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This is Tom Lee reading “Circus in the English Countryside” from a sequence I call Adventures with Clare.
The perimeter of the oval was surrounded by baby elephants, gingerly they approached, so close, but always at a safe distance. I never knew you could get so close to them, I said to Clare, look how big their eyes are, ornamented by great leathery folds connoting sadness, even at this early age. More important was the contrast of dust and wetness, both in the puddles that dotted the grassy landscape, and at the edges of the elephants’ great, dark eyes. The elephants drew shapes in the air with sparklers, and tore at each others clothes. Clare sucked on a triangle. I lowered myself into a puddle and came out the other side upside-down. The sun burnt into our skin and dud rockets fell at our feet, we crushed them with our heels. I saw some children playing with the elephants, who were tossing them up in the air, and hitting them into the distance with spatulas and racquets. One elephant began playing a guitar and was promptly shot by one of the children. Things became more serious at that, and Clare began to haul her towel out of one of the puddles, a great muddy long thing that seemed to go on forever. An elephant sat down, or rather collapsed, next to us, obviously exhausted. Say something to it, Clare encouraged, I put on my cowboy hat and walked over. On closer inspection they weren’t actually elephants, they were something else, an animal I’d never before laid eyes on. It told me what it liked eating but I couldn’t understand. Have some liquorice I said, assuming all animals liked liquorice, and it stared at me kindly out of its great eyes and took a strip of liquorice in its trunk. Later that evening Clare and I rode our new pet into town and had a beer at the local pub. A wasp took an interest in Clare’s gherkin whilst I struck up another conservation with this elephant thing about its ears. On my way to purchase another beer I caught a boy, about seven years old I guessed, hiding behind a pot plant with a rifle, no doubt stalking the animal. You either come and sit with us and enjoy a soda, I sternly told him, or you run off back to your friends and tell them this one is ours and we won’t tolerate your shooting it. The boy looked hurt, shouldered his rifle and began the walk back along the road to the field, perhaps stopping at the supermarket on the way to buy cheese and orange juice, or whatever it is that young boys buy these days.
ABOUT TOM LEE:
Tom Lee is a writer from Central West New South Wales based in Sydney. He is presently completing a PhD, “Metaphysical Conceptions of Substance and Writing in The Prose Fiction of W. G. Sebald,” as a member of The Writing and Society Research Centre, at the University of Western Sydney.
“I spent a very productive week at Varuna working on the final chapter of my thesis, “Architectural Obscurity”.
Tom has had poems published in ‘Overland,’ ‘Steamer,’ and whenpressed.net
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