Gerald was dusting the pump organ in the front parlor of his restored Victorian when he twisted around to see what all the ruckus was about. Olivia, his Scottish terrier, was in the corner of the room barking madly at an object on the floor. Gerald called out to Olivia to hush, but no amount of reprimanding quieted the usually serene dog. With a sigh, Gerald put down his lemon oil and cloth on a nearby wooden rocker and headed across the room to where Olivia continued to bark.
There on the floor in the corner was a ceramic grey elephant, about five inches long and four inches tall. Gerald frowned. Where had this come from? He didn’t own anything even remotely similar to this art object so he was baffled by its presence in his house, a place very few people visited. He picked it up and examined it more clearly. The animal was painted a light gray and it was clearly an Indian elephant because there was a figure of a brown-skinned Indian man riding atop the elephant next to a round pot that the animal was carrying on its back. Peering into the pot, Gerald could see that it was actually quite deep inside, perhaps a receptacle for cone-shaped incense. That was just a guess. But again how did this object get into his home?
Gerald sat down in a nearby chair and turned the elephant over. Not one marking. The detailing was good and the quality of the workmanship was impressive. This was not a cheap sculpture, though not exquisitely crafted either. A piece of art that was more expensive than some, but far less than many. He ran through the possibilities of how the elephant found its way into his home. Was there any reason his housekeeper might have brought it in? Gerald contemplated that possibility but then rejected it. She traveled by bus to work and lived alone. Why would she bring an Indian elephant to his house and then leave it there?
He ran through the few friends he had: Mort, Jerry and Saul, but they were his poker playing friends and they were not exactly the types of men to carry any sculpture around, much less a decorated elephant. No, it wasn’t them. Their only conversation centered on poker. There wasn’t one personal remark shared. Why would any of them bring an elephant into his house?
And then he remembered the neighbor boy who had come over yesterday and helped him move a chair into that very front parlor. He could easily have set down that elephant and then forgotten it when he was leaving. He texted the boy immediately the message: I have found your elephant. Come pick it up if you’d like. He was even more puzzled when he received a text back from the boy within seconds. It read: What elephant?
By this time, the day was waning and shadows were lengthening. Gerald stood up and placed the elephant on his side table. He would have to turn his attention back to his chores if he had any hope of finishing before evening. He looked one more time at the mystery object, then sighed. Perhaps the neighbor boy was playing a prank on him. He was a good boy, but, he was a teenager, after all, and might think teasing an old man was funny.
Gerald gathered up his rags and lemon oil and headed into the kitchen. It was time for dinner. He cooked macaroni and cheese, then finished off his meal with ice cream. He often ate alone and this day was no exception. He was a solitary man and that suited him fine. His only real friend had been his college roommate, Adesh, from Calcutta, who unfortunately had returned to India shortly after college. They had written a few times, but life had shifted for them both and it had been years since they had been in touch. Gerald sat up straight. Adesh, India, an Indian elephant…was it too crazy to think there might be some connection?
Gerald walked back into the front parlor and turned on the light. The little elephant was not where he had left it on the table. He leaned down and looked on the floor, thinking perhaps that Olivia had knocked it down so she could chew on it. But no, it wasn’t there either. Gerald searched the whole room, the foyer, the dining room, the kitchen and finally his bedroom, but the elephant was nowhere to be found. Then Gerald glanced out the kitchen window and saw Olivia digging furiously in the garden. Ah, silly dog. She probably had stolen it and now was burying it as her treasure. Gerald smiled. No harm. An unimportant object in the first place. That neighbor boy surely was playing a joke.
A few hours passed and the telephone rang. Gerald was just getting ready for bed and was annoyed that anyone would be rude enough to call at such an hour. He picked up the phone and barked, “Who is this? This better be good.”
A woman on the other end of the phone spoke in a clipped British accent, “Is this Gerald Pointer?”
“Yes, yes,” Gerald growled, “Why are you calling?”
The woman said in a quiet voice, “I am calling to inform you that Adesh Gupta has recently died. He requested that I let you know.”
Gerald took in a breath. “Adesh? But how?”
He passed away just a few hours ago of cancer. But he said you remained his closest friend despite time and distance between you.”
Gerald sank down in a nearby chair. “Yes, of course. I feel the same way. My dear Adesh. I am very sad to hear this news.”
The woman gave Gerald information about a service honoring Adesh’s death in Calcutta and he thanked her.
He went back into the front parlor and sat down on the sofa, head buried in his hands. He felt very touched to think his friend had thought of him there at the end. They had shared everything there was to share between ages eighteen and twenty-two – stories of disappointment, excitement, heartbreak and frustration. They were inseparable until the day Adesh left to return to his home country. Ah, now that was a true friendship based on trust and caring.
Gerald sat quietly for a while, then stood to go to bed. On the side table, just where he had laid it, sat the elephant with the little brown Indian man riding comfortably on its back.
Gerald picked up the elephant and brought it close to the light. There on the underbelly written in the faintest of script, To Gerald from Adesh. Best regards to you, my old and dear friend. Gerald rubbed his eyes and looked again. The script was gone. He brought the elephant up to the light, but there simply was nothing to read.
Gerald smiled as he lumbered off to bed. Life was full of mysteries and this was yet another one. Still, he felt happy that he’d had a message – real or imagined – from his dear friend.
He suddenly felt much less lonely. Indeed, almost happy.