The Slowest Elephant on Earth

Edward the elephant was slow.  He was very slow.  He was very, very, very, very, very, very, very slow.  He was so slow that he was regularly passed by snails and tortoises.  He was so slow that he would often only get halfway to where he was going when it would be time to turn around and go home again.   He was so slow that in all the time it has taken me to write these words, he would only have taken one step.  At the most.

Edward’s mother was always trying to make him hurry up.  She wanted him to keep up with the rest of the herd.  The other mothers offered her advice about how to make him go faster.  But nothing she tried worked.  If she nagged him, he just put his head down and kept. moving. slowly.  If she punished him for arriving late, he just took the punishment and kept. moving. slowly.  If she promised him rewards for moving more quickly, he never earned them because he kept. moving. slowly.  Finally, Edward’s mother gave up and let him be.

All of Edward’s friends made fun of him for being so slow.  They made jokes and called him names and did all the mean things friends do when they aren’t really being friends.  Only once did anyone ever actually ask Edward why he moved so slowly.  But he talked so slowly that no one stayed around to listen to the whole answer.  Edward just shrugged and kept. moving. slowly.

It wasn’t easy being slow.  Edward had to find his own place to eat because if he went grazing with the herd all the good leaves would be gone long before he could get to them.  He had to find his own watering hole because he was always the last to arrive and the water was all muddy by the time it was his turn.  And of course, Edward missed out on all the elephant parties because he could never get there before they were over.  Being slow got a bit lonely at times.

The one really good thing about moving so slowly, though, was that Edward had plenty of time to look around him.  And he noticed everything.  He noticed that there were over three hundred shades of green in the trees and grass around him.  He noticed that the birds flew in certain formations depending on the weather that was coming.  He noticed that some elephants always stayed close to the group and others liked to wander off on their own.

Naturally, then, he was the first to notice that the river was drying up.  First he noticed that the level of water was a tiny hair lower each day.  Then he noticed that the air was more dusty than before.  Then he noticed that the leaves were a little more crispy than before.  These changes were so small that no one else had time to notice them at all.

Edward tried to warn the herd leader that the river was drying up and soon there would be no water.  But the herd leader got impatient with how long it took Edward to say things, and he sent him home without listening.  Edward tried to warn his mother and his friends, but they just laughed at the idea that he might know something they did not.  Finally Edward knew he was going to have to take matters into his own hands.

The next day, Edward slowly gathered up a pile of leaves.  It took him all day to get as many as he needed.  The day after that, Edward went to the river and gathered water in jugs to carry on his back.  He was so slow at scooping water that it took him the whole second day just to fill two water jugs.  Finally, on the third day, Edward set off alone to walk upstream and find out what was wrong with the river.  Everyone laughed when they saw Edward preparing for a long journey.  They said he would need three weeks just to get out of their camp. Ignoring them all, Edward moved slowly along.

Every day, Edward walked along the river, looking around him for signs of what had gone wrong.  He traveled many, many days before he saw what he was looking for.  Up in the hills, where the river flowed down out of the mountains, Edward saw a place where a landslide had thrown many tiny rocks into the river.  The river was choked down to a narrow stream coming through that place and every day more pebbles slid down the mess and choked the river more.  It would be an enormous job to clean away all those pebbles and free up the stream.  It would also have to be done very slowly or it would only cause another avalanche that would make things worse.  Fortunately, Edward was used to things taking a very long time to accomplish, and he certainly had no intention of being reckless or quick.

For two weeks, Edward moved those pebbles, one at a time, out of the river.  When he finally finished, the river ran free and clear again and was back up to its normal height.  Edward wondered if anyone back home would notice the difference.   He figured they wouldn’t.  He figured they would never know what he had done and how he had saved them all.  Edward smiled to himself.  He knew, and that was enough.  With his head held high, Edward turned downstream and kept moving slowly toward home.

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