Interview by the elephant
THE ELEPHANT: Welcome everyone, we’re here with the girl, in a location somewhere between The Tree and The Town, in the great outdoors.
THE GIRL: Did you disguise my voice? I want a really low register, like the way a brontosaurus would sound.
TE: This interview isn’t being recorded. Why do you want to disguise your voice?
TG: Ha! You should talk—show me one page in the book where I can see your face!
TE: Page 14.
TG: Which page is that?
TE: The one with the lost cow at the bottom. I’m not sure what happened with the page numbers.
TG: That page?? That’s the back of your head, from about a mile away!
TE: All right, next question. What’s your name?
TG: Nobody gave me a name. Isn’t that so typical? All plot, no character development. Well I guess you don’t get to pick your author, do you? But I’d like to be called…Mangosteena.
TE: That’s not a proper name!
TG: Well what’s your name?
TG: That’s not your name, that’s your species!
TE: No my species name is Loxodonta africana.
TG: That’s Latin! And with ‘africana’ in your name, you’re not from the North Pole.
TG: So anyway we at least know where you’re from now. And you’re a long way from home, aren’t you?
TE: All right! I’ll ask the questions here.
TG: So how did you get here?
TE: I had to leave Africa in a hurry. I stomped a poachers’ camp when they were all out tracking my cousin. I had friends in the city and they smuggled me off the continent in a suitcase.
TG: A suitcase?? Musta been a big trunk!
TE: Yeah, who can resist a bad pun, eh Mangosteena? Anyway, I was smaller back then—hey! I’m asking the questions, remember?
TG: You’re the one who’s s’posed to have a good memory . . .
TG: Do what?
TE: Climb that tree.
TG: ’twas the mangosteen.
TE: Yes, but all the other fruit on the way, you filled up your pockets…
TG: For later! How many times do you find a tree with so many fruits??
TE: Where did you learn how to climb so well?
TG: I can’t remember. I can’t remember much really before The Tree. But I did watch lots of documentaries about monkeys and apes.
TE: I see. What about changing sizes and stretching your arms?
TG: Can’t everybody do that? You yourself said you were smuggled out of Africa in a suitcase. And kudos to that illustrator for loosening the straps on that straight jacket the author put me into.
TE: The ferret claimed in his interview that he used to be the house pet of a girl who had a stuffed snake named Annie-the-Conda.
TG: Never heard of it.
TE: Page 7 … oh, page monkey.
TG: Oh, that Annie-the-Conda! Well yes, I had a stuffed snake. But I never had a ferret, especially not one that wore a hat and talked funny.
Ferret: Hey, yawl aren’t talkin’ about me, iz you? I can’t tell for sure cuz you talk funny.
TE: McGarrett the Ferret, ladies and gentlemen. Now let’s talk about the banana peel hats.
TG: Yes, let’s!
TE: What gave you the idea?
TG: Why the Parrot, of course! Don’t you remember—‘eat a carrot, make a hat and wear it, break a sandal repair it?’
Well I didn’t see any carrots, and I wasn’t falling for the rabbit’s worm-painted-orange-with-some-sort-of-green-viking-helmet routine. I wasn’t wearing sandals—at least not on that page—so the only thing left was the banana! And, let’s face it. Germie needed some color. The monkey needed a style lesson.
TG: Who me? I did, briefly, got carried away in the moment. Then I realized that leaving banana peels all over the tree I was climbing probably wasn’t the smartest thing I’d ever done.
TE: What was the smartest thing you’ve ever done?
TG: Dropping the watermelon.
TE: I’m not sure you’d get the ants to agree with you.
TG: It’s good not to be an ant, isn’t it Ellie?
TE: Back to the ferret. You really never saw him before in your life?
TG: Well, okay. I confess. He was my pet. His name was McGarrett. And one day, he escaped through an open window of the house. Next morning I woke early, and I used my tracking skills, and followed him to The Tree. Then I got distracted by all those fruits.
TE: But if that’s true, why didn’t you say anything when he was lecturing you about wasting fruit?
TG: No wait, that’s not how it happened. I sent McGarrett out into the forest to find me a fruit tree. Yeah, that’s how it happened. And then he came back, it took me a while to understand where it was, you know how bees can go back to the hive and do an intricate dance and the other bees, even though it looks like they’re not even paying attention, they’re just tending to their honey and serving at the pleasure of the queen, well they seem to know from that dance instinctively and exactly where the pollen and nectar are, and then start their own line dancing? Well, ferrets don’t do that.
TE: (Getting excited, on the verge of a hard-hitting investigative story) And then you came out to the forest, located the tree, and identified all of the fruits you planned to take, right??
TG: No. I made that story up. But maybe I’ll invite the ferret for dinner some time!
TE: Prepare lots of straw for dinner.
TG: He hates straw! Last time he invited me over I had cherry cobbler!
TE: What?? (discouraged) I don’t even know what to ask you anymore. You are a tough nut to crack.
TG: Tell me about your escape from Africa.
TE: Well, I had to leave, you understand. To pursue my dream of becoming an investigative journalist. Then one day I came upon The Tree, and applied for a job as a junior reporter at The Daily Arbor.
TG: How did that go?
TE: Well at first, they put me on the stories around the base of the tree, those crazy buttress roots, understory, things like that. It wasn’t easy for an elephant to be accepted by ant colonies, worms, burrowing critters and the like. There were trust issues. After all, one misstep and I could be wind up being accused of mass murder. But I watched the monkey, studied his movements, and I learned how to use my trunk to swing through the trees. Soon I was getting stories in the canopy—birds, squirrels, bats. It was a good life. I loved my work. And then one day, you came along. Story of the century.
TG: You mean . . . you wrote the story??
TE: You think that branch just happened to appear underneath your flailing legs?? You know, most of the other cast members have offered me something to eat.
TG: Really? Why? You mean like . . . . straw?
TE: No, like nuts, lots of nuts. Why? Simple gesture, I suppose. Hospitality.
TG: Hmmmm (both of them are sneaking glances at the partially eaten mangosteen on a stump near where the girl is sitting). Here (humming, reaching in her pocket). How ‘bout some plum puree or a giant mango seed?
TE: No thanks (the elephant’s trunk twitching, as if poised to make a reach for the mangosteen, but too late as the girl’s arm stretched around a tree and grabbed it). (Sigh) Thank you for your time, Girl.
TG: You’re welcome, Elephant. Why is one of your toenails blue?
TE: I bruised it playing soccer. That’s how I got a pedicure from the monkey.
TG: Yes, the monkey has many talents. What position do you play on the soccer team?
TE: Mostly I sit at the end of the bench. But every time I sit down, the rest of the players fly over my head screaming. I don’t understand that game . . .
TG: Oh, look at the time! Gotta go repair my sandals! Good bye Ellie! Thanks for sharing your story!
TE: Good bye Mangosteena. You do a good interview. Hey, wait a minute! I’m the interviewer! How did you do that?