Elephant: Big Thinker

The children sat at opposite ends of the backseat of the car, staring out at the rain. Between them, as a way of stopping arguments about who had the most space, was a very large blue Elephant. They were on a long and boring journey to see some relations. Martha and Tom were so fed up they wanted to cry.

‘Are we there yet?’ Tom asked. The reply from the driver was short and clear.

A different voice said, almost as a whisper. ‘Maybe ninety-nine times is enough for the same question.’ It was Elephant. Normally, his voice was deep and rasping, but he was trying hard not to be annoying.

Tom said irritably, ‘It’s your fault, Elephant. You’re always telling us to ask questions. That’s what Big Thinkers do. Ask questions, you say. And look what happens when I do? I get shouted at!’

Elephant’s trunk twizzled round and perched on Tom’s knee. The trunk could land anywhere, anytime – on a nose, a foot, top of the head and it always made the children smile. ‘Let’s play ‘I spy’,’ said Elephant, back to his usual deep voice.

The game worked for a short time: Martha chose a window, Tom an ear, then a blanket, and then a knight. There was a drawing of one on the jigsaw on the floor, and Martha gave a speech about how it began with a letter ‘k’ not an ‘n’.

 Tom said slowly, ‘What I want to know is, why are knights called knights if they can fight in the daytime?’

‘I don’t know,’ said sister Martha, ‘Why are knights called knights if they….’

‘That’s what I want to know!’ interrupted Tom.

‘Oh. I thought it was a joke,’ said Martha, ‘Like, why did the toilet roll go down the hill?’

‘To get to the bottom,’ said Tom. ‘No, I’m serious. There are so many questions in the world and not enough answers.’

‘Big Thinking,’ said Elephant. He couldn’t resist his favourite topic of conversation.

Tom liked the Big Thinking subject too. ‘So where do thoughts come from? And what’s fire actually made of and what happens when you get to the end of the numbers and what colour is nothing?’

‘You can find answers easily enough,’ said Elephant, swaying from side to side, his trunk brushing the children’s feet as if they were flies. ‘

 ‘My questions aren’t always ones you can find answers to,’ said Tom proudly.

‘They’re the best kind,’ snorted Elephant. ‘Because answers can change or different people tell you different things.”

‘I don’t understand,’ said Tom, trying hard not to understand.

‘Yes, you do,’ boomed Elephant placing his trunk gently on Tom’s chest. ‘You ask big questions, that’s the most important thing. You listen to answers, but are on the lookout for more which could change your opinion. That’s Big Thinking, that is. A good thing.’

Martha tried to lighten the mood. ‘Here’s my two questions. How can we make the rain stop and why are you a blue elephant and not grey?’

Elephant hooted with laughter. ‘Excellent!’ he cried. ‘Let’s have a chat about how we might stop the rain.’

‘And the reason you’re blue and not grey?’ asked Tom.

‘Still looking for an answer to that one too,’ sniffed Elephant. ‘Any ideas?