Short Stories and Musings

Elephant Crusher is the third publishing by S.E. Bourne. A simplistic and blunt fiction using a variety of styles and registers. The text is frequently unprocessed, with writing that ranges from Hemingwayesque to whimsical, producing an impressionistic portrait of an individual grappling with questions of self and meaning.


Excerpt from Elephant Crusher © Copyright S.E. Bourne

Introduction to Elephant Crusher.  S.E. Bourne

Elephant Crushing

“Elephant crushing, or a training crush, is a method by which wild elephants can be tamed for domestication, using restriction in a cage, sometimes with the use of corporal punishment or negative reinforcement. This practice is condemned by a variety of animal-welfare groups as a form of animal cruelty.” – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Elephant Crusher

Many years ago, I came up with a term to describe when a story was sad, heartbreaking, yet soulful and sweet; I called such stories ‘Elephant Crushers.’

Elephant Crusher means to me something that has consequence, simplicity, is rough and sublime and noble and foolish, sad, and hopeful, and it touches your brain or your soul in such a manner that it sits with you, sits heavy with you, as if a weight on your chest, a ponder in your psyche.

I had no idea when I adopted this term that there was actual elephant training and elephant torture that utilized this term (Elephant Crusher), but somehow it is fitting.

The woman on the cover of this book is my great-great-grandmother from Ryehill Galway, Ireland.

I don’t know much about her beyond her name and parish and that she was my great-grandmother’s mother.

Her eyes look so much like the eyes of the women in my immediate family. My great-grandmother had those eyes, as did my grandmother, mother, sister, cousin, and myself.

There was only a handful of us on this family line, and my mother and grandmother are both now long dead. My sister, my cousin, and I remain, getting old ourselves.

I randomly found this picture of my great-great-grandmother on a genealogy website where a 2nd or 3rd cousin posted it. I have never been close to my extended or immediate family, but there is something so striking in her eyes and the set of her face.

I imagine this great-great-grandmother must have worked hard in fields or perhaps in a kitchen. Her daughter, whom I descended from, was a cook for a wealthy Boston family.

Her face is all sorts of hard, of fierce. I look at her, and I feel a connection, it is strange, and I can’t explain it, but I look at the face that sits on the cover of this book, and I know her.

I think that whatever she survived, survived down into me. Her blood and nerves and some epigenetic memory of hers are in me. I know it just by seeing her face.

I think she is beautiful. Not a delicate beauty, but a ferocious beauty; a stalwart, a strength, a stony expanse.

I have no daughters or sons to continue her lineage in me. There are many though that remain that will carry her forth.

Conceivably I am living a life she could only have dreamed of, warm, well clothed, free from any daily hardships of a peasant. I mean, I am a modern peasant, but my life would seem perhaps a luxury to her.

I have no idea what her hopes and dreams were or if she even had the luxury of having hopes and dreams as we fancy them in the modern age.

But she did something; she set something into motion. Her daughter from which I descend had 12 children, and they had children, and those children had children, and on and on and on.

And there are other sons and daughters of this great-great-grandmother that I know nothing of, but they are out there, as are their own family lines.

I imagine she has a small township population born from her at this time.

She looks so angry and fierce and resolute and somehow sweet.

I see a flash of sweetness in her face that perhaps she had to hide away; maybe there was no safety to humor the tenderness that I see in her brow and the hesitancy of her mouth, even though she is holding it all together in a glaring manner, there is something lighter there, underneath.

I have that glare; I have not the exact manner of her stare, but the set of my face in seriousness is so very similar to hers, and it is undoubtedly descended from her.

So, to this woman who I do not know, whose picture touches me so deeply every time that I look at it.

She who looks angry and young and old beyond, and bitter and sweet and scared and brave and just ferocious; you, madame, are for sure an ‘Elephant Crusher.’

Your story, if I knew it properly, there is no doubt in my mind that I would laugh and cry and hold my head in my hands and want to protect you and want to learn from you.

Just the grim thinness of your lips and the flash in your eyes and the set of your jaw is beautiful and heartbreaking, and it crushes me, grounds me right down with wonder.

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