How Do You Grow an Elephant that Blooms?

by Carey X. Wallace

It is only the gay and innocent and heartless who can fly.

They were never in love, although Alice thought about the idea for a weekend once before giving it up as impossible and a little ridiculous. He was a year younger than she, and almost a foot shorter, and his bright wild blond hair made him more fantastic than romantic. She wrote poems about boys who were tall and intelligent and who had melting eyes and he wrote songs about girls with long, yellow hair and magic laughter, and they talked about them on weekends, sitting in the field.

"They all live in orchards," he said one day, putting down his guitar.

"Who?" she asked.

"The beautiful people," he said. "In books. They all live in orchards." "No, some of them live in garrets or corners of barns that their aunts put them in," she said.

"All the good ones live in orchards," he insisted. "We must go and search for them."

They went searching in an orchard the next weekend, but found only knotted trees and long crabgrass and rotten apples, which Scott stepped in and got all over the floor of her car. "They must have all died from pesticides," he told her. "I think we should boycott apples instead of grapes."

"No," she said. "They just moved away, and we'll have to look for someplace else to find them. You're being bitter. Stop it."

"Your orchards are always half full," he said.

They made "orchard" their word for the beautiful people they would meet someday. She decided that she would have apples for everyone at her wedding. He said that he was going to give them out to be thrown at him instead of confetti, and wiggled his eyebrows at her when she pointed out the difficulties that would be involved.

Luna moth

She would never have talked to him at first except for his shirt. It was a brilliant blue, and covered all over with enormous white daisies, and when he sat down in front of her in class, she was so impressed by it that she poked him with her pencil and whispered, "Your shirt is glorious."

He turned and glared at her. "You have touched the daisies without permission," he had said, wiggling his eyebrows ominously.

"I'm sorry, your lordship," she replied.

"I'm not a lordship," he told her. "I'm a knave, and you are a princess. I forgive you."

She smiled, and nodded her head regally, and he turned around and did not speak to her for the rest of class.

She arrived the next day with a question.

"Have you ever killed a dragon, Sir Knave Scott?"

He watched her as she put her books on the desk and sat down. "No," he said. "Have you ever been flying?"

She shook her head, and he leaned closer, and whispered, "I can fly!" "Really?"

"Yes," he said gravely.


"In fields," he told her. "Fields are the best place, because no one can see you and you don't run into trees."

She nodded knowingly. "Will you teach me?"

"You are a princess, so you can command me."

"Oh," she said. "Then I command you."

"On a Fri-night?"


"Friday night," he said. "I forgot you are still just a little princess."

"You are forgiven."

"Fri-night in a field?" he asked.

"Yes," she said. "Is that a date?"

"No," he said, wiggling his eyebrows at her. "'Tis a raisin."

Luna moth

The field was wide, and bordered all around with trees.

"Is it yours?" she asked as they walked from the car.

"Yes," he said. "But I do not own it."

"Oh," she said, smiling.

"Here," he said, and stopped.

"Are we going to fly now?"

"Shh..." he said, taking her hands.

She looked at him. "What should I do?"

He began to walk in a little circle, still holding her hands. He was playing the children's dizzy game, she realized, and began to move also, following him around faster and faster until they spun around each other, leaning back, their arms pulled straight.

"Close your eyes," he said, and she did, still spinning, dizzier and dizzier--

He said, "Let go," and released her hands. She spun away from him in crazy stumbling circles, arms outstretched, eyes still closed, skipping a little now and then to see if she was airborne yet.

"You are flying," he said. She lay there doubtfully for a moment and then felt herself floating from the ground, perfectly light. "You are flying," he said again. His voice was near her, but she could not see him.

"Where are you?" she asked.

"Where shall we go?" he said.

"Go?" She moved her arms, trying to find the grass below her.

"You are a princess," he said. "I am only a knave."

"Oh," she said. "Can we go to a place with daisies? And--a fountain? Is that OK?"

She was being lifted, gradually at first and then more and more quickly until she felt that the earth must have been moved very far away.

"We are flying up over the trees around us into the clouds," he said.

"They are bright and have some blue in them and tickle as we fly through--don't open your eyes yet, it's not very far. We're coming down now."

"How do I--" she began.

"My hand," he said, and took hers. She felt a soft sinking, and then her feet met the ground, and she stood for a moment, awkwardly.

He touched her eyelids, very gently. "You can see now," he said.

It was so wonderful that she didn't even gasp, just stood there quietly, not breathing for a minute before she began to run. He followed her, laughing across the great expanse of white daisies--more than either of them had ever seen, more than would fill a hundred daisy vases, more than would fill a hundred thousand daisy vases--more daisies than would fill all the daisy vases that anyone knew about, spread all over a wide flat field with trees around the edges just dimly seen in the far distance.

She ran in great looping circles over them, and their stems were not broken by her feet, but seemed almost to part for her and spring up as though untouched when she passed them. She smiled and ran and ran until she couldn't any longer, and she fell into the daisies with a little laugh and laid her head on her arms for a moment and when she looked up, Scott was there, next to the fountain.

"You made a perfect place," she said.

She stood up and went over to the fountain, which was elevated slightly above the rest of the field on a wide circular disc of white marble. It was translucent turquoise, tall and sparkling. Small bright fish swam in it, brilliantly colored in reds and greens and yellows, and shiny--almost crystalline. She sat carefully on the side and put her fingers over the edge. "Is it-- Does it taste like--"

"It tastes like water," he said. "Take some."

She filled her hands and brought them up to her mouth and drank some. The water slipped through her fingers and dribbled down her face, impossibly clear and sweet.

"That is the flying water," he said. "You will fly now without your eyes closed."

"And by myself?" she asked.

"No," he said.

She was quiet for a moment, looking out at the daisies.

"We should leave," he said. "It is much easier to fly from here than from there."

She felt herself becoming impossibly light again, and looking down, saw the daisies already far below her and the fountain becoming indistinct. And then they entered the damp clouds and she could see nothing but the blue and white until she opened her eyes.

She did not speak at all for a moment, but lay there breathing softly, and then turned her head to see if he was there. He was a few feet away from her and already standing.

"Were we really there?" she asked, sitting up. "Was it real?"

"Was it real?" he said.

She looked down. "Why did you take me?"

"Was it real?" he said again.

She was quiet. "I have never seen more daisies," she said finally.

"I have never seen more daisies either," he said. "That is why I took you."

Luna moth

They flew together often after that. He always let her choose where to go and what would be there, and she made wild and beautiful places for them. They visited pools filled by springs that spouted soap bubbles instead of water, and tall shiny purple mountains with long slides running from the peaks, and a land where all the ground was elastic and buckled as they walked on it. They went to a forest where the trees grew year round in autumn colors and the ground was carpeted with soft dark green moss, and swam at a beach with silver sand where they found a cave that was all mother-of-pearl on the inside.

There were animals where they went, too, which she did not invent. She never knew whether they would or would not be in any given place, and thought that they must be a part of Scott. There were almost always butterflies, with wings that shimmered and changed color in the light and sometimes there were birds that sang melodies more intricate and flowing than she had ever heard. The forests were full of small and slender red deer that stayed shyly behind the trees most of the time, and in the oceans dwelt schools of tiny rainbow colored minnows.

She adored the marvelous places they journeyed to and the creatures they met there, but loved even more the breathlessness and freedom of flying itself. In time, she was able to fly without Scott's hand and was soon soaring ahead of him to the places, and began to fly in clumsy loops and flips over them after they had arrived. After a while, the clumsiness disappeared and she hovered above the mystic lands like a hummingbird, continually amazed by the beauty and novelty of what surrounded her.

Luna moth

There was a fascination for her in the language he spoke. She was enchanted with his elaborate puns, his disregard for the proper meaning of words in favor of the way he knew they SHOULD be used, his convolutions of ordinary phrases, the strange way he abbreviated and mixed archaic and modern formations to create a language at once impossible and wonderful.

She called it Scottish, a name which delighted him even more than her, and he began almost at once to teach her about it. He teased her sometimes by making totally meaningless statements and making her guess what they meant, and after a while she discovered that the best answer was one equally meaningless. "Benches," she would reply, or "Daisies." or "How do you grow an elephant that blooms?" This was a part of the Scottish, too, to be able to use words because they were beautiful or strange or absurd, and not just as a means to communicate.

She was quick--"licketysplicket" as he said--and was soon as apt as he with the language, choosing her own favorite words and inventing her own phrases. She began to say "chilly" instead of "cool" and "Oh girl!" instead of "Oh boy!" and she discovered in a book of old poetry that "scrofulous" meant "obscene" and began using it to refer to those she did not like.

And one day when they were playing in the field and Scott had fallen down he called, "I need horsepower!" and she ran over to him and shouted "Neigh!" and he got up and stood solemnly on one foot and touching her on the nose, proclaimed her Scottish.

Luna moth

They were not together much in school, although they were not with others. She was a Senior, and they had only one class together, and did not speak much in it. The ugliness of the walls and the teacher's voice overwhelmed them, and they feared that anything beautiful they made or brought there would be maimed by the uselessness in the atmosphere and the terrible pressure of fluorescent lights.

She hated school and excelled at it, running in the "speedy track" as he called it. She did the endless purple printed handouts in the most sloppy and perfunctory way, took tests perfectly and hovered always at the lowest end of an A, refusing to mask her contempt for the teachers, their assignments, and the students who did them carefully.

But she never slipped below an A. She wanted out desperately, but even more she wanted something better, a school where learning was not an empty ritual, but something to be striven for, something to be cherished, accomplished not through repetition and worksheets, but found in bursts of insight and in huge dusty books. She wanted it with an almost dangerous intensity, and knew that it was something she would find only after high school, and only if she performed well despite the fluorescent lights.

He hated school and was bad at it, having stopped long ago paying any attention at all to the teachers or assignments. It was only confinement for him, wasteful, and something that kept him out of the field and away from his guitar. Learning in itself held no magic for him. It seemed binding in its concreteness, and made him feel old. He did not understand the reverence in her voice when she spoke of it, but felt somehow that it separated her from him, and that she would rise above him because of it.

"You are such the achiever," he told her.

"I know," she said. "I don't mean to be."

"You will get all the awards," she said. "The guitar awards."

"Well," he said, "I'll get the awards, but you'll have them named after you. Bob Dylan got the Tom Paine award. I'll get the Alice Wooster award."

Luna moth

His initials were F. Scott, the same as her favorite author, who she tried to tell him about once. He had said "Bah!" his usual comment on the things she read. So she told him of the mountain that the other F. Scott had made, a huge mountain made of a single diamond. She told him of the people who owned it and the things they did to keep it, and he said that it was all right for the other Scott to have his name.

And so she began to translate all the things she read into Scottish. Socrates became "a boy who thought marvelous thoughts and sometimes thought about them all day, just standing in one place, and the adults hated him because he was funny and wise, and so they killed him." One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was about an "Indian and a wonderful crazy man and the things they do to an evil nurse-witch." e.e. cummings "wrote poems about flowers with faces and little blue elephants and balloon men." Laura, from The Glass Menagerie, was one of them, because "she lives in a flying world with beautiful glass animals, and she wants to marry an orchard boy from a book, too."

He was fascinated by her stories, and a little jealous that they were people she lived with in the books, and that he could only know of through her. But he wanted to hear about them.

"Tell me a story," he would say. "Give me some knowledge. Tell me about some old saint or something. You know everything."

She was never sure if he really wanted to know, or if he was making fun of her, and it hurt a little. But she always told him, and after a while she began to look for the Scottish in the books she read, so that she could tell him the magic of things she found there.

Luna moth

Exhibitionism was not part of the game. Their actions were not for the world's benefit. "If you refuse The Them and want to be different," Scott said, "it's just as evil, because you're still not being you. It's even worse than being a clone, because you hate them and they still rule you." She told him that D.H. Lawrence had said that before he did, and he said that he had given Lawrence the idea in another life and was going to sue him for copyright infringement.

Luna moth

They looked constantly for places where they could be alone, to be bizarre without censure or witness. They went to the last runs of the least popular movies in the slowest cinemas so that they could have the whole theaters to themselves, and ran up and down the aisles and shouted at the actors. They searched for unknown parks and unkept botanical gardens and arboretums, glorying in the solitude and weird beauty they found. They journeyed to the business districts of small towns in the middle of the night and spread out blankets and sat on them in the street and Scott played old Beatles and Dylan and his own oddly funny songs he had "made" on his guitar.

But they only flew in the field.

She asked him about it once. "Couldn't we fly in the Place of Lilies?" she asked, referring to a magnificently neglected public garden with tiers of melancholy water-lily pools that were her special favorite. "I think it's just perfect."

"There can only be one perfect place," he told her. "When you try to have two, one of them is ruined, and sometimes both. That's a rule of flying. The other one is that you cannot be old."

"May I always be young, Scott?" she asked.

"Daisies," he said, placing his hand on her forehead and wiggling his eyebrows. "You shall always be young and Scottish."

Luna moth

The school days passed in reams of paper and the weekends passed in dreams and flying, and the year ended. She graduated at the top of her class, and was unlovingly presented with a diploma as Scott watched from the sweltering audience. Neither of them smiled much over graduation, but the end of school was such a joyous thing for them that they did not think of it much. The summer lay before them now, wide and sunny and irresponsible and seemingly endless.

They went to playgrounds and swung on swings and teeter-tottered, and journeyed to small beaches where they made sandcastles with wide moats and tall spires and picked dozens of daisies and drank lemonade. And they flew to the most amazing places she had yet made for them, and found incredible creatures there.

They met a monster once, a huge glittering orange beast with a bright blue belly and wings and long curly horns. It swooped over them and roared terribly loudly, and caught Alice up in its mouth and began to carry her off.

"Stop that!" she said at first. "Put me down! I didn't make you and you don't have permission to fly off with me!" But after a moment she realized that he was indeed flying off with her, and doing so in a very menacing manner. They were going very fast, and she couldn't even see the place that he had stolen her from anymore. She couldn't see Scott anywhere, and struggled in the beast's mouth, trying to catch a glimpse of him. The monster dropped lower and lower until she thought that she would be killed on the rocks and called "Scott!"

He darted to her, wielding a small green dagger. "I had to stop and weapon myself, my princess," he said. "We apologize for the inconvenience and hope you will continue your patronage at our establishment."

He turned his attention to the fierce beast. "Fie there, spawn of scalawags!" he shouted, flying beneath it and stabbing it neatly. "Take that!"

The beast let out a bellow somewhat muffled by Alice, who was still clutched in its mouth.

"And that!" Scott grinned wickedly. "One for justice! One for truth! And one for being cheesy and wearing argyle socks!"

The great brute flew irregularly, and his jaws went slack. Alice slipped away from him. "Fly away!" Scott shouted.

She tried to, but couldn't, and began to fall to the peaks below, utterly unable to stop herself. "Scott!" she screamed. "Help me!"

He looked down for just a moment and then shot after her, catching her seconds before she hit the rocks. She was gasping and crying and he gathered her up in his arms and took her back to the field, and they didn't fly after that for many days.

Luna moth

The field began to grow dark sooner, and the nights went more quickly than they had before. They both knew that she was leaving, and played and flew with an intensity neither of them spoke of.

"Where am I going?" she said one night.

"To a wondrous place in the East," he said.

"Will they have spices and fruits and dancing girls?" she asked.

"No," he said. "But there will be ivy and bricks."

"I will come back, though?" she said.

He nodded. "And I will still be here."

And when the summer nights ended, she did go to the east, or the Ivy Brick Land as he called it, and sent him cinnamon and cloves in her first letter.

He made other friends when she left, but none that could fly or speak Scottish. Still, he went out with them and amused them with his words and games and wrote her and waited for her letters and her return. She wrote that she had found an Orchard boy, that he was tall and brilliant and laughing and perfect and that Scott must meet him and that her classes were very difficult and that if she only had time she would write more. He wrote her a letter written on eighteen feet of paper that he had cut and taped together, so thin that it only fit one line on each side. He rolled and taped it at the end before he sent it, and included seven seeds from the last apple he had eaten.

Luna moth

He called her when she came back. She was fully of joy, she told him. Her Orchard boy was coming after Christmas, and Scott had to meet him, he was so... she could not think of the words, and left off there. "He is So, Scott," she said. "He is the Orchard So, and you must view him and be sure he is worthy."

Eric, her Orchard boy, came later as she had said. He was tall and dark and had happy brown eyes and he spoke another English also, but not one Scott understood. He used long words, and ones that Scott didn't even know. He talked about the writers and artists Alice had tried to tell Scott about and made jokes that Scott never quite got. Alice laughed with him almost as much as she did with Scott, which he could not resent and did anyway. She talked about Eric always, even in the field, asking Scott over and over, "Isn't he So? Isn't he my Orchard one?" He always replied, "Daisies" or "Cartwheels," but looked away as he spoke.

Luna moth

"You are nowhere to be seen," he said the second time she came home.

"Yes, my knave," she said. "I beg your forgiveness, my knave."

"Shall we journey?" he asked.

"To the field sir?"

"If your lady pleases."

"Not tonight, though," she said. "Eric's here, and three cannot fly together. He returns home soon. I can summon you after."

Scott was quiet for a moment. "I will scoot by then," he said finally.

"I have to go now," she said. "I was supposed to leave for a concert ten minutes ago."

"Guitars?" he asked.

"Violins," she said. "Cellos, tubas, trombones, piccolos, clarinets, bass drums..."

"Bass drums are good," he said.

"So is the rest of it," she said. "I really have to go."

"Call when the boy journeys," he said.

"Daisies," she said. "Goodbye. I'm sorry."

"No thought," he said, and hung up.

After Eric left she called, and they went to the field, more quietly than usual.

"I have a gift for you," he told her.

"For me?" she asked. "I have none for you."

"I know," he said. "But you are a gift."

"What is it?" she asked.

"It's to fly with."

"Oh girl!" she said.

"Here." He pulled a pale green scarf from his pocket and gave it to her.

"Oh, Scott. It's perfect." She held it for a moment.

"It has daisies on it," he said, showing her the tiny white flowers scattered over it. "It's to be a part of your hair when you fly."

"You are perfect, Scott," she said. "Are we going to fly now?"

"You are the princess," he reminded her.

She stood up and tied the scarf in her hair. It hung to her waist in the back, and she moved her head and twirled around, watching it as it followed her.

He took her hands and they began to move in their circle, her scarf flowing out around them. It wrapped around her arms and face, and covered her eyes. And then he said "Fly!" and they both dropped to the ground.

"Where are we going, O Princess?" he asked her after they had lain there for a moment.

"To a forest," she said. "With a pond, and..." she struggled for something more magic for a moment. "...with a pond."

"We are going there," he said. "We are flying out of our field now and into the clouds."

She pushed the scarf from her face and opened her eyes for just a moment, then closed them even more tightly to make up for it.

"We are in the clouds, and there is a flock of turquoise birds with golden tails here, and they all make noises at us and one of them sits on my finger and some of them play with your scarf," he continued. "Now we're coming down. Can you see the forest?"

She couldn't, but she thought she might if she kept listening very hard. "Yes," she said.

"It's all dark green, and there are little lines of sun in places that are making odd patterns on our skin."

She moved her arm a little and tried to see them.

"There are flowers floating on your arms. Daisies! And they match your scarf, except they move. Aren't they wonderful?" he asked. "Do you see them?"

She opened her eyes. He was lying not far from her, smiling, his eyes still closed. She started to close her eyes again, but didn't. "No," she said.

"They're right there," he insisted. "Daisies, spinning all over your arms."

"I don't see them, Scott," she said, sitting up. "I can't see them."

"Look," he said.

"No, Scott."

He opened his eyes and looked at her, turning his head but not sitting up.

She said nothing.

"Why are you not?" he asked slowly.

"I don't know."

"Have you forgotten?" he said, sitting up. "I can teach you again. It had been long since."

She shook her head.

"Is it the scarf?"

"No," she said, pulling it from her hair. "It's not the scarf. I love the scarf. The scarf is perfect. You are perfect."

"Then--" he began, looking at the ground and then up again, "what is it?"

She did not speak for a long time. "I am old," she said at last, very quietly.

"You cannot be," he said. "If you are old, you can't fly anymore, Alice. That's what the book says."

"I know," she answered, and looked away.

"Then--" he began, falling silent for a minute. "Who will fly with me?"

"I don't know," she said.

"I see."

They both sat for a moment and then he stood and began to walk across the field to the car.

She got up and went after him, not catching up to him but staying a few steps behind.

"Scott," she said. "Scott, I'm sorry."

"Yes," he said, and kept on walking.

Luna moth

She went to his house when she got back that summer, but he wasn't there. She called later, and asked who he had been out flying with.

"I no longer fly," he told her.

"Oh," she said, and was quiet for a moment.

"I have a band," he said. "It's all right."

"Yes," she said.

"It's cool," he said. "It's all right."

"Daisies," she said.

"It's all right," he repeated, and then they were both silent.

"Well," she said finally, "I was just calling to see--I mean, would you like to maybe--"

"Not today," he said.

"Oh," she said. "Maybe then--"

"No," he said. "Listen, I have to go."

"All right," she said.


"Scott!" she said.


"Scott, I'd really like to see you sometime."

"I have to go now," he said, and hung up.

Luna moth

They did not see each other after that.

She cried some at first and missed him, and she put the scarf away because she could not look at it.

And then some time passed, and she decided that it was really too pretty to be left in the drawer, and she knew that it would match her green challis skirt perfectly, so she took it out again and wore it.