Once upon a time, on a sunny day in late autumn, in a busy but peaceful little town called Martinville, many people gathered in the town square. In the middle of the square was a beautiful water fountain, featuring a white marble statue of a mermaid, sprouting water from a jug she carried. Many different types of shops, such as a watchmaker, a deli and bakery, a coffee shop, a barber shop, a book store, and even a pawn shop, surrounded the square. To the east of the fountain, a street was blocked off so cars could not enter. On that street, there was a farmers’ market, selling all types of produce, flowers, meat, and even homemade bread. At the end of the street, there was an air-blown castle and slides for children to play. As usual, lots of people visited this farmers’ market once a week. Parents brought their children along because they knew it was a safe place to be. They also knew it was safe because, in this tiny little town, where families usually resided for generations, most everyone knew one another. So it was quite normal for families to run into someone they knew and engage in long afternoon chats.
It was a very typical scene on a Sunday afternoon. Suddenly, there was a loud, thundering scream.“AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!” People turned to look. Some children ran toward the direction of the noise. “AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH…” There was another identical holler. The noise was shocking and unrecognizable.
In the middle of panic, there was a slim, older man wearing a hat, standing by a fruit stand, with a skinny-looking greyhound sitting attentively next to him. The man hurriedly handed over several bills to the merchant, grabbed many apples, and placed them in two large cloth bags.
In front of the water fountain, a crowd began to gather. They turned their heads, pointed their fingers, and chatted with one another in disbelief. There was a huge elephant, wearing a red cape on her back and metal chains on her neck, wading in the fountain! The elephant was growing very agitated with this increasing crowd of onlookers surrounding her. As more and more townsfolk gathered, the commotion got louder and louder. Children pointed and shouted excitedly, truly mesmerized by what they were witnessing. Their parents babbled and criticized loudly. And there were even babies crying in that crowd. Finally, the crowd completely surrounded the fountain and the elephant.
Then, sirens came from a short distance. Moments later, the crowd parted to make way for the police. Hustling in through the gap were a total of nine men in uniform, each carrying a rifle. They quickly formed a line between the townsfolk and the beast.
“AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!” The elephant stood up on its two rear legs and swung her long trunk angrily. The chains on her neck were clinking and clanging, which frightened the onlookers even more.
Many people in the crowd gasped and stepped backward. A man squeezed thru the lines of people and began clicking his camera. A sheriff stepped out from the crowd, and speaking through a megaphone, asked people to leave. But, it seemed only to have had just the opposite effect, as more and more people gathered and gawked.
Suddenly, the elephant gave another sharp screech and stood up high in the air, frantically waving its two giant, powerful feet at the crowd. A few people in the front turned and tried and leave. Even a few of the bravest officers fell backward as they tried to steadfast their barricade. But there were simply too many people standing behind, watching in anticipation. No one could go anywhere.
Then, the elephant lunged toward the crowd. Simultaneously, the armed officers aimed their rifles at the beast. “Do not fire until I give the order,” called the sheriff through the megaphone. The crowd was tense as they knew something terrible was imminent. And onlookers continued taking pictures. The beast stood up high on the fountain ledge and shouted, casting a large shadow that nearly swallowed the armed officers.
The officers were terrified, but their training kept them at the ready and seemingly prepared to fire their rifles. Every officer had the elephant’s head zeroed in perfectly through their scopes on their weapons.
“Hold your fire!” ordered the sheriff calmly. Sensing that men were hostile, the bewildered elephant screamed again. The officers were ready to pull their triggers.
“Aim…” the sheriff called. The people in the crowd held their breaths, as they feared what they might see next.
Suddenly, there were growing barks. Out of nowhere, a greyhound bolted in and landed right in front of the elephant. The dog turned and barked furiously at the officers as if demanding them not to shoot. And then there was a brief silence.
“Don’t shoot the elephant! Don’t shoot!” Everyone heard someone shouting. Moments later, the crowd parted again to let an old man through, an old man who was waving two large bags high in the air. “Don’t shoot the elephant!” He motioned the officers not to shoot as he walked gently toward the elephant.
“Hold your fire!” the sheriff ordered. There was a sigh of relief from some of the officers and from the crowd. The old man walked closer to the elephant with his back toward the crowd, waving his arms up and down, asking the crowd to quiet down, in a concerted effort to minimize the elephant’s anxiety and fears.
The old man then walked up to the elephant very delicately, stopped nearly 15 feet away from the elephant. Slowly and carefully, he took out an apple from his bag, and showed it to the beast. “It’s alright,” the old man whispered gently to the elephant, “I will not let them harm you.” Tensely, their eyes engaged one another. There was complete silence, not even a single sound came from the crowd as everyone watched nervously. Even the man with the camera froze as he watched intensely.
“I won’t let them hurt you,” the man repeated in his low, gentle voice. “Here.” He took the apple he was holding from his bag, leaned over, and rolled the bright red apple toward the beast. The beast retreated two short steps back into the fountain. She stared at the apple as her head circled in confusion.
Then the old man took out another apple and held it high to show it to the elephant. Then he brought it to his mouth and took a big, juicy bite of the fruit. He then raised the apple with juice dripping from his mouth and his hand, “See? It’s soooooo delicious,” he said joyfully and invitingly, while keeping a close eye on the elephant. He softly rolled the chewed apple toward the elephant and then took a few steps backward. Hesitantly and carefully, the elephant slowly swung her trunk and extended her long, rubbery trunk to reach the partially chewed apple. She gazed at the man for several long seconds, making sure he was not too close. She took two tiny steps toward the apple and stretched her trunk. With the tip of her trunk just barely touching the fruit, she sniffed, and sniffed some more. She looked down at the man again, who nodded gently with a smile. Then her trunk lightly brushed the bitten apple. She checked the man again. And then in one quick motion, her trunk swooped up the apple and threw it into her wide-open mouth.
There were a few quiet cheers in the crowd. However, most of spectators remained cautiously inaudible, especially the officers. They all knew that the beast may turn on them and the old man at any moment. They still had their rifles aimed at the elephant. In addition, the cameras and flash bulbs were clicking again.
The old man took another red apple and gave it a huge bite, and rolled it toward the elephant again. The elephant turned to her side, looked at the apple in front of the fountain, took a couple more steps forward, looked at the man, and then swooped up the apple and threw it down her throat. Her mouth rolled round and round, appearing to enjoy the succulent fruit. The old man smiled and winked, “Wasn’t that delicious?”
He then rolled another apple toward her. This time it landed a bit farther than the last one. Without any hesitation, the elephant walked right out of the fountain, toward the apple. She quickly grabbed the apple from the ground, and ate it in one sweeping motion. Then the man laughed heartedly, as he began to walk away and toss another apple a few feet in front of the elephant. The elephant gave a gentle call, as if she was pleased, and proceeded to grab the fruit.
As the old man started to turn and walk away from the fountain, the officers and the crowd slowly parted to make room for him and the elephant. The man left another apple on the ground as he walked into the pathway. And the elephant followed.