. One! and Two! la-la she would say, completely shattering his sense of connection with her and, by extension, the outside world. He felt he was losing his tenuous grip on a perspective that he had only just begun to reclaim. Why was she doing this to their steps? Why was she destroying them? He felt that she was severing him from everything and it frightened him.

So Augromme refused to do the steps. Whenever jellybird came with her magic blanket full of sweets, Augromme would roll back on his haunches and pointedly turn his head away from her. His crazy, small eye would drift back down to see if she noticed. From this askance posture he would watch her try and try again to coax him, to please him, to berate him, to offer jam, to withhold jam. She would become angry and curse at him. His eye roved all over her but he would not stand and he would not dance.

“Fine!” she shouted one day “You want to quit! So quit! I’m sick of this anyway!” Jellybird was marching away from him. She was a speck on the horizon. She was gone.

She had left the jam behind. He didn’t even want any though. It no longer tasted sweet to him.



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