Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Elephant


No one will look at the elephant. No one will speak of it though it sits just outside the front window of the Dalwhinnie, all gray and dank and dour, staring in at us as we gather for breakfast. Heads down in our eggs, our coffee, our phones, we try to ignore it, knowing full well that every man around the table knows that it’s out there and that knowledge is killing us. There’s talk, but it’s small. Inconsequential. A mouse next to the brooding beast that drips outside the glass. Even the eye contact among us is fleeting, lest the elephant be reflected in our glance for others to see.

We know what the elephant wants. It wants our submission. It wants our surrender. It wants to come in and sit down on us, to crush us under its massive flanks, to envelope us in its forlornness, its despair, its gray void. It wants to take away our Beaver Island fishing day.

Kevin says that there’s one thing worse than missing a day on the Lake Michigan carp flats due to the weather and that’s dying in his boat. At our core we know this, but we are slow to give in to the inevitability. The longer we can ignore the creature just outside the window the longer the carnival can go on. So we each pretend that the elephant’s not there and wait for someone else to break the glass. We sit, the six of us, and hold our breaths, knowing that eventually the beast will get what it wants but not wishing to be the first to give it the satisfaction.

In the end it’s done for us. A passing local casually asks “You guys going fishing in this stuff?” and with that the great gray pachyderm waltzes in the thrown open door on twenty-knot winds, jumps up on the table, and does a pirouette on the paper napkin dispenser. We all look up, first at the local, then at the elephant, and Steve dispatches them both with a short, simple “No.” The tension is released like a midway balloon at the end of the water shoot game and the elephant disappears before it can get a proper gloat on.

We breathe again, and start thinking about tomorrow and the next act.