The Unlikely Guest

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    I am taking a breather from the Great Perhaps story b/c it has decided to go down a path that is too unpleasant at the moment. I am hoping the characters get it out of their systems. So here is a piece of another story, which I didn’t finish in time to enter into the contest. 😛 It’s not a prepper story, just silliness.
    The Unlikely Guest

    “Rotten kids,” John Bell thought sourly, looking out his front door. There was a beautiful, fresh blanket of deep snow covering the yard that was now marred by clear footprints outside that led to his door. The little brats had obviously walked to the front door, spoiling its pristine perfection, and heaven only knew what vile thing they probably left for him. John was still smarting over the rotten cabbage incident last summer. He put his glasses on, hooked his shaggy brown hair behind his ears, and opened the door. Despite his grumpy view of the world, crotchety ways, and his shapeless button-down cardigan, John was quite a young man, just 41 years old.

    He stood on the porch in his socks and sweats, staring at the footprints. They appeared to be heading away from the house, but John wasn’t immediately sure because he had never seen footprints like those before. The wind had swept the porch and steps clear, so John stepped down the stairs. The prints were almost round, like thick fence posts had been pressed into the snow, or maybe salad plates. John scowled. Doubtless this was a joke, the kind that unemployed children play on a weird, slightly scary neighbor, he thought. The puzzle was that the prints clearly went only in one direction, tracking away from the house. They were recent since the deep prints were fresh and not windblown. This made no sense until John had the uncomfortable idea that maybe someone spent the night on his porch.

    John stood for a few minutes, the snow soaking his socks. Finally, aware that his feet were freezing, he shrugged and started back to the house. He was going to ignore this prank, he decided, although he might get his camera out and take a few pictures just in case evidence was needed. An unearthly, horrible noise reached him just as he opened the door. It sounded sort of like the vacuum cleaner when it tried to suck up the cellophane wrapper from his frozen dinner. Whirling around, John saw something he never in a thousand years imagined or expected.

    An elephant. It was a very small elephant, maybe a baby elephant, but it was definitely an elephant and it was clearly in distress. John blinked incredulously at it, but the elephant failed to disappear. It struggled its way toward him, trunk furled, tail clamped tightly to its body. John flapped his hands at it and shouted, “Hey! You get away, you! Shoo! I don’t see you. I live alone; no visitors! Git! ” But the elephant kept coming, slipping a bit in the snow, and even from a distance John thought he saw it shivering. The elephant awkwardly stumped up the steps to the porch, ignoring John’s shouts, and pushed past him to squeeze in the front door. John realized after a minute that he was standing with his mouth hanging open and that his feet were rapidly turning into blocks of ice.

    “For crying out loud,” he muttered in disgust. “Pregnant cats show up on your porch, maybe lost dogs, or the occasional rabid raccoon. Elephants do not show up on your porch! There must be rules about this,” John complained aloud. “Maybe I’ve lost my mind at last. I’m imagining this.”

    But when John entered the house, the elephant was still there. John eyed the shivering beast with misgiving, but the elephant simply turned to look at him over its shoulder, its wrinkly gray face wearing a distinctly anxious expression. “Hello,” John said helplessly. “You can stay here to warm up and then leave, I guess. I can’t believe I’m talking to an elephant! I can’t believe there’s an elephant in my house. I am going to get dressed. Don’t touch anything! When I come back you, sir, will have disappeared.” He pointed sternly at the elephant before turning to stomp up to his room.

    But when John came back downstairs, the elephant was still there, in the kitchen of all places, delicately picking all the dishes out of his cupboards with its trunk and leaving them in a teetering pile on the counter. John just shook his head at himself and his apparent break from reality. “I thought I told you not to touch anything, mister,” he growled. “Now I’ll just have to wash them again.” John felt a bubble of laughter rising in his throat because suddenly he saw how ridiculous the situation was. His agitation melted away into geniality. “I am not prepared for guests, you know. I haven’t even put out towels.”

    John considered his next move. A proper host would offer refreshment, but he had no idea what elephants ate. He thought maybe they ate bamboo, or maybe that was kangaroos? “Straw?” he asked. “Spider plant? Scrambled eggs?” He pondered his inventory of bachelor food. Except for an ancient bag of dehydrated banana chips that had solidified into a single mass, he did not have much in the way of vegetation. “I’ll be right back,” he excused himself.

    The breezeway connecting the house to the garage had a lot of potentially useful treasures: old boots, solo mittens, his mother’s funeral urn, and a truly epic rubber band ball. Included in the detritus were two pumpkins leftover from Halloween. John bought them in a fit of optimism. The optimism was divided between hoping the very pretty girl who sold him the pumpkins would fall uncontrollably in love with him, or hoping that he might get the holiday spirit and carve Jack-o-Lanterns, putting them out for trick-or-treaters that never came. Neither event occurred, but John did have a big bowl of candy to himself.

    Elephants liked pumpkins, didn’t they? He had seen something about that on one of the animal shows once, and remembered it had been a messy, comical business. “Oh well,” he murmured to himself. “The elephant can make as much of a mess out here as he likes.”

    John opened his mouth to call the elephant, wishing he knew its name, and turned toward the connecting door. The elephant was barely six inches away from him, eyes bright with greed. John let out a startled yelp and dropped one of the pumpkins. It split in half and the elephant pounced on it at once. John wouldn’t have thought of elephants as able to pounce until he saw that agile, predatory move.

    Setting the other pumpkin on the floor, he edged around the happily chewing elephant. “Good, good. I’m going to get some lunch for myself. Oh! Water!” There was a utility sink in the carport which would do. It was so cold out there John was amazed the pipes hadn’t frozen. As he filled the sink, he gave some thought to the inevitable consequences of dining and drinking. Cleaning up smashed pumpkin bits was one thing, but large gifts of the other sort were another story.

    “Hey, you. Elephant guest!” he said loudly as he stepped back into the breezeway. “There is a sink full of water in the carport, and since the carport is open on both ends, I trust you will do your business outside!” John glared at the elephant who completely ignored him.

    “Just remember. He who smelt it dealt it, and has to clean it up,” he added loftily. Realizing that sentence didn’t quite make sense, he added lamely, “You know what I mean.”

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