“It’s so much easier to sleep than to live.” Lynn Mundell’s “Lucky Elephant” follows the the only white elephant born in a thousand years, celebrated, worshiped, as her birth coincides with the coming of the rains. It is a story of grief, a story of motherhood. It is a story that will linger with you, long after you’ve read its final word.
She is starving herself but drowning in dreams. Sometimes now she wakes to find them both sleeping standing again, her boy under the canopy of her large white belly, as though they are two nested statues.
It’s so much easier to sleep than to live. So day and night she disappears into the same dream. A small, grey sun plummets through white clouds, shattering like a rock on the ground. Each time, she’s roused by the heat and shocked to see he’s not beside her. Then she remembers and immediately dozes off, standing up. A great marble memorial to the dead.
Long ago, when she was born the only white elephant in a thousand years, the last people on earth celebrated for seven days, and on the last day it rained. They carved elephant charms of ivory that they wore around their necks. Then ivory rattles for their own babies and ivory cups for toasting their good fortune. The more it rained, the more elephants died for their tusks. And that is how she became lucky for some and a curse to her own.
One night she wakes to find herself in the large puddle that was once the river. She’s pouring yellow water over her big back, where it then trickles in tiny streams down her legs. Mother to mother, the moon comforts her, grief staring down with a soft, homely face.
She sleeps so much that the herd leaves, although only after many weeks of prodding her awake and sweeping the flies from her eyes with their tasseled tails. But they must stay ahead of the remaining poachers. She watches their steady progress over one mountain, and the next, then the next. The trampled grasses are a golden roadway to the sky.
When she was very young, she fell asleep among the herd and awoke within the town’s prayer room. While she called for her mother from her sudden cage, people gathered outside and looked in at her, pointing and whispering in astonishment. How did she get in, when the room had only one narrow door and an open air ceiling? Eventually, they had to remove three of the stone columns to get her out. But no one minded. She brought water and now could fly everyone to heaven. And she belonged to them.