Gram can’t seem to fit in with the other students at school
Gram was an elephant, and he was trying to enjoy himself. He crouched down in the sandbox and grabbed a swath of sand with his trunk, slowly letting it fall back to the box, a trickle of calm. He liked to imagine each grain as a worry discarded, a regret forgotten. But elephants never forget.
His mother told him he walked like an elephant. His peers made fun of his trumpeting laugh, and an elephant was always in the room when Gram was around.
So he’d come to accept himself as such, come to expect that he would be louder than others, more clumsy than others, more awkward than others. He figured he might as well have a tail and wrinkly skin too.
Gram hadn’t asked to be an elephant. He hadn’t woken up one morning and said, “I want to be different from everyone else my age. I want to have big, floppy ears and humongous feet.”
But people seemed to think that he chose to be the way that he was, or they pitied him for his condition, never seeing that, even with four legs and gray skin, he had the same desires as they had.
Gram spent rainy afternoons on his bed, his feet in the air, trying to figure everything out. He wanted to understand why his peers treated him so cruelly. Kids called him spastic, stupid, or slow when his tail was to them. He wanted to put their words out of his mind, and so he pictured the sand slipping from his trunk, his picture of calm.
Sometimes, he tried to see things from their point of view. He supposed he was annoying to be around at times. He supposed kids wouldn’t sit with him because he couldn’t sit still, his footsteps were loud, and his squeals of happiness were disruptive. Still, he just wouldn’t be mean to the others the way they were to him. Gram let himself forgive them, but elephants never forget.
It puzzled him how other students at school could so easily put away their things, take such a brief time to pack up, line up, and transition from quiet reading to math. Each of Gram’s transitions were journeys—venturing in and out of the classroom, searching for water, pausing to scratch behind his big ears, and becoming distracted by the slightest of sounds.
As Gram grew older, teachers sometimes saw him staring out the window and assumed he was ignoring them—that he didn’t care about school. They thought of him as only an elephant, and not a student at all. They thought he was so big that he might hurt the other students, and so they’d send him to the front of the class, where they could keep a close eye on him.
This frustrated Gram, for although he was mighty, he had never hurt a single living thing. He’d never even squished the red bugs that ran along the sidewalk corners.
The teachers lost their cool with Gram, spitting angry words when he struggled to write neatly, or when he failed to pay attention in class, caught up in daydreams about traveling the world, going anywhere, anywhere but here.
All the while, in the back of his mind, Gram heard his father’s worried voice speaking to the teacher on conference day, talking about Gram’s future.
So he knew where he’d really end up. The zoo. Where animals belong. He tried to push these thoughts out of his head, tried to stay in the present, in the sandbox, in the sun, but elephants never forget.