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A Few Words Concerning B.

by Rudi Dornemann

Many of our co-workers think B. is reserved, even shy. In fact, he is, as I have recently discovered, talkative, even garrulous. He was, however, raised by elephants, so his chattiness is entirely subsonic.

This explains why cups of coffee placed on his desk ripple, and why some days his lunch consists of nothing but those bright orange circus peanuts. His days look like a endless series of receiving production statistics, turning the stats into pie charts, and the pie charts into slideshows he then presents to long tables full of drowsing executives. In fact, B. is continuously gossiping with every elephant in every zoo, circus, and wildlife park in the eastern half of the continent.

There's a lot to hear, and a lot to say: likes and dislikes in food and housing, work conditions; childhood memories of the savanna; humorous anecdotes about the foibles of one's keepers; long-simmering spats and feuds; equally enduring friendships; the spats, feuds, and friendships of others; the thousand aggravations and entertainments of the week; dreams of a better future.

I only know this through luck: we happened to walk to the T stop together one night last week, and, as we walked through the tile-walled corridor and out into the sweat-humid tunnel, his eyes fell on the National Geographic being read by a commuter who'd been early and lucky enough to get a bench.

There, in the middle of a story on poaching and ivory trade, a glossy two-page scene of slaughter. Someone he knew, apparently.

His initial trumpet of shock and rage drowned out the laughter of the high school kids clustered near us on the platform, the busker's Casiotone, the newseller's talk radio. A moment later, when the highschool kids, the busker, and I could hear nothing but blaring Limbaugh, B.'s cries of sorrow shook the pits of our stomachs and shattered every window on the E train.

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