Jakaranda, The Great Elephant Dancer Part 4
He awoke the following afternoon lying in a pool of diarrhoea. He had shat himself in his sleep – repeatedly, by the looks of things. The stench was dreadful. Jakaranda struggled to his feet, groaning at the dull stomach ache left over from the violent cramps of the previous day. Desperately thirsty, he seized the nearest piece of fruit from the pile and crammed it into his mouth. Chewing and swallowing gratefully, he reached for more – but then his insides rebelled. He cried out in pain, sinking to his knees as his arsehole gave way yet again. As shit dribbled down Jakaranda’s legs, he began to cry.
“Oh, woe!” he sobbed. “Why me? What have I done to deserve this? I am just a humble elephant. All I want is to bring joy to the world with my dancing! I’m a good person, I really am! Oh, woe! Woe!”
He continued like this for some time, until finally he realised the cramps had stopped. Jakaranda eyed the rest of the fruit hungrily, but he didn’t dare risk it. He was still too fragile for food. But it was almost midsummer, and hot in the shade. He needed water; without it he might not survive.
Jakaranda stood up. He took a few steps forward, and made a weak attempt to bury his shit by kicking it over with dust and fallen twigs. It made little difference, he soon realised; the entire area was contaminated. He gave up the attempt and sat down again a short distance from the worst of it. Then, gathering his strength, he raised his nose to the sky and trumpeted an alarm call.
First to come was Bilimbi, followed closely by Sapturpani. Each elephant had a distinct call; his two closest friends had recognised Jakaranda’s cry for help and come running immediately. He could have wept with happiness at the sight of them, if only his insides were not so miserable. Sapturpani put on a burst of speed, overtaking Bilimbi to reach Jakaranda first. She stopped suddenly, gasping in shock at the state of him. She stared unspeaking, horrified, as Bilimbi walked forward to join her.
“Bloody hell!” said Bilimbi. “He’s covered in shit!”
“Sshh!” Sapturpani glared at him. “You don’t have to say it!”
“But what a stink!”
Sapturpani moved forward a little to address Jakaranda. “What happened, my darling?”
“He shat himself,” said Bilimbi. “That’s what.”
“Water,” croaked Jakaranda.
“What’s that, my love?”
“I need water.”
“Water? But it’s midsummer!” Sapturpani waved her long nose towards the big heap of fruit. “Why not have an apple?” The fruit too, had been splattered with shit in places, but she pretended not to notice.
“I can’t eat,” said Jakaranda. “I tried. It just makes me poo again.”
Bilimbi shook his head sadly. “How did this happen? Did you eat a bad mango?”
“No,” managed Jakaranda. “All I’ve had is some green figs. I—”
“Ooh,” winced Bilimbi. “Figs? At this time of year? That’s bad. Still, all this?” He indicated the sheer volume of shit that had emerged from Jakaranda’s bottom overnight. “Bit excessive. How many d’you eat?”
“Please… I must have water!”
“But there is no water,” said Sapturpani. “It hasn’t rained in months!”
“We have to do something!” cried Bilimbi. “Look how dehydrated he is!”
Sapturpani thought for a moment. “There’s no water. But what about a coconut?”
“Good idea. And I know just where to find some! You stay here and look after him – I’ll be as quick as I can.” And Bilimbi dashed off.
“It was the monkey,” mumbled Jakaranda. “He put a curse on me.”
“Ssh.” Sapturpani came closer, enduring the stench. “You’re dehydrated. Your brain isn’t working. Try not to speak, my love. Just rest.”
“Thank you,” said Jakaranda. “For… for…”
“Ssh,” soothed Sapturpani. “It’s alright, my darling. You can thank me later.” She giggled. “When you’re all big and strong again. Then you can thank me properly.”
“Mmm.” Jakaranda managed a lascivious grin. “You’re bad.”
“Yes, my love. So shush now; save your strength.”
Bilimbi soon came back with a large bunch of coconuts; Sapturpani cracked them open and poured their sweet milk into Jakaranda’s mouth while Bilimbi went to fetch more. When Jakaranda felt a little better he allowed Sapturpani to lead him away from the stinking mess he’d made in the shade of the cherry tree. They found a large jujube nearby, and Jakaranda settled down to rest beneath its branches while Sapturpani went back to fetch the fruit. Then she took a bunch of coconut fibre and used it to scrub the worst of the shit off Jakaranda’s body. But the stench was persistent; it had soaked right through his fur and deep into the skin.
“Good idea,” said Bilimbi, returning with more coconuts. “Shame about the smell, though.”
“Never mind the smell!” snapped Sapturpani. “He’s lucky to be alive.”
“Yeah. But why eat green figs when he’s got so much ripe fruit to eat instead? I mean – we’ve all made mistakes; that’s foraging for you. But why take that risk?”
“I was deep in the forest,” said Jakaranda. “I got hungry. I should have brought food with me, but I didn’t think of it. And there was nothing else to eat.”
“Never eat green figs,” said Bilimbi. “Didn’t your mother tell you?”
“I bet she did. I bet you just weren’t listening!”
“Never mind,” said Sapturpani. “But what were you doing in the forest anyway? Does this have something to do with the mice?”
“Mice!” cried Bilimbi. “Of course! They live in the forest, right?”
“I believe so,” said Jakaranda. “But this has nothing to do with mice.” He reached out to pick up a coconut, but instead Sapturpani grabbed one for him, and piercing its shell with a fang she passed it over for Jakaranda to sip from. “I’m working on a new dance,” he said. “Something special and groundbreaking. I will dance in the forest at the next full moon.”
“Why?” asked Bilimbi.
“Because…” Jakaranda hesitated. “What do you mean?”
“He’s an artist!” cried Sapturpani. “It’s what he does. He reinterprets the world for us. The artist holds up a mirror to society so we can see ourselves more clearly; he brings hidden truths into the light. He lives in the borderlands between reality and fantasy; he takes old traditions and transforms them into something new! It is a process one might call magical, if one were stupid enough to believe in such nonsense. Of course there is no such thing as magic – yet still there are mysteries. Just think – not only have we yet to explain the creative process; as yet there is no coherent account of how words could even have meaning!” She chuckled. “In fact, many scholars have concluded that they don’t.”
Bilimbi stared at her, speechless.
“That’s basically right,” said Jakaranda. He coughed, then sipped more coconut milk.
“But I didn’t understand a word!”
“For goodness sake!” cried Sapturpani. “Jakaranda is the greatest dancer the world has ever seen! And you ask him why he dances? What’s wrong with you?”
“But I just meant—”
“Never mind what you meant!” Sapturpani retorted. “It’s all nonsense, anyway. Don’t you listen?”
“Bloody hell,” said Bilimbi. “I’m sorry, okay?” He turned to Jakaranda. “The next full moon is the day after tomorrow. You are not well, my friend. Perhaps you should postpone this special dance of yours?”
“I cannot,” said Jakaranda, “for I am a professional. I have never cancelled a dance, and I never will. The show must go on!” He coughed again, and took another drink from the coconut.
Sapturpani looked concerned. “Bilimbi may be right,” she said. “You’ve had a bad tummy upset. You need to rest, my darling.”
“I am recovering,” replied Jakaranda. “Thanks to the coconut milk, I feel better already.” He pointed with his nose. “Pass me that mango, will you?”
He ate it slowly, but without major incident; there was some slight flatulence, but Jakaranda was reluctant to blame the mango; most likely it was the last of the figs exiting his system. By the time it got dark he had managed to eat a couple of apples, too. His stomach was definitely settling down, though he still felt weak. Bilimbi went to fetch a third bunch of coconuts, then made his excuses and left for the night. Jakaranda was in no condition to mate, but Sapturpani stayed anyway, watching over him as he slept.
When he awoke the next morning, Jakaranda was ravenous, and began to stuff himself with fruit and leafy branches. The sound of his chewing awoke Sapturpani, who looked over at him and smiled. “Good morning! Are you feeling better?”
“Much,” grinned Jakaranda, chomping on a watermelon. “You wouldn’t believe how hungry I am!”
“I can see. But don’t overdo it, my love. Better to eat little and often. You’re still poorly. I can tell from your complexion.”
“Hmm,” said Jakaranda. “Perhaps you’re right.” He put down the watermelon. “I’ll eat more later. But first I must practise my dance.”
“I really think you should rest.”
“But how can I? The night of the full moon is tomorrow! I must dance!”
“Ooh. Oh dear.”
“What’s wrong, my love? Is it your tummy again?”
“Yes.” Jakaranda farted loudly; a little moisture emerged, but nothing much.
“I told you, didn’t I? Take it easy. You’re still recovering.”
“Let tomorrow take care of itself. Today, you need rest.”
Jakaranda farted again, and this time a thin brown trickle ran down his leg. “Oh, no!” he moaned. “Not again! Is there no end to my suffering?”
“There, there,” cooed Sapturpani. “Come, my darling. I’ll take care of you. Just lie down over here with me, and everything will be fine.”
“No,” whined Jakaranda. “I must dance at the full moon.” But he shuffled over to Sapturpani and lay down beside her. “I promised!”
“Tomorrow,” she whispered, stroking his ears. “Tomorrow.”
The next morning, Jakaranda woke early. He was hungry again, but not famished; he had taken Sapturpani’s advice and spent the previous day resting, eating little and often. Bilimbi had brought yet more coconuts, and as a result Jakaranda was now fully hydrated. He felt much better, and was sure his brain was now working correctly. He left Sapturpani sleeping and padded over to the fruit pile, where he cautiously ate a few plums and a mouthful of jujube leaves picked from the tree. He waited a few minutes, but there was no sign of tummy trouble. He ate several hands of bananas and an orange. He walked around a bit; he wiggled his belly so its contents sloshed around inside him. And still he experienced no flatulence.
Jakaranda was cured! He did a little dance of celebration, then set to work on a large bunch of grapes. He was guzzling them down happily when he heard a noise behind him. Someone had coughed. He turned to look.
It was Bilimbi. And behind him was what looked like the entire herd – almost twenty full-grown elephants, plus a dozen juveniles!
Jakaranda put down the grapes. “Hello, Bilimbi. What’s up?”
Bilimbi shuffled his feet. “Everyone’s been worried. No-one’s seen you in days! They were getting together a search party. So I told them about the figs.”
“No-one said anything bad! They were just concerned. We all were.”
“Hmph,” said Jakaranda. “Well, I’m fine now, as you can see. And—”
One of the juveniles ran forward to interrupt: “Are you gonna dance tonight?”
“Mudilla! Don’t be so rude! Come back here right now. And be quiet!” The crowd parted to reveal Mudilla’s mother, a young female named Portia. “I’m so sorry!”
Jakaranda laughed. “No, no!” He waved his nose benevolently. “It’s quite alright.” He stepped closer to the youngster. “Mudilla, is it?”
“And is that your mother over there? Portia?” Jakaranda looked over and winked. He knew Portia well enough. He was merely humouring the child.
“Good looking cow, that one. And you’ll be a fine young bull one day. Won’t you now?”
The other elephants laughed – Portia especially. Mudilla looked confused.
“What’s happening?” asked Sapturpani, who had been woken by the noise.
“Ah!” said Jakaranda. “Well, young Mudilla here has come to find out if I’m going to dance tonight. Isn’t that right?”
“Yeah,” said Mudilla. “And my mummy wants to know, too. She wants to see your new dance.”
“We all do,” said Portia. “Don’t we?”
Some of the other elephants murmured their agreement; others shouted it: “Yes! Of course! In the forest! At the full moon!”
Sapturpani came forward to stand next to Jakaranda. “He’s been ill,” she said. “You all know that.”
“I got better,” snapped Jakaranda. Then, turning back to his audience he spoke with a theatrical rumble: “So, Bilimbi; you have told them everything.”
“They were worried about you! They kept asking questions!”
“And you answered them?!”
“I… I… What?”
“Never mind,” said Jakaranda. “It was meant to be a surprise, that’s all.”
“Oh,” said Bilimbi. “Sorry.”
“Mummy?” whispered Mudilla. “Why does Jakaranda smell of poo?”
“Tonight,” announced Jakaranda, “in a secret glade hidden deep in the forest, I will perform a special dance to mark the summer solstice. The festivities will commence at moonrise.”
“Hooray!” shouted the elephants. “Jakaranda, the Great Elephant Dancer! Performing tonight! Jakaranda! Hooray!”
But Sapturpani was still worried. “Darling?” She spoke quietly. “We talked about this.”
“Yes,” replied Jakaranda. “You said I needed to rest, and you were right. Well, now I’ve rested, and I feel much better; my strength has returned. Tonight, I shall dance.” He lowered his voice further. “And later on, my dear, I shall thank you most vigorously.”
“Ooh,” giggled Sapturpani. “That would be nice! I mean – if you’re sure you’re up to it…”
Jakaranda winked. “Oh, I will be. Just wait and see.” Raising his voice, he turned back to the herd. “I will dance at moonrise. Be sure to arrive at the glade in plenty of time. Now, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to finish my breakfast. I’ll see you all later.”
“But how will we find the secret glade?” asked Mudilla.
Jakaranda laughed. “Don’t worry, little bull! I will take Bilimbi and Sapturpani with me, to assist in my preparations. Together we will mark the way.” As he spoke, he glanced at each of his friends in turn. Both nodded their agreement.
“Come on, Mudilla,” said Portia, ushering him with her nose. “Let’s leave the Great Dancer in peace.”
She winked at Jakaranda, then turned and began to walk away; the rest of the herd soon followed.