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Literary Knickknackery
Monday, April 24, 2006   |    Fiction

Unspoken Word Performance

by Doug Dean

So I’m down at the local public house enjoying a pint after a hard day’s work. It’s deserved. It’s dessert.

I ogle, I toggle, and eventually settle my eyes on these guys that are setting up a microphone on the stage. Is this “open mic” night? I’m screwed, but not ready to walk out. And these guys are moving around, like—different than normal open-mic guys. And they’ve still got they’re raincoats on.

They’re fast. And one of them is gigantic. The stage is shaking with his every step.

“Hey bartender,” I inquire with wide-eyed optimism.

“What’s the deal with these guys?”

“Oh they’re a whole ’nother breed, pal.”

And then I’m fascinated—because I’m fixated on the movements. What’s a different breed of open mic? People get up and sing their cover songs or do some poetry or original songs and then you forget about it. That’s the point, right?

I’m about to press the bartender for more when I hear the whine of the microphone and then tapping. I turn and the gigantic one has taken off his jacket. And he’s an African elephant. And he sits on this steel stool that he must have brought with him because I’m absolutely amazed it holds him.

So I sip my drink, and I wait. I’m not going to walk out on the elephant before I hear what he’s got to say. And he lets out this “Braaaaaannggggaaahhhh” sound and in a minute he’s got a crowd. And I’m like, “Holy shit!”

So I stroll up there with my pint and take a seat in a one of maybe three seats that are left near the stage. This African elephant waits until those final two seats are filled. And I’m thinking, “Who is this elephant?” The balls on this pachyderm.

The seats are filled in like thirty seconds. Two guys almost fight over the last seat before the bartender runs over and breaks things up.

And then he just starts rapping. I mean really breaking it down. He goes into his childhood and international differences, what its like to be an African elephant in the U.S., feelings on the reality TV craze, parallels to the Discovery Channel—and everybody is diggin’ it. We’re all dialed in.

He ends on another “Braaaaaanggaaaaahh” sound, followed by a standing ovation, which I start. And I’m like, crying. And I don’t know why.

He introduces a tapir, who comes out and gallops and kind of hams it up before getting down to business. So I wipe my eyes secretively and then I tune in to this tapir. And his family stuff—whew!—it’s so fucked up. Everybody thinks that their family is messed up but this poor animal—oh man, he’s got it so bad. But I don’t cry this time. I just listen—listen really well. And I don’t start the standing O this time, but he gets one. And he’s totally gracious.

The tapir bows, and thanks everybody. Then he introduces their closer—a spider monkey. And the monkey isn’t heavy like the other two. He goes a little bit into some failed relationships and we all laugh. And then a little bit about some job stuff, and everybody can easily relate. The spider monkey ends with a great bit about how different he is from actual spiders and finishes on a real high note.

So, I’m walking home and I realize what it was that made me cry. While that African elephant was up there, I realized that I never really gave my first marriage a chance.

Douglas Robert Dean is an aspiring amateur phrenologist and disc golfer in Portland, OR. Currently, he is in the blueprint stage of turning his living room into a dojo. His short fiction can be found at Dean's Den.