Prompt: “A large plush elephant covered in Mardi gras beads on my dresser”
Little Tommy – Part One
“Oh, cool,” Rocco said. “Your room is smaller than mine.”
“Is that cool?” Tommy asked. He had known Rocco only for two months, when Rocco had responded to their ad seeking a roommate. Tommy was more content in the basement. It was quieter. Rocco’s room was upstairs.
Tommy had made several attempts to befriend Rocco, but felt outclassed. Rocco was cool, so everything Rocco saw was also cool. Tommy was cool, but only because Rocco deemed it to be so. It was profoundly uncomfortable.
“Dude, is that yours?” Rocco laughed and pointed. On the dresser sat Tommy’s stuffed elephant. It stared out at them with plastic dead eyes. A few strands of bead necklaces were were draped haphazardly over its shoulder. Purple, red, and blue beads glinted in the light. The elephant wore a small blue baseball cap with the word “CHAMPION” stitched on in white blocky letters.
“Yeah, it’s from my childhood,” Tommy said, then added, “It’s not what you think.”
“I think it’s awesome!” Rocco laughed and moved to stand over Tommy’s dresser. He tilted the elephant back with his free hand and chuckled. “It looks like it had a great time in New Orleans. You earned your beads, didn’t ya, little guy?”
Tommy wanted to slap Rocco’s hand away, to snatch the elephant up and stash it under his bed, or perhaps in the closet. It was a stupid, silly thought, he realized, and instead he went to the closet. “Just give me a second and we’ll go.”
“Sure, sure,” Rocco said without looking up from the elephant. He put the can of beer to his lips and rocked his head back, taking a large drink. Tommy winced. Rocco drank piss for beer, but the taste didn’t seem to bother him much. He lifted the elephant to his face and said “I bet you were popular with all the fellas, huh?”
“It’s just an elephant,” Tommy said, moving to the dresser and holding his hand out. “Leave it alone.”
Rocco blinked and looked at Tommy. “Oh. Of course.” He chuckled and dropped the elephant into Tommy’s hand. “It’s just so cool!”
“I guess,” Tommy replied. He was quickly getting to the point of confusion. The elephant was sentimental, a reminder of home. It wasn’t, by any standard measurement that Tommy was aware of, cool. “So where should we go for lunch?”
Rocco shrugged, turned towards the door, then looked back at the elephant. “So, where did you get it?”
“From my mom, when I was, like, eight.”
“Cool, cool,” Rocco said, nodding. This was when he should go for the door, Tommy thought. Rocco kept staring, however. “And the beads?”
“The dollar store. It was for a party, I think.”
Rocco nodded again, then poured more of the cheap brew into his throat. He seemed unable to pull himself away from the stuffed animal. Tommy wanted to grab him by his collar and drag him out, but he doubted he could reach.
“I want them,” Rocco said.
“Excuse me?” Tommy said.
“The beads. No. The whole elephant. I want the whole package, baby!” Rocco looked back at it. His eyes were longing, his humor gone. He moved into Tommy’s space, blocking the light with his tall form.
“Well,” Tommy said, “that’s really not going to happen. Let’s go find–”
“Hey,” Rocco said, his voice taking on strange sense of pleading. “Hey, bro. Come on. I mean. Come on. Hook me up.”
“Bro?” Tommy sputtered, then, seeing the seriousness in his roommate’s face, squared his shoulders. There were boundaries to respect, borders that separated one person’s stuff from another. They shared space, but they were not going to share elephants. Tommy pondered how to make this clear.
“No. I’m not giving you my elephant,” he finally said.
Rocco was silent for a moment, then nodded. “All right. Sure.” He turned away with a shrug. “It’s cool.”
“Okay,” Tommy said, and Rocco hit him.
It started with stars and lights, and far off the rattle of something crashing. The pain came a moment later. Tommy was on the ground, collapsed back against his bookshelf. Some of the smaller paperback books had fallen on him. His face hurt, and he cried out. Will, his other, roommate, appeared hesitantly in the doorway.
“Hey, what happened?” There was the distant slam of a door.
“Rocco punched me,” Tommy said, sitting up.
“What?” Will said. “Why?”
And then it clicked. Tommy looked up at his dresser, then pushed himself to his feet. There was a blank spot where once it stood.
“He took my elephant!” Tommy cried.
“Your what?” Will said.
“My elephant. My stuffed elephant. The one that was on my dresser,” Tommy slapped the bare area with his hand. Will continued to look dumbfounded. “Is he in his room?”
“I think he left,” Will said. “I passed him while heading to you.”
“Oh lordy,” Tommy said. “Why would he do that?”
“Why does Rocco do anything?” Will said. “He’s crazy. I told you that when he moved in.”
“I thought you meant like a wild, party-animal guy.”
“Yeah,” Will said. Rocco’s empty can of beer was on the floor. He picked it up and handed it to Tommy. “So did I.”