(Started: 3pm; Ended: 3:15pm; Writing Time: 15 minutes)
It was after the ceremony; I was letting my sweat fall into tiny vials, one drop each, and then capping them. Baralo was manning the table, selling off the vials as quickly as I corked them and handed them over, but that didn’t keep the parishioners from talking to me across the table.
One man — I’d noticed him before the ceremony as well; he wore a blue shirt the color of the sky through clouds and had eyes that matched — bought a vial and then said, “If you sign your name on my hand, I’ll get it tattooed.”
I was used to such offers. You can’t be an elephant dancer and not get outlandish proposals. This one, the tattoo one, was mild. Last year, one man wanted me to lengthen his throat like a trunk; he even brought his own wooden rings, things that closed together with a lock and key. Another asked me to stuff broken peanut shells inside the hole of his cock. A woman with jaguar eyes wanted me to carve her teeth into tusks with nothing more than my own nails.
A tattoo of my signature was nothing. Normally, I would have said no. I always said no. Elephant dancers are social by nature, but we must remain solitary. Connected only with the elephant bones that carry our dual souls, ours and our elephants. There is no room for anyone else. But this boy was a beautiful thing, so young, so yearning. He had sweat of his own, small droplets just at the edges of his hair, pooling there. But most of all, he bore no other tattoos. Nothing had marred his skin.
I let another drop of sweat fall into a fresh vial, the small sound as the liquid hit the bottom of the glass. Baralo didn’t say anything, but I could feel him watching me from the corner of his eye when I handed him the vial.
I could not speak so I picked up the marker that Baralo was using to keep tabs on the money. I curled the marker tight inside the very end of my trunk, and beckoned him forward. The man put his hand on the table, thumb and forefinger up. I could not sign my name — it is not the way of us to have names of our own, only that which we share with the bones — so I drew the thing I knew best.
I drew her head first, the wide expanse of it across the top of his arched fist, the triangular ear in the meaty flesh of his hand, her eye just below his knuckle. And down the extension of his first finger, I drew our trunk, ridged and wrinkled.
He stood still through it all, and when I was done, and my trunk drawn back, and I turned to my vials again, he bowed slightly in thanks and then he went away.
I didn’t watch him go. I’d given him the part of me that was available to give. Whether he would know that, I could not guess. But I — we — would always remember that part of us, walking away.
Read the whole list of Quick Fiction: A to Z stories (as well as the premise) here!