Darin Elliott, with whom I co-wrote “Elephant in the Living Room” (the family story of an alcoholic intervention for middle school-age kids) got trapped here with me between stays in London and North Carolina. As it ended up, he and I co-quarantined for ten weeks. I got Covid-19, he didn’t, we sent away for and ate a daily slice of Italian Panettone (sweet cake-like-bread totaling seven before we switched to coconut pie) with our tea every day at 4 (at a proper social distance), banged pots, blew whistles, shook cow bells at 7 from the sliding windows of my solarium/terrace on the 12th floor to celebrate and show appreciation for those on the front lines caring for the mass of ill and dying as well as all essential workers out there who kept our society functioning.
In the meantime, ordinary life – work, laughter, meditation, eating, Netflix, etc – bumped along. Darin continued putting the finishing touches on his new novel for middle school kids titled “Elephant in the Shadows” (which happens to be the fourth in his Elephant series, the first, being, our – “Elephant in the Livingroom,” his solo second – “Elephant in the Classroom” – on bullying, his third – “Elephant in the Closet” – on gender confusion), while I inched on with an early draft of a nonfiction whose theme is reunion having the working title of “We’ll Meet Again.” – a line from Vera Lynn’s war song.
“Elephant in the Shadows” boldly takes on the (often murky, often skewed, often forbidden), subject of death (here, of a beloved aunt), as filtered through the minds and hearts of teen witness Zachary, 13, and his sister Tristan, 15, as well as their ‘rescue” dog – Cassandra – ageless, who has her own (often too frank) views on the subject. These she freely spouts with rye wit and humor. (Oh: And let’s not forget the cats – Dali and Vermeer – who – I kid you not – also find it necessary to weigh in on the knotty subject. )
Although the nature of the aunt’s ‘malaise’ is blurred at first, the teens (and their pets) finally suss out the truth. Their aunt is dying; there’s no time to wait; her life-light is rapidly dimming; they must come face to face with mortality.
Need to mull on a consequential theme? Need a good read? Need a laugh? I highly recommend “Elephant in the Shadows” available on Amazon as a Paperback or Kindle. Think about the loss of someone dear to you, someone who knew you when you were a child, who coddled you, read to you, brought trinkets for you and was certain that your shit didn’t stink:
“You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be –
I have an aunt who read to me.” **
** (modified) poem by Strickland Gillilan (1869-1954)