Possumhaw: Something to talk about



Shannon Bardwell



"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences and I have to get rid of them fast -- talk them or write them down."


Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)




At the foot of my bed sits an old wooden chest looking much like a treasure chest. Inside there are keepsake books, the American flag from my father's funeral and about 30 journals I kept over a period of six to seven years. Each day holds copious notes about the happenings and thoughts I had at the time. Reading journals on a rainy day seemed like a good thing to do. Before long I could hardly put them down. There were events and people I had no memory of at all. There was one entry, "I awaken at midnight and wrote down this allegory:"


There's an elephant in the living room and no one can see it. He came the day mom and dad stopped talking. It gets bigger and bigger. Everyone walks around it. One day baby sister sees the elephant and starts to say, "There's an elephant in the living room." Quickly I put my finger to my lips ... shush, "Don't say there's an elephant in the living room. We're not supposed to see it."


The elephant gets bigger and bigger every day. Pretty soon it takes up all the air in the room. I don't know what it eats to get so big. I think it's eating us. Mom is sad, Dad is sad, and no one can come over because there's an elephant in the living room. Do other people have an elephant in their living room?


One day I came home from school and Mom was crying. She tells me Dad has left home for a while. "Oh," I say.


Baby sister comes in, "What?" I tell her, "Dad has left home for a while."


"Why?" baby sister asks?


Mom says, "I don't know why." I say, "I don't know why either."


Baby sister asks, "Is it because of the elephant in the living room?"


Mom looks at her, "What elephant?" I freeze. Baby sister looks at me and then Mom, "The one we're not supposed to talk about, the one that takes up all the air, the one that's eating us. Didn't you see it?"


Mom says, "No, I didn't see it. I better call your dad." She picks up the phone and calls, "Can you come home? There's an elephant in the living room and I think we better talk about it. It's been taking up all the air and it's been eating us."


Dad hurries home. "Wow," he says. "How did that big elephant get in the living room?"


"Well," I say, "It started small and then it just got bigger and bigger until it took up all the air."


Baby sister says, "I think it was eating us."


"Well, I'm the dad and I think I better get that thing out of the house. The living room is no place for an elephant."


Mom smiled. The elephant disappeared. I'm sure glad we talked about it because we got our air, our living room and our dad back. Maybe we should have talked about it sooner.




Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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