The Real Me

by James Hancock

It was on a bright, starry night that the traveling circus rolled into town. From my vantage point on a bar stool across the street, I could see everything, as the tired little caravan straggled into the vacant lot next to City Hall.

I had just left the tattoo parlor after making an important decision. I had decided to get a big tattoo of a naked woman riding on the back of a tiger. The tattoo artist said that it was a good choice because it would show “the real me.”  Although it would cost a couple of month’s wages, I knew the tattoo would be worth it, and it would hide the scars from that freak motorcycle accident last New Years Eve. I’d be the envy of all my friends. I’d already made a down payment, and I had almost enough money at home to pay the rest.

As I sat nursing my third beer, a brilliant idea came to me. So brilliant, I was amazed I had thought of it. Certainly, none of my friends had ever thought of anything this brilliant…

I intended to steal the elephant!

It was a female and she was just standing there, chained to the bumper of a circus truck, with no one around to ask questions. There had to be lots of ways to make money with an elephant. The tattoo would soon be mine.

I started working on a plan as I ordered another beer. I knew it would require some detailed scheming, but I had a few hours to kill. I was still a little hazy about what to do later, but I figured I could just wing it after I had the elephant. I already had a name for her: “Cash.”

Stealing Cash proved to be easier than I expected. Around midnight, I just eased up to her, quietly unhooked the chain and led her away to a vacant lot behind an old gas station a few blocks away. There was all sorts of junk that people had dumped in the lot, and I figured an elephant might not even be noticed. However, to be on the safe side, I put her in an old shed toward the back. I began to execute my plan. I dragged an old bathtub into the shed and carried several buckets of water from the gas station. Next, I made the rounds to the nearby grocery stores, where I pulled all the rotten vegetables out of the dumpsters, and brought them to Cash.  When I came back the next morning, the vegetables and water were gone, replaced by a pile of dung. I hauled the dung to the far side of the lot, and brought in more vegetables and water.

After a few days, I found I had to go to the far side of town to find vegetables. Worse yet, Cash was getting diarrhea from the change to her usual diet of low-grade hay.

At the end of the week, I began to wonder if stealing the elephant might have been a bad idea. I still had no ideas on how to make money with her. Meanwhile, Cash seemed to be enjoying herself. She contentedly ate all the vegetables I could find, and drank a dozen buckets of water every day. She even seemed to be gaining weight, and she generated dung as if that was her only purpose in life. The vacant lot smelled like a sewer.

Around then, the Health Department, and a couple of policemen showed up.  “The circus thanks you for feeding their elephant this week,” the cop said as he put handcuffs on me, “but now they have to take it back. Everyone in the neighborhood is complaining about the smell.  The circus manager has been stalling, but he’s finally agreed to come and get it.”

I’m glad to be rid of the elephant.  Now, I don’t have to haul vegetables and water all day and best of all, my clothes don’t smell like elephant dung. Even so, who would have thought that stealing an elephant would be considered such a serious crime, or involve so much work?

Unfortunately, the fine I had to pay took most of the money I was planning to use for the tattoo, so now I need to decide on a cheaper one. Maybe I can still afford a small tattoo of an elephant. Only I know that’s not the real me.


James Hancock is a Texan-turned-Californian by long residence. Since his retirement, he has redirected his energies to writing, and spends days doing just that, as well as dreaming of days gone by.  Many would say he doesn’t have a serious bone in his body, but that may not be true.  Some of what he writes is ‘supposed to’ be serious.


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