Friday 20 July 2012

Flash Fiction: Tracking Elephants


"Slow down, Rajiv!"

"OK, auntie, but I really want to press the button — like in the movies."

"Does there have to be a countdown?"

"Yes — like a rocket!"

"In which case you should do it properly. You need to count down the seconds, which is a lot slower."


"And you should start by saying 'T minus' because that's what they use for real launches."

Sucheta was regretting her decision to bring her nephew into work. Her sister had thought it might help spark Rajiv's interest in science. Sucheta had some calibration runs booked with the synchrotron, but Rajiv had shown little interest in protein structures. He was, however, excited by the facility's main building, a circular structure that housed the synchrotron, a flying saucer that had somehow parked itself discreetly in the English countryside. Its medical and materials science applications held no interest for him, but he was very taken with the idea of the synchrotron as a particle ray gun or some kind of futuristic propulsion system.

"T minus ten... nine-eight-seven-six-"

"Still too fast. Try counting elephants."


"Pardon," Sucheta corrected. "Saying 'elephant' makes the interval around a second. T-minus ten elephant, nine elephant-"

"Shouldn't you say 'elephants'? We did plurals at school."

Sucheta's glare sent a message. Rajiv got it.

Besides being his aunt, what did she really know about children? How was she supposed to know that you shouldn't let kids have energy drinks? Her sister had never said anything, nor had any of her colleagues with children ever let slip this vital information. The countdown seemed superfluous: he was already in orbit. She certainly couldn't return him home until he'd landed.

"T minus ten-elephant-nine-elephant-eight-elephant-"

"Rajiv, that's a stampede not a countdown!"

"Auntie, I have the best elephants! They are fast."

"Let's take turns. You take the numbers, I'll herd the elephants. And let's start from five." She did not believe his anticipation could be contained for a whole ten seconds.

"T minus five..."

"... elephant, ..."

"... four..."

"... elephant, ..."

"... three ..."

"... elephant, ..."

"... two..."

"... elephant, ..."

"... one..."

"... elephant...."

"Blast off!"

Now she could start calibrating. About an hour since the drink? Probably another hour to go.

"Tracking Elephants" was published online with Flash-Fiction South West and then included in the Kissing Frankenstein & Other Stories anthology. More background here and here.


Sylvia said...

That was such a funny story! He has fast elephants indeed :)

John Wiswell said...

The elephant countdown was too cute!

Sonia Lal said...

LOL The countdown is funny

Adam B said...

This is absolutely brilliant. It captures the enthusiasm of childhood in the vernacular, with the exasperation of adulthood.
Adam B @revhappiness

Sulci Collective said...

very nicely done, I could totally visualise this scene and the characters in my mind's eye. The dialogue was pitch perfect too.

marc nash