She is walking through the green. She might smell the wood of the piano and the polish applied to its surface — she might smell the man sitting down at the piano — but she pauses when he begins to play Bach for her in the middle of an open field in Thailand. And it isn’t like playing music to animals is a new idea. And it’s not like there aren’t other versions of quixotic attempts to bring music to animals. It’s just that this elephant has never heard a piano before and doesn’t know what to make of it. And neither do we. Elephants can discern someone’s age, sex, and ethnic identity based on their voice — can remember individual voices, too — so there must exist an opinion of some kind. The only question is what sort of shape that opinion will take. A study conducted on elephants taking a brush and having a go at painting came to the conclusion that it’s difficult to tell whether or not an elephant actually likes painting, but maybe we can gather up all the op-ed sections of various newspapers and hang them from the trees like chatty laundry, ask them to use the words found there, and then laugh when they charge through that section of the paper like bulls. If Robin Williams can make Koko the Gorilla laugh, then who’s to say we can’t make chit chat with an elephant and their deep sense of time? And what if that’s how we can read how the elephant is taking in the song in this moment? And what if it makes a rumble in its throat in response that resonates through a string of sunsets that ends up being translated by scientists a hundred years down the line as “You’re right — the weather is nice, isn’t it?” Andante.
Born in Long Beach, California and raised in Massachusetts, Evan Fleischer has written about William Faulkner’s maps for LitHub, Alasdair Gray’s sense of Glasgow for The New Yorker, explored a French translation of Groucho Marx’s memoir in The Paris Review, and is currently working as a fiction editor over at Hobart Pulp.
Read more in the archives.