What is This?

About six months ago, the tunnel courier delivered to me a series of "comedies" written by Ephraim P. Noble from 1968-1974. Maybe there is an older meaning to the word "comedies" that I'm not familiar with, because they seem nothing like comedies to me. In any case, I have scanned the covers of each of these very short stories, and hope to post them here on a regular basis.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Tusked Rampage

The Tusked Rampage

In 1973, the Revolution lost its nerve. We all suffered breakdowns. The Penn State campus sagged beneath the weight of bad ideas. The radicals of RADIANT UNION most of all. By April they had effectively commandeered my apartment. I slept in the boiler room, the hisses and whistles of steam filling my head with sloppy ideas, attended to by the occasional last hippy-girl in fading war paint that would soon disappear completely in the new age seriousness of the Seventies.

The desperation peaked on a hot Friday night in May, when I was cajoled by a woman named Lisa with thin, bare legs to help her and the other hippies break into the zoo to free the animals from their cages, from their slavery, from their oppressors. The fences were easy to climb, the night watchman quickly subdued. The keys were literally old-fashioned, like you might imagine from a Lon Chaney movie, on a large ring, and we started with the birds, who seemed to take with them in flight all our good thoughts.

Then we freed the other animals, closer and closer to human form it seemed to me, as if we secretly wanted to release ourselves. Lisa stole the keys for long enough to snap off the one to the elephant pen. In the moonlit night, their trunks swayed like willow branches. Their eyes were wet and half-shut. They seemed dead to everything but themselves. Maybe that was the secret.

Then everything changed, I don’t know why. In an instant, the half-dozen or so elephants began storming in circles, kicking up clouds of dust, extending their trunks in screams, and one of them thundered out of the pen, and out of the zoo, making its way at 2:00am up Atherton Street, towards the Pattee Library on the central campus.

In the following weeks a rumor spread that the mad elephant had trampled an abandoned infant left on the steps of a church. We looked for red splotches everywhere. We saw them everywhere. For the entire rest of the month of May there was fierce lightning every night. The creek that divided east campus from west stopped flowing and dried up. Three prominent professors leapt to their deaths from the dorm rooms of students.

And Lisa? She leapt, too, out of my memory and then back into it, back and forth. By 1974, I was respectable again. The great amnesia of that era had erased me, too, and my transgressions. Like a child at the altar, I was reborn.