Tim West

Two in the Front, Two in the Back

westt01pic1.jpg Frank opened the bathroom door. The elephant turned its head toward him and glared. It trumpeted its irritation. Frank closed the door and the elephant turned back to its paper, scowling at the sports section. Every morning, the same thing.

Downstairs, Frank opened the cupboard, removed his box of Frosty Flakes, upended it over his blue bowl. The skimmed milk stood to one side in readiness; his favourite spoon lay upon the counter. Nothing emerged from the box. The elephant, once again, had finished his cereal and put the empty box back in the cupboard. Frank hated that.

He stood jangling his keys noisily by the front door about twenty minutes later. The sound grated on his nerves and had no effect on the elephant’s, but every morning that it was more than five minutes late, which was every morning, Frank jangled his keys nonetheless. The elephant was always at least five minutes late because it liked to read the paper thoroughly over its breakfast and succeeding bowel movement, and spent a good quarter of an hour towelling down after its shower. An elephant has a great many hard to reach places. However, despite always being at least five minutes late leaving the house, neither Frank nor the elephant was ever late getting to work. This often led the elephant, during its more contemplative moods, to reflect on the concept of ‘leaving late’. Frank never reflected; by nature always in a hurry, he was not a reflector but a jangler.

The elephant sauntered downstairs at ten to eight, hat on head and holding a slice of toast and marmite, which it munched delicately as it passed Frank at the door and headed out to the car.

Twenty-seven minutes later, pulling up dangerously on a busy corner, the elephant dropped Frank at work. He was an under-writer at one of the city’s largest insurance providers. The elephant didn’t really understand what an under-writer was or what Frank did, and its mind tended to wander at dinner parties or in bars when he tried to explain. It involved lots of numbers and, the elephant suspected, risk analysis. Grim prospect. The elephant was more of a beast for language. It had dreams of someday writing a sitcom – about a man who runs a brothel in Morningside, but suffers the daily interference of his elderly mother and the continued efforts of the dimwit from the Home Office to have his girls deported. In the meantime it whored its own talents at the lacklustre ad agency, Lloyd-Platt and Associates. It waved Frank goodbye and continued to the office.

Cynthia the temp was bending over a pile of papers as the elephant entered. Her round buttocks strained the black polyester of her supermarket trousers. Their white label poked out from the top, at the base of her spine. Wash at 40