Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt

The Elephant

April 13, 2021 Susan Quilty Season 1 Episode 6
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
The Elephant
Chapters
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
The Elephant
Apr 13, 2021 Season 1 Episode 6
Susan Quilty

Ready for a story break? In this episode, author Susan Quilty shares a short story based on the writing prompt The Elephant

You're welcome to suggest writing prompts for future short stories. Otherwise, prompts are chosen in random ways.

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.

Website:  SusanQuilty.com
Patreon: Patreon.com/SusanQuilty

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/SusanQuilty)

Show Notes Transcript

Ready for a story break? In this episode, author Susan Quilty shares a short story based on the writing prompt The Elephant

You're welcome to suggest writing prompts for future short stories. Otherwise, prompts are chosen in random ways.

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.

Website:  SusanQuilty.com
Patreon: Patreon.com/SusanQuilty

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/SusanQuilty)

Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 6 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:
 

Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction. 

[Light piano music]

Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is The Elephant

Thanks for joining me for another short story. As a reminder, here’s how my process works. I choose a word or phrase to be the title of my piece and then write whatever story comes to mind, with no planning and very little editing. I then record that story and share it with you. 

Do let me know if you have any suggestions for writing prompts. Otherwise, I choose my prompts in random ways. Today’s came from looking at one of my throw pillows, which happens to have a lovely embroidered elephant on the front. Here’s what I came up with when thinking about an elephant.

 

The Elephant

It stood on four legs in the middle of the living room. Four thick, sturdy legs. Long legs that somehow still looked graceful despite their solid girth. Speaking of girth, its belly was impossibly large in the small space. 

Not that the living room was small exactly. It was rather large, as far as living rooms go, but it was small in comparison to the massive creature that now stood blinking in the exact place where there had once been a coffee table. 

“What happened to the coffee table?” Riley asked the room. 

Talia and Emeline had been in the room just minutes earlier, but Riley could no longer be certain they were still there.  

“What coffee table?” Emeline’s disembodied voice floated back.

The huge head shook, ears rippling, and Riley ducked to stay clear of a curved tusk.

“The coffee table here,” Riley answered with exasperation. “My coffee table.”

“Oh, that coffee table,” Talia responded, proving that she was still in the room as well.

“Yes, that coffee table.”

Riley shifted to her left, craning her neck in an effort to see her friends. They stayed hidden, but the animal’s sinewy trunk snaked its way toward Riley, causing her to jump back in surprise. 

This was a lot to take in. 

“Did you bring more wine?” Emeline asked casually. 

Riley looked at the unopened bottle grasped in her right hand.

“Well, yes, but…”

“Then hand it over! I need a refill,” Emeline laughed encouragingly.

“Me, too!” Talia chimed in happily. 

“Uh…” Riley looked beyond the animal’s sagging belly and saw her friends’ legs dangling off the edge of her couch. 

“You didn’t finish that glass!” Emeline shrieked. 

“I will.”

“Finish it first!”

“Fine,” Talia paused, then smacked her lips. “There, happy?”

“Yes,” Emeline agreed. “Though I’d be happier if Riley would open that bottle.”

“Uh, yeah,” Riley looked into the creature’s large, soulful eye. He—or she?—wasn’t going anywhere. “Okay. But, uh, you guys do see it, right?”

“See what?” Talia hiccupped. 

“The, uh, elephant?” Riley reached a tentative hand out as the trunk wove its way toward her again. 

“What elephant?” Emeline asked, starting to sound annoyed. 

Riley’s fingertips brushed the warm flesh that wavered before her, glancing back at that giant eye for any signs of warning. The elephant seemed content to be touched.

“This elephant,” Riley answered with a puzzled tilt of her head. “The elephant here, in the middle of the room.”

“The elephant in the room?” Emeline sounded offended. Defensive.

“Riley, please,” Talia spoke softly. “Let it go.”

“Let what go?” Riley pulled her hand away from the elephant’s trunk and leaned further to the left, trying to see around its huge head. But it was too large. Or the room was too small.

“Riley,” Talia tried again, her voice tense and shaky. Pleading. 

“No, I want to hear this,” Emeline raised her voice, issuing a challenge. “Go on, Riley, tell me about the elephant in the room.”

“Uh, well…” Riley shifted toward the right, attempting to get around the animal from the other side but, again, the elephant was too large. Or the room was too small.

“It’s, uh, an elephant. Thick legs, a trunk, big ears. A small tail, probably, though you’d have to confirm that.”

Silence. 

Riley looked back at the wine bottle in her hand. She thought about opening it, but she’d left the corkscrew on the coffee table. Back when there had been a coffee table in the room.

“Very funny,” Emeline spoke coldly. 

“I’m not being funny,” Riley tried to sound sincere. She set the bottle on the floor and moved closer to lay both hands against the elephant’s warm, rounded belly. His head turned slightly, perhaps trying to see what she was doing, but he didn’t shy away. 

“Just say it outright,” Emeline demanded. It sounded like she might be holding back tears. Angry tears. The kind of tears that came to her eyes when she felt cornered and was trying to stay strong. Riley knew that about Emeline. She thought she knew everything about Emeline. 

“Emeline,” Talia shifted her plea, trying to maintain peace. 

“She thinks it was me!” Emeline erupted in a shock of outrage. 

Riley lifted to her tiptoes, straining to see over the elephant’s back. Is she talking about me? She thought in confusion. What does she think I think? She crouched to the ground, peering under the elephant’s belly but still wasn’t able to see her friends’ heads. She could see their legs, their laps, the wine glasses in their hands, and then nothing.

“Emeline,” Talia shifted away from Emeline, creating distance. 

“What?” Emeline’s voice clearly shook.

“Just admit it,” Talia sighed, after a long pause.

“Admit what?” Emeline and Riley asked the question in unison. 

There was silence again. The elephant shuffled its feet and let out a short huff.

“I don’t need you to admit anything,” Riley shouted desperately. “I can see the elephant. Here. In this room. There’s no way you can’t see it, too.”

Her head was spinning as she wondered if there was more than wine in that first bottle. She ran through the events of the night. They’d settled around the coffee table, pouring glasses of wine, and talking while noshing on cheese and chips. Everything had seemed normal. More or less.  

When the bottle had run out, Riley had fetched another from the kitchen. And then…

She’d walked back toward the living room, hearing Emeline and Talia whispering about… something. Something she couldn’t quite make out. Something that she wasn’t meant to hear.

And then, when she’d turned the corner, it was there. 

The elephant. In the middle of the room.

“Fine,” Emeline exhaled sharply, sounding very much like the elephant’s short huff. 

The sound of that exhaled breath was enough to make Riley step back from the elephant and close her eyes. She wanted to clamp her hands over her ears. She wanted to run from the room. She wanted the elephant to go away and leave them to their wine and snacks.

But the elephant was already there. 

“We wanted to spare your feelings,” Emeline explained weakly. “That’s why I didn’t tell you. 

That’s why Jason didn’t tell you. But if you have to know…”

She stopped talking, winding down like a toy car running out of speed. 

They were a we? Emeline and Jason? They were a we who worried about Riley’s feelings?

They weren’t that worried about them, Riley thought, feeling the room close in, trapping her on this side of the elephant. On this side of knowing. 

Riley shook her head. There were tears on her face. Helpless tears. The kind of tears that came to her eyes when she felt blindsided by some harsh reality she hadn’t seen coming. 

Or maybe she had. 

Maybe she’d seen it filling her living room, right where her coffee table had been.

The End

I hope you enjoyed today’s story. To learn more about me and my books, you can visit my website: SusanQuilty.com. You can also find me on social media or support me through my Patreon page. Until next time, you can listen to my previous stories or try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you.  

[Light piano music]