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News & Features » July 2018 » “The ‘Elefante!’ in the Room” by Nkosi Ife Bandele

“The ‘Elefante!’ in the Room” by Nkosi Ife Bandele

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, a father puts his big foot in his mouth. 

The “Elefante!” in the Room
by Nkosi Ife Bandele

The moment I stepped out of the shower, my six-year-old appeared at the bathroom door. She pointed at me and giggled while blurting out, “Elefante!”

Okay, so I am not fat.

I’m, you know, like, kinda big.

Like big.

I don’t know why she made a connection between the elephant’s trunk and her daddy’s big one in the language she was learning at school rather than her native tongue, but I suspect that she understood its poignancy because she covered her mouth and blushed afterwards.

I can’t recall, (or even begin to imagine), what I thought at that moment, but as typical of me I further complicated the matter by shrugging it off, “Oh, you’ve seen daddy’s ding-a-ling before.”

It’s not really as weird as it sounds.

. . . an elephant’s trunk, a ding-a-ling, her mom refers to her breasts as “mommy’s tah-tah’s.” 

Since my wife found it funny enough, I thought it okay to share the episode with friends, especially the ones with kids, but how could I tell the story without the hint of a boast?

I started with a close friend, a progressive who also happens to be lesbian, (so perhaps I thought it safe), and, as typical of her, she turned it into politics, more concerned about my “infantilizing language” than my big woody.

“Why do y’all even talk to your kids like that, ‘daddy’s ding-a-ling,’ ‘mommy’s tah-tah’s’?”

She remembered how I had urged my teenager to pull up his sagging pants.

“If you want him to pull up his pants and cover his ass, just say that, ‘ass’! What the hell is a ‘rooty-tooty’ anyway?”

Since my friend has a girl and a boy too, roughly the same ages as mine, I asked her how she discussed anatomy-related issues as such with them.

“I call a vagina a vagina, and a penis a penis!”

For some odd reason, those words make me think of how a typically sexist dude complains about women whom he calls “females,” “these females out here . . .” and how certain blacks refer to whites as “Caucasians,” whites being from the Caucasus Mountains and all!


I decided not to tell anyone else my “Elefante!” story, not because of whatever politics, but mostly because I felt shy about the story’s larger implication. But then one day, a parenting buddy of mine, who happens to be white and has big cakes, told me her story about how her African American teenage stepdaughter reacted when she saw her nude for the first time and gotta load of those cakes.

“She was, like, dang, Mom, you gotta big butt!”

I laughed out loud when she told me, in part because I have the same reaction (in my mind, granted) every time I sneak a peek at those bad boys.

Anyway, my friend seemed both pleased that her black daughter admired her for that particular asset of hers and yet slightly offended that she appeared so shocked. Like a white woman can’t have a big butt!

Sharing my “Elefante!” story felt like the natural thing to do, but I regretted it almost immediately. Suspicious of my motives, I told my story awkwardly, hesitantly, explaining the obvious, “You see ‘elefante’ in Spanish means…and what my daughter meant was saying was . . .”

“I get it, you’re big.”

Her flat tone suggested that I was being a guy, indeed suggesting that big bob meet big boom-boom, and I hadn’t meant it exactly like that in sharing my story. I had meant it in the way that she had shared hers, which I suppose could also be considered suspicious. Besides, I am a guy and we guys sorta always hope—and even when for all intents and purposes the situation is not hopeful, not at all feasible, when absolutely nothing’s gonna happen!

Somehow in the moment understanding all that, including the obvious politics, black man/white woman, big tool/big shed, I freaked. I started telling another story, and, again, as typical of me, the wrong story to further complicate the matter.

“You see, I was at this comedy show, and the comic walks on stage looking really exhausted. After a pause, he’s like, ‘Man, I’m tired . . . It ain’t easy carrying all this dick around!'”


NKOSI IFE BANDELE is a storyteller who has worked as journalist and has written for stage, TV, and film. His debut novel, The Ape is Dead!, is about a black student’s journey toward true love on Columbia University’s politically-charged campus in the late 1980s, when an alleged racist attack perpetrated by a gang of white football players prompts a city-wide crisis.  His second novel, The Beast, is about a hip-hop reporter who gets caught up in the mix of a murder mystery of a black cop killer and his subsequent assassination. Both books are published by Crimson Cloak Publishing and can be purchased on their website here. His short fiction include his hilarious “Fuckity, Fuck Fuck, Fuck,” “Fuckity Fuck Fuck Fuck Part 2: Shit, Shit, Shit, Shit, Shit,” and “Itty Bitty Titty Committee.” These are also published by Akashic, and can be accessed here. He has been published under the pen names Easy Boheme, Eshu Bandele, and skoo d foo, da bom! His website, including his blog THAT N-WORD’S CRAZY!, is eshubandele.com. Visit his Facebook Fan Page here. He’s also on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jul 2, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , ,