Issue #55

Summer 2015

Pete and the Elephant

by Nikolaj Volgushev

They had moved the elephant into Pete's apartment, as it would turn out later, by accident. Someone had fat fingered the online form, the algorithm hadn't worked correctly, whatever, the cause was never established definitively; the effect however was the elephant, in Pete's apartment. The elephant came in a box, carted in by three men wearing gray uniforms and gray hats. They'd pried open the crate and there was the elephant. The elephant was shy and quite small for an elephant (later, out of boredom, Pete would measure the elephant's approximate dimensions to be 4 by 15 by 7 feet). Pete's first reaction to the elephant was oh no, not again.

A week after they'd moved in the elephant (who, in the meantime, had settled in quite well in Pete's living room) Pete completed his astronaut training. He was to go to the moon, to study a crater named after the German mathematician Gauss (it was the Gaussian crater). However, with the elephant in place, this turned out to be a problem. Who will take care of the darn elephant while I'm in space? Pete asked the three elephant delivery men, who, after delivering the elephant, never got around to leaving the apartment. They took off their gray caps and scratched the balding heads and didn't know what to tell Pete. We certainly are not qualified, they said and Pete agreed. They most certainly were not.

In the end it was decided that the elephant was to go with Pete on his moon expedition. The elephant of course was not exempt from the required astronaut training. Pete's anxiety regarding this matter turned out to be unwarranted -- the elephant did just fine. They promised Pete that they would retroactively reimburse him for the costly elephant space suit but they never did, by accident. Someone had fat fingered the online form, the algorithm hadn't worked correctly, etc.

Pete felt quite sentimental leaving behind the elephant delivery men. They had written him a card and had told him what a great American they thought he was. He reminded them to feed the fish, at least once a day, and clean out the water filter while he was away.

It was a nerve-wracking journey to the moon, Pete admitted that to himself while he was being violently pressed into his space seat at take off. He prayed to God the online form had been filled out correctly, and for the algorithm to work. It did, and apart from the elephant turning white from fear and cursing in Russian, everything went rather smoothly. When they had finally reached the crater (it was quite a hike to get there from the landing site), Pete and the elephant stood by the edge for a very long time, looking out at the silver, desolate landscape, broken and whole at the same time, and the black, enormous void shattered by a million wintry stars. Even though his father had taught him not to, Pete couldn't help but cry at the sight of the distant, blue earth and the immense feeling of solitude it gave him. The elephant hesitated, then put his trunk around Pete's shoulder; over the past few weeks he had really learned to care for this sad yet funny, helpless man.

Author Bio


Nikolaj Volgushev was born in Goettingen, Germany in 1991. Volgushev works in the medium of short fiction with a focus on the magic realist and absurdist genres. He obtained his B.S. in Computer Science at the University of Connecticut in 2013 and currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He is pursuing his Ph.D. in Cybersecurity at Boston University. Volgushev draws influence from writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami, and Donald Barthelme as well as the strange realms of software development and formal logics.