No, said Beth.
I guess I do now, said Audie.
The elephants became enraged. I saw the bull elephant trumpeting and I ran and hid in the trees. Sanjeev was behind me, rooted to the spot, too frightened to move.
As he spoke the waitress came back, paused at their table, then asked whether there was anything more she could get them.
Were fine, Audie said.
When she had gone, Dr. Nagaraj said, I watched with horror as the huge elephant bore down on Sanjeev, followed by the herd of smaller elephants, raising so much dust. Seeing them, Sanjeev bowed his head and knelt, knowing he was about to die. He couldnt run, he couldnt swim. But he did yogabidalasana, cat position, instinctive somehow.
Flexing his fingers, making a business of it, Dr. Nagaraj straightened the mat in front of him, tidied the coaster under his glass, then dipped his head and sucked at the lassi.
And what happened? Audie asked.
Dr. Nagaraj went vague, his face slackening, then, Oh, yes, as he pretended to remember. The great bull elephant lowered his head as though to charge. But instead of impaling Sanjeev on his tusks as I had expected, the elephant knelt, trapping Sanjeev between the two great tusks. Not to kill him, oh no. I could see it was to protect him from the other elephants trampling him.
He seemed on the point of saying more when Beth said that she was exhausted, that she would be a basket case if she didnt get some sleep.
I call that another miracle, Beth Blunden said as they strolled under the starry sky to their suite.
Copyright © 2007 by Paul Theroux. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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