“The Elephants in the House” by Avra Margariti


The elephant in the room can’t breathe.

Mr. and Mrs. Johnson sit around the dinner table with their two teenaged children. They talk, but only empty words drop from their mouths to rise above the clinking of cutlery. How was school? Fine. Pass the salt, please. Thank you.

The next day, the elephant in the room has split down the middle, dividing like an amoeba into two identical pachyderms. One hangs from the light fixture while the other hides behind the cream curtains, pressed up against the dining-room bay windows. Every passer-by on Sycamore Street can see the elephant, but the people sat around the table are firm in their blindness.

Paige comes home from school with mascara streaks down her cheeks. Her textbooks are soaked through with dirty toilet water from the girls’ bathroom; the sharp stink of ridicule, lingering.

Sean hides weed and magazines of tied-up women in his bedroom. He doesn’t bother to hide the swastika stickers on his laptop.

On Mrs. Johnson’s nightstand: an array of prescription pills, little blue, white, and pink boats, merrily-merrily-merrily carrying her down the stream.

In Mr. Johnson’s study: bottles of scotch, only amber dregs remaining at the bottom. On his internet history: how to disappear without a trace.

How was school? Fine. Pass the salt, please. Thank you.

The house on Sycamore Street has turned into an elephant zoo. The creatures spill from the windows, clog the upstairs toilet, and stomp on all the fine china with their clumsy feet. They trumpet forlornly in the night while the neighbors file complaints about the noise.

The elephants in the house are tired. The elephants want out.

The Johnson house bursts at the seams: bricks, mortar, and glass flying apart. It happens all at once, although it’s been years in the making. The elephants’ thick skin breaks their fall. For a moment, they sit on their haunches, dazed across the neon-green trimmed lawn among all the detritus. Then, the elephants drag themselves upright, holding on to each other’s trunk for support. They stretch their cramping limbs and—at long last—fill their massive lungs with untainted air. The herd lumbers away in single file, sporadically releasing wild, cathartic roars.

All four family members step out onto the driveway. After the last of the elephants has rounded the street corner and disappeared, the Johnsons look at each other as if for the time.

They blink.




Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Daily Science Fiction, The Forge Literary, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Argot Magazine, The Arcanist, and other venues. You can find her on twitter @avramargariti.

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