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Kanja and the Ivory

I killed my first elephant about five years ago. I won’t say that it felt bad, but I didn’t enjoy it. They think, you know. You can look at them, looking at you, and know that they know why you’re there looking at them. It wasn’t the first time I saw an elephant die. The first time we went, Kanja shot the gun. I had the chainsaw. I took the tusks, and we walked away. That time it felt bad. I thought about those thinking eyes watching me for days after, the dozens of other thinking eyes not far away that knew what we did. But the money felt good.

What can I do? Everybody wants something. Tax man comes, wants money, doesn’t care where I get it. Just get it. Baby cries, no food. Wife looks at me, nothing to tell her. The world piles up, higher and higher. No way out.

My father made a living right out of the ground, so many sweet potatoes you didn’t want to eat them anymore. Didn’t want to look at them. Now they tell me, grow soybeans! Only soybeans. Tax man doesn’t want soybeans, baby can’t eat soybeans, wife can’t be happy with soybeans.

But we can live on ivory.

When Kanja said, “It takes a few days and the money is good,” there was no question. “You just have to watch out,” he said. Afrikaner game wardens in safari clothes sneak around with rifles and walkie-talkies, airplanes, fingers on the trigger. “Elephants give them an excuse to play apartheid.”

Now here I am, looking at this reporter. She scratched “Barbarians” in her notebook, underlined it. Looked at me over her glasses and clicked her teeth. I tell her about the soybeans, tell her about how elephants can think. Tell her about the baby crying, the tax man. She looks at my shoes, shakes her head. Kanja was right.

Christopher Crenshaw

Chris Crenshaw is a history student in his late twenties at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he lives in a small apartment overlooking a parking lot with his fiancé and three cats. He is the author of several academic articles, small collections of poetry, and numerous book and album reviews.

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