Saturday, April 4, 2009

Friday Fiction Fix (Saturday Edition): "The Elephant"

I keep imagining a scenario in which I get this job thing crammed into some form of Monday-Thursday, and take three days off each week, but so far it hasn't happened, thus the four-month hiatus from my personal HoG favorite. So I'm effin' up the rotation, and delivering one on a Saturday. This has been quite the week with regard to Chiefs-Broncos football, and obviously I'm referring to the epic trade of Screamin' Jay to the Chicago Bears. Before we get into today's piece, however, I'd just like to say that for anyone who whined about the Chiefs only giving up a second-rounder for Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel, this is your invitation to shut the hell up. I'm not saying it's a sketchy deal, but for Chicago to give up their starting quarterback, a middle-of-the-draft pick, and two firsts for Schlubby McKidShow is pretty astonishing. I anticipate that the perceived values will pan out for both clubs, but consider my feathers ruffled that the stupid Broncos follow the Chiefs' 2008 draft of 10 picks with 10 of their own. I was really getting used to Denver having only five or six picks and screwing up on three of them. But bygones and whatnot, right?

Aravind Adiga was born in India of October 1974. He studied English literature at Columbia College in New York, and at Magdalen College, Oxford. He won the Booker Prize for his debut novel The White Tiger last year, and today we'll look at a short story of his that was published in the January 26 issue of The New Yorker. As you may have guessed, it's called "The Elephant."

Our story is about a young boy, a coolie, if you will, who pulls a cart. His name is Chenayya.

Coming out of college, "He had been told to take the quick route."

"Once he was over the hump of the hill,

he let the cycle glide."

But he could not maintain such an easy course for long, as things along his path began to change. And these changes concerned him. When these changes began to gravely concern him, "Chenayya closed an eye and examined them one by one."

When he was most certain that he did not like what he saw unfolding before him, "he left the house, grumbling and sulking."

He thought to himself as he retreated “ the end those who believe always win. That is the way the world works...I can’t go on this way forever,” Chenayya said.

As time wore on, his thoughts grew more intense: "You can’t go on. This was when the sense of resistance to his fate waxed greatest within him, and, as he pushed, the restlessness and anger that had been inside him all day became articulate at last: You will not break me, motherfuckers! You will never break me!"

When the situation grew more difficult still, he recruited the help of others

and said to them, "Take this load from me! It’s more fitted to your size, you motherfucker!”

Chenayya's frustration continued to grow with each day.

“What is wrong with this world,” he asked...“when an elephant gets to lounge down the road,

doing no work, and a human being has to pull a cart with so much weight on it?”

"All at once... he stopped...with the simple and clear thought: I can’t go on like this."

"Why don’t you do something...anything, to improve yourself?"

"The next day...he thought, What a fool I have been, never even to have tried to get work here."

"The doorkeeper slapped him.

I am the biggest fool here, Chenayya thought, back in his alley...It was late at night, and he was the only one who could not sleep. I am the biggest fool. I am the biggest baboon here."

"He came back with a bottle of liquor...He drank the bottle dry, then went over to the liquor shop and bought another bottle.

When he woke the next morning, he realized he had spent his money on liquor.

All of it."

And so continued this cycle, for what seemed like an eternity, until one day it stopped.

“Your number has come up, Chenayya.”

And so it seemed that the endless pouting, cursing, and drinking paid off, and the message was conveyed that every Cutlerfucker has his day.

Check the above New Yorker link to see how Adiga's story finishes. If you like it, purchase The White Tiger here.