The Elephant Gun

It’s the Whoville outback. It’s not very big. It’s got some grass, and some animals, and a set of telephone poles. A pair of sneakers hang from the telephone wires.

John is out shooting elephants in the Whoville outback. It isn’t working very well. For one thing, he hasn’t found any elephants. For another, he’s out of ammunition.

“Cindy!” he yells.

Cindy comes running out of the house. She looks up at him. One lock of hair hangs in a perfect curl right in front of her forehead.

“I need more solid shot,” he says.

“Have you killed an ollyphant?” she asks.

“No,” he says. “Just a barn.”

Her face falls.

“It was working with the elephants,” he confides.

Cindy brightens. “I’ll get you more ammo!” she says. She runs inside. She comes back with a box of solid shot. She hands it to him proudly.

“Thank you,” he says. He ruffles her hair.

“I remember the trenches of God,” she says.

He looks a bit sad.

“They were pretty,” she says.

“Shh,” he says. He ruffles her hair some more. No matter how hard he tries, the curl always falls back to the exact center of her forehead. “We don’t need the trenches. We don’t need all that fancy theological stuff. People are people wherever they are.”

He whirls. His elephant sense tingles. He fires.

“Yay!” says Cindy. “You got Mommy’s sneakers back!”

“Ah,” he says. “Yes.”

“They fell to the ground,” she says. “Even though our world is very small. Why did they do that?”

“Whoville is spinning very fast,” he says. It’s an official handwave passed down to him by Whoville scientists. “It generates artificial gravity.”

Cindy reflects.

“I remember the trenches of God,” she says again.

“Shh,” he says. “We’re still just as good. Even if we aren’t right there next to the trenches, they’re still in our hearts. People are people, wherever they are.”

He whirls. He shoots, anticipating an elephant sense tingle. There is no tingle. There is no elephant. The noise does startle a duck, which quacks indignantly and takes off. He considers shooting the duck, but he is hunting elephants, and there are few things John abhors more than mission creep.

“Why can ducks fly?” Cindy asks.

“Whoville isn’t spinning hard enough to ground a duck,” he says.

“The trenches were pretty,” she says. She reflects. She holds her hands wide apart. “They were this big. And it was like they cradled our world.”

“They did,” John says. “They gave us our place. They held us close and made us wise. But we don’t need the trenches, Cindy. People are people, wherever they are.”

“We could make our own,” she says. “We could dig them, in the dirt!”

John laughs. “We already have them,” he says.

“We do?”

“The world’s full of trenches,” he says.

He points down. “Between the stalks of grass. Between the hill and the dale.”

He points up. “Between the clouds, there are the trenches of the sky.”

John grins at her. “Why, Cindy, there are even trenches in my gun.”

“There are?”

“Yes,” he says. “They’re all along the sides. They’re called rifling or grooves. They make the bullet spin so that it can fly straight.”

Cindy laughs.

“What’s so funny?” John says.

“Trenches everywhere,” she says. “It’s like God isn’t special!”

“Well,” John says, “I figure that people are made in the image of God. And guns are made in the image of the Godship.”

Cindy looks very serious, all of the sudden. “So the bullets are like Whoville?”

“Yes,” John says. “There could even be little people just like us living on each bullet I fire.”

“A little Cindy,” she says, “and a little John!”

“Yes,” he agrees. “That’s why it’s very important that I find an elephant. It’d be horrible if little Cindy and little John lived their lives in vain.”

“But it’d be okay,” she says. “Right? I mean, people are people, wherever they are.”

“Yes,” he says.

“What if Whoville doesn’t make it to the promised land?” she asks.

His elephant sense tingles. He turns. He fires. There’s an appalled trumpeting and a horrible thump.

“I don’t know,” he says. “I like to think He’d forgive.”

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