Once upon a very lovely time there was a girl named Claire and an elephant named Marimbo. Claire was a pretty feisty girl from England. She had dark curly hair which she hated and wished was straight, and a dainty smile which she loved because it made her happy. She loved egg custards and cups of tea and she loved adventures. Most of all she loved her adventures.
Marimbo was a very large and handsome bull elephant who lived in Kenya. He was young and proud and slightly foolish. All of the herd liked him but they thought he was too proud. He liked to play in the watering hole with the baby elephants and to roll his wet skin on the ground and make it turn a fearsome red all over; covered in the dust of the savannah. Most of all he liked to try and impress Kora, the prettiest of all the she-elephants. Kora; who had the longest of eyelashes and the prettiest of tusks.
Now it so happened that Claire, the girl from England who hankered for adventures, took a trip to Kenya in an aeroplane that took her high above the mountains and clouds. She sampled the tasty local food and pretended to like the cups of tea they served which were never ever like those in England. She smiled her smile at all the lovely people of the towns and villages, joked with the happy children and danced with the proud Masai warriors. She climbed the dazzling slopes of Kilimanjaro mountain and marvelled at the wondrous views of the African plains.
Then, she declared, it was time for her to see the wildlife; time for a safari to see the lions and monkeys, zebras and giraffes, antelope and elephants. Of course elephants; most of all she wanted to see the elephants, so she boarded the safari truck and headed out across the savannah.
That very morning Marimbo had made sure that his skin was really bright red and orange by rolling lots of dust after bathing in the water hole. He thought he looked really impressive, and he went to find Kora.
He came upon her walking along with the herd. Now Kora liked Marimbo very much but she was shy and clever and she didn’t like the way that he was always showing off.
“Good day to you Kora,” said Marimbo, “did you know that I scared off twenty lions this morning with my tusks and my loudest trumpeting?”
“Really?” said Kora, who was not impressed at all,
“And just last week I pushed a big fat hippo out of our watering hole,”
“Really?” said Kora,
“And last month I knocked a whole umbrella tree down all on my own,”
“I see,” said Kora, who continued walking,
“And today,” said Marimbo, “today I will do something so amazing and strong that everyone will be really really impressed,”
“Oh, and what will you do today?” said Kora,
“You will see,” he said, and he turned and ran out onto the dusty road, for he had spied the safari truck coming,
“Look everybody,” he called, “look at me! Look at how I show that us elephants are truly kings of the savannah!”
The whole herd stopped to watch; the older elephants tutting at Marimbo’s foolishness and the baby elephants hiding between their mother’s legs frightened by Marimbo’s loud trumpeting.
Now, in the safari truck, everyone was frightened as they came upon this huge red elephant waving his trunk and trumpeting in the road. The driver stopped the truck, for everyone knows that you mustn’t upset an elephant because they never forget. Everyone in the truck was frightened. Everyone except that is for adventurous Claire from England. She was fascinated by this proud beast and stood up at the front of the truck to see.
“Hello proud elephant!” she called,
Now Marimbo had never heard a human being speak before, he had seen them in their trucks and seen the Masai warriors hunting the wildebeest but never heard their voices. The sight and sound of this girl made him nervous. He looked back at the herd watching him and realised it was too late to back down now.
He stamped his big feet in the red dust of the road and waved his head from side to side, hoping that his tusks would scare the humans away.
“Hurrah!” shouted Claire, for although she was sensible and knew that such a large elephant could indeed be a dangerous thing, she sensed that inside this elephant there was really a kind and gentle animal waiting to show itself.
Marimbo was confused and didn’t know what to do. He looked at Kora. In the end he decided that there was nothing for it but to charge at the truck because Kora wouldn’t be impressed if he just walked away, scared off by this human girl.
So he put his head down and began to run headlong at the truck, trunk waving. His big feet stamped the ground and made the truck shake and everyone inside cowered in fear, for they thought the elephant would knock the truck over with its tusks.
Brave Claire stood firm. She believed that the elephant would do them no harm.
Now it so happens that it was the driest of days on the savannah and Marimbo’s feet stirred up a mighty cloud of red dust and this dust mixed with the dust falling from his skin as he ran. So much dust flew into the air that the people in the truck could hardly see and the swirling dust flew over everything.
The dust went up Claire’s nose and the dust went up Marimbo’s trunk. The dust caused such a tickling feeling that it was inevitable that both would sneeze.
Marimbo shuddered to a halt, his knees bumping the front of the truck. He lifted his trunk up high. Claire could feel her sneeze building and she closed her eyes tight.
“Ahh, ahh, ahh,” they said, “ahh, ahh, ahh, CHOO!”
The two sneezes flew into the dust filled air at exactly the same time. Claire’s dainty human sneeze and the Marimbo’s thunderous elephant sneeze. The two sneezes crossed in the air and, unpleasant as it sounds, Claire’s sneeze hit Marimbo in the face and Marimbo’s hit Claire in the face.
The dust began to clear and the elephant and the girl found themselves staring at each other for a long moment, not knowing quite what to do.
And then Claire began to laugh, with a broad smile on her face for she knew that it was such a wonderful experience to share a sneeze with an elephant that she couldn’t help but think it was funny.
Marimbo didn’t know what to make of it; what was this girl laughing about. He made a little trumping noise to clear his throat and speak, but then thought better of it and turned to walk back to the herd.
“Bye bye wonderful elephant,” said Claire,
Back at the herd all the other elephants were laughing and joking about how Marimbo had traded sneezes with a human girl. Marimbo felt very silly. Even Kora was laughing when Marimbo found her. Marimbo looked sad.
“Don’t worry Marimbo,” said Kora, “you have to admit it was very funny,”
“Everyone thinks I am a fool now,” said Marimbo,
“Yes, but making people laugh is a very special thing. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you, it means you have made them happy,” she said,
“Are you sure?” he said,
“Oh yes,” she said, “I’ve always loved the funny things you do,”
“Really?” he said, waving his trunk, for he was beginning to feel a little tickle in his trunk as it was still full of dust,
“Oh yes,” said Kora, “didn’t you know?”
Marimbo couldn’t reply because he knew he was going to sneeze. He turned his head to be polite and out came the sneeze. But instead of the enormous elephant sneeze, out came a small and very human sneeze. The kind of sneeze a human girl might make. All the elephants began to laugh again and Marimbo, realising it was actually funny for a big elephant to have a girl’s sneeze, began to laugh too, for he had learned that you don’t need to show off to impress people.
Back in the safari truck everyone was talking about the lucky escape they had had and of how the elephant had been stopped by Claire’s sneeze. Claire too felt a second sneeze coming, and yes you’ve guessed it, when she sneezed it was the loudest, most powerful sneeze of an elephant! The whole truck rocked with the sound of it and everyone laughed at how such a big sneeze could come from a girl like Claire.
And to this very day there is still a great big red elephant in Kenya with a small human sneeze which amuses the herd greatly and who is loved by all.
And in England there is an adventurous girl with the most enormous sneeze you will ever hear, and everyone loves her for it, because it makes them smile…
© 2014 Simon Poore