‘The Elephant in the Tower’ by David McGrath

The elephant narrator, wrenched from the side of his beloved King Louis, finds himself in the Tower of London as part of Henry III’s royal menagerie. The other animals hate his stuck-up attitude, and the zookeepers end up feeding him red meat and barrels of wine as he slowly descends into lonely alcoholism. My absolute favourite stories – the ones I can neither resist nor forget – are those which manage to combine profound pathos with moments of genuine humour (or arguably, the tragedy’s concealed inside the comedy all along, like a bitter literary Creme Egg), and this little gem of a story does it with gutwrenching brilliance. McGrath has just appeared in The Stinging Fly’s Debuts issue and is one to watch. I’m also very fond of Ed Cooper Clarke’s sublime performance of this story, complete with Cockney Polar Bear.

First published on Liars’ League “Kings & Queens” in July 2013. Read for free here; Reprinted by Arachne Press in Weird Lies, Winner of the Saboteur Award for Best Anthology) 2014 – buy it here

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