17 March 2009

The Promise of Eli

Perhaps one of the most interesting animals in the entire zoo is Eli. He is not interesting because he is a rare exotic creature, which he is not. He is in fact a common donkey. No, he is interesting in the way he came to the zoo. Most animals at the zoo are either born here or are brought in by crate. Eli is the only animal to have arrived by falling out of the sky. No one is quite sure why he was in the sky or how he fell, just that he did. The old goose seems content to think that a stork was delivering Eli to his parents but got so tired of listening to him talk that he let go early and dropped the donkey in the zebra area at the zoo. While the zebras were at first quite impressed with Eli’s ability to talk they quickly found out that he really never stopped. Sometimes what he had to say was actually useful but more often it was rubbish about other animals, things that Eli really didn't know and often just made up.

Eli’s favorite animal to talk about was the old goose, the one who led the little goslings. He would spend hours without end teasing the old goose with such stories that the goose would chase him around and around until he got too tired to chase any more. It got so bad that the other animals would shoo Eli away if the old goose was around just so they wouldn't get caught in the middle of the chase.

One day Eli was being chased by the old goose for telling a story how the old goose had never set foot outside the zoo and made up all the things he told the goslings about the outside world. The two were running through Colletto’s pin when Eli noticed the goose wasn't chasing him anymore. He hardly had time to think about it when suddenly he found himself stopped. William had been watching him run and pounced on him as he ran past his hiding spot.

“Don’t eat me, don't eat me” Eli cried. “Donkeys are no good to eat.”

William looked at him curiously, “have you ever eaten a donkey?”

“Well no, but…”

“Then keep talking and I will tell you what they taste like.” Eli could tell that William was not at all happy. He could finally see why the goose had stopped chasing him. Colletto had stopped the goose as they ran through his pin. Colletto talked a little bit with the old goose before letting him go then he walked over the William who was still holding Eli to the ground.

“What is this nonsense you were spreading about the old goose?” Colletto asked.

Eli shifted on the ground casually trying to break free. He didn't want to tell William what he had been saying about the goose. You see, the story he had been telling the other animals was about how the old goose had drained the penguin pool last night and flooded the beach the night before. Neither story was true of course, but Eli wanted so bad to tell people something that he made the stories up.

“I've had enough,” said William. He and Colletto took Eli and headed to the open plains outside the zoo. Eli had never been to the open plains before, very few animals had. It was beyond the Baob Plains on the other side of the zoo wall. Eli was nervous and daren't ask where they were going. He tried to make small talk but William and Colletto would shush him every time he started to speak. Finally they stopped walking.
Eli was about to ask where they were but he quite forgot to. Instead of talking he just starred in front of himself. Two horns rose out of the grass. The horns were very, very far apart, and Eli began to think it must be attached to a huge animal. He was right. The wide horns sat squarely on a large head which was attached to a body that Eli had thought was a rock. Once the animal had risen Eli was shaking with fear. It was a bull, but with horn longer than any Eli had ever seen.

“William,” the bull said. He spoke slowly and with great purpose, quite the opposite of Eli and had quick rolling words.

“William, what brings you here to visit the Great Open Plains?”

“Harrison, it is good to see you,” William said nearly as slowly as the bull. The slowness of their speech was killing Eli. He wished he could fast forward through it. But he was glad that he paid attention to the incredibly slow conversation.

“My friend Eli needs your help, if you are willing,” William said. They all looked at Eli.

“I think I am all better now, really I do,” Eli said nervously. In all honesty he wasn't even sure what help he had needed but the thought of the giant Harrison helping him scared him so much that he was sure he could get over whatever it was that was wrong. “I know I have not been well, but I'm better now. Honest.” He looked to William, then Harrison and finally Colletto. None of them believed him.

Harrison spoke, “I see what you mean.” He paused for a moment. “I think we can help him learn a lesson or two.”

“Please, please, I will learn my lesson. I promise,” Eli said. He was now scared that William and Colletto would leave him alone with the longhorn bull and Eli would have no one to talk too.

Colletto smiled, and then looked to Harrison, “I think he is finally ready. Be gentle, and help him learn his lesson.”

Colletto and William started to walk away. Eli jumped to catch up with them but Harrison used one of his long horns to block Eli. Eli knew he had to stay and he almost began to cry as he watched William and Colletto walk out of sight.

“Don't worry,” Harrison spoke slowly, “your friends will come back in time.”

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