Hot Metal Bridge

Current Issue : Number Twenty-Five

Ella and the Elephant


On Saturday night Ella went to the circus with two friends, both men, tall and good-looking. A mechanic and a truck driver. She kissed the mechanic once, drunk in front of a bar. Wanted to kiss the truck driver, just to try it.

The women in the three rings were amazing. Their bodies, ability, sequins. One rode an elephant as it balanced on a ball. Another walked the high wire. The Glamorous Susan Ashton bound her feet while swinging on a rope and threw herself head first toward the arena floor. She stretched out her arms, arched her back, and smiled. The truck driver said he wanted to marry her.

At eleven o’clock Ella and her friends ate dinner. The men drank beer with their cheeseburgers. She had water and grilled chicken, determined to lose twenty pounds sometime soon. Fifty. One-hundred. To disappear all together.

“Hey Dylan, you remember that chick you dated? The pregnant one?”

“Shut up,” the truck driver told his friend.

“El, have you heard this?”

Ella shook her head.

“So Dylan here was dating this pregnant chick and we all gave him shit like, ‘Dude, that’s awesome, you don’t have to wear a condom,’ and Dylan’s like, ‘No man, I don’t want twins!’”

The truck driver blushed. “That was a long time ago. I now know how twins are conceived.” He turned to Ella and smiled.

She smiled back. “I do too.”

That night Ella dreamt of elephants, french fries, and her own lips—giant, purple, swollen.

Ella woke early on Sunday to make ten o’clock mass. Wasn’t religious, just liked the tradition of it. And it was Lent.

She arrived a few minutes late, sat in the back. Prayed for her ex-boyfriend. Still loved him even though he had treated her like shit and used her for sex.

The priest told the congregation, “Forgive yourself the sins of past. It is pride that holds onto that. If you confess and, like the adulterous woman in the Gospel, swear to sin no more, then you shall be forgiven.”

Two rows in front of Ella sat a young couple and their little girl, a year old, maybe two. Halfway through the homily, the mother breastfed the child under a blanket.

“You may say to me, ‘But, Father, I know I will sin again, swear and fight and whatnot.’ And I shall tell you that at the moment of confession there is no past, there is no future. There is only repentance and forgiveness.”

Ella walked out before the Eucharist. The congregation had responded, “Lord, hear our prayer,” to the priest’s request: “May Congress vote with Christ and end the massacre of unborn lives.”

She cried in her car, over dead babies and past sins and her ex-boyfriend.

On Monday morning Ella went to the gym. Put on her swimsuit, cap, and goggles that left red rings around her green eyes. Like Christmas.

She dove in, used her pull buoy, then her fins. A couple times, under the lane line, her hand connected with an older woman in the slow lane. A hazard of swimming.

Ella coasted toward the gutter, finishing her first mile. The woman in the slow lane was waiting at the wall.

“I’m sorry I keep tapping you,” Ella said as she removed her goggles.

“I know,” the woman spit. “It ruins my revelry. And those fins hurt.”

“Oh, did I catch you with a fin?” Ella asked apologetically.

“Yes,” the woman snapped just before she breaststroked away, her salt-and-pepper head bobbing above the water.

Ella swam another mile. Stretched in the shallow end and peed a little bit. She couldn’t hold it.

Ella read a fashion magazine on Tuesday afternoon. Learned that denim sandals were a must-have for summer and that the key to sexy legs was squats.

“Penelope Rhinehart,” the nurse called into the waiting room.

Ella put down the magazine and walked toward the open door.

“How are you today, dear?” the nurse asked.

“Fine, thank you.”

“Your chart says you’re not feelin’ good.” The nurse frowned, then smiled.

“I’ve just been really tired. Kinda sore.”

“Okay.” The nurse opened an exam room door and followed Ella inside. “And when was your last menstrual cycle?”

On Wednesday night Ella went to a bar with her girlfriends, played trivia. She didn’t eat. Got drunk off vodka tonics instead.

At ten p.m. she drove carefully home and called her ex-boyfriend. He didn’t answer. A woman’s voice filled the receiver: “Hi there, you’ve reached Jason’s cell. He’s busy right now, but if you leave your name and number, he’ll give you a call back. Promise.” The woman giggled before the beep.

Ella screamed. Threw her phone to the floor. Thank goodness for carpet.

Ella ran on Thursday. Four miles on the treadmill. Earphones in, Rihanna loud as hell: “Take it, take it, baby, baby, take it, take it, love me, love me…”

Yoga was at four o’clock. Ella sat near the front, cross-legged on a mat, back straight.

“Does anyone have any injuries?” the instructor inquired. “How about pregnancies? Anyone in the room pregnant?” She gazed around the room, smiling.

Ella closed her eyes and breathed deeply through her nose. Sounded like waves.

On Friday morning Ella woke up sick. Vomited. She didn’t go swimming. She called out of work. Vomited again. Laid on the couch and watched Dirty Dancing. Texted the truck driver who worked nights:

im sick.

oh no! should i make you some soup?

no thanks. id rather just not have this crazy headache.

i can come over and rub your head if you want : )

that sounds dirty.

didn’t mean it like that, but whatever you want, sicko : )


ok what?

Ella didn’t respond. She watched Dirty Dancing again. Baby and Johnny Castle. Bad boy falls for good girl. He changes. She changes. Everyone dances. End credits.