Horns blared as the elephant calmly stepped into the busy intersection.
"This was yet another of your bright ideas," Jake growled.
"At least I have ideas," Christina responded. "Everything was going fine until you climbed on." She grabbed his arm for balance as the elephant dogged a minivan.
"Don't blame me for this one. You're the one who arranged for the elephant in the first place."
"Yeah, for your daughter. You know how much she wanted an elephant at her birthday party. I thought she should have at least one positive memory of her childhood before her useless dad leaves."
"Of course, It's all my fault. Must be nice to be Miss Perfect and never do anything wrong."
"That's not true. I married - " Christina screamed as a city bus bore down on them. The pachyderm shook his head in annoyance at the shrill sound. Tires squealed on hot pavement as the bus screeched to a stop.
"Quiet, you're upsetting the elephant," Jake hissed. "Good boy, that's a good boy. Take us back to the party…"
"He's not bothered by a bus, but my scream annoys him? Really? And do you think that elephant has any clue what you're saying? What are we going to do? All our daughter's going to remember about her fifth birthday is that her parents were killed by an elephant."
"People killed by elephants die from trampling, not from riding. It's the people in front of us who should be scared. Now shut up and hang on. I need to find a way to stop this big boy."
"Where do you think he's going?"
"Do I look like the Elephant Whisperer?" Jake asked. "For all I know, he's searching for his lost love."
"Maybe this saddle is digging into his spine."
"I don't think it's called a saddle."
"Oh, so sorry. Let me rephrase. Maybe this beautiful bronze seat lined with red silk and adorned with golden tassels and where we are currently sitting is annoying the delicate spine of our mount. Better?"
"We're on top of an elephant. A runaway elephant. Wandering around town."
"Yeah. Crazy, huh?" Jake started to chuckle. "Can you believe it?"
"As you said, better to be on top than in front. Did you see the look on that bus driver's face?" Christina started to giggle. "Wonder what he was thinking?"
"'Oh my gosh! There's an elephant in my lane!""
"No, I know! 'Darned woman drivers, shouldn't be driving an elephant if you don't know what you're doing."
"Ha! I agree with that!"
Christina punched him lightly on the shoulder. "No you don't, you've never complained about my driving."
"Well, you're not doing so good with this elephant..."
Suddenly, the elephant picked up his pace. The howdah rocked back and forth, throwing Christina against Jake.
"Hold on tight, it's going to be a rough ride," Jake said.
"Wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard that," Christina muttered.
"I never heard any complaints," Jake said with a smile.
"No, there were some things we got right."
Sirens wailed in the distance, coming closer and closer.
"Sounds like the cavalry is on its way."
"About time. Have you looked around us?"
For the first time, Christina took her eyes off of the elephant and glanced around. A swarm of people had formed behind them, most holding up cell phones to take pictures and video. Christina buried her face in Jake's shoulder.
"Great. I'm going to be all over You Tube tonight. I can see the titles, 'Mom Ruins Daughter's Birthday by Running Off with Elephant.'"
"I think it's about to get better. Do you see where he's heading?"
"No. Please no. He's not heading to the River Promenade, is he?"
"Yep. We're about to enter the most upscale part of town on the back of an elephant."
Christina started to laugh.
"Christina, what's wrong?" Jake asked. She only laughed harder, pointing to a large sign at the entrance to the promenade.
Keep our Promenade clean
Clean up after your pet
Minimum fine $50 per violation
"Is our elephant considered a pet?" she managed to ask.
Jake laughed. "Do you remember our first pets?" he asked.
"Yeah. Those mice you got."
"They were the only thing we could fit in that tiny efficiency apartment."
"And they hated each other. They fought the entire first night." Christina shuddered. "I didn't know mice could make noises like that. Or hate each other so much. Do you remember what you did the second night?"
"I separated them in the cage."
"And halfway through the night we woke up to the sound of a mouse fight."
"Chewed right through the darn divider."
Christina smiled. "You were so mad. Here were a couple of mice keeping us awake all night long - and we'd actually paid for the privilege."
"As soon as the sun was up, I liberated them."
"You took them into the alley and let them go."
"And that was the end of our first pets."
"Wish I had one of them now." Jake said.
He smiled. "To scare the elephant."
Christina laughed. "You'd try that, too."
"Strange circumstances dictate strange solutions."
"That's the Jake I married."
"Look, the police finally got here."
"Jake, you don't think they're going to shoot the elephant, do you?"
"I hope not. He hasn't done anything except take a stroll through town."
"It would be a shame to end like this. It started out so good." Christina smiled wistfully.
"Yeah, Sarah was having a great time. Did you see the look on her face when she went into the back yard and saw the elephant? This really was a great idea."
"Monica Walhgren's birthday is next week. Let's see her parents try to top this."
"We'll be telling this story to our grandkids," Jake commented.
The promenade around them swirled with activity, but it was silent in the howdah.
"We've had a lot of fun together," Jake said.
"Where did we go wrong?" Christina asked.
The elephant paused at a food truck and helped himself to a snack.
"We stopped having fun," Jake replied. Christina thought about it.
"We were busy. Our careers. Sarah. The house. We didn't have time for us."
"Yeah, we have it all," Jake said bitterly. Christina touched his hand.
"We had fun today," she said.
Jake smiled. "Yeah, we did. If I ever get abducted again by a runaway elephant, I hope it's with you."
"I don't want to leave," Jake said bluntly. "I want to be there for all of Sarah's birthdays. I want to have more times like these. With you."
"Then stay." Christina threw her arms around his neck. "I love you," she whispered in his ear.
He wrapped his arms around her as the elephant started to kneel. "I love you, too," he replied.
The handler climbed into the howda with a police officer close behind.
"Are you OK? I don't know why Francis took off like that."
Christina lifted her head. "We're fine." She smiled at Jake. "Now."