Yesterday, I had a long after-dinner chat with my old friend Cornelius the Camel. We bantered about the old days but we were all aware of the elephant in the room - the metaphorical elephant, I mean. The subject that no one, in particular the Old Monkey, wanted to raise. I know that he wished to save my feelings but I could not stand the small talk any longer, I had to ask the question.
"How are things in Casablanca - is the old place still there?" I asked Cornelius.
"Yes, Sultan, Unc's Cafe Americain is still serving up the best coffee in all Morocco, but it is not the same without your exalted presence, Sire." he replied.
"Has she ever visited since..." I began...
"No Sir - Never" said Cornelius emphatically.
My mind wandered back to those distant, difficult days....
At one time, I resisted my destiny - I spurned the life of a world famous entrepreneur, because my heart was broken.
Instead I roamed the far flung corners of the earth, finally settling in Casablanca where I ran a small cafe. A cosy and intimate environment where friends could relax and linger, huddled on the many sofas, drinking a wide choice of coffee and other beverages. I should have patented the idea, I know. Two tourists from Seattle nicked it and now have hundreds of similar outlets around the world.
These were dark days. The lights were going out across Europe. The power workers were on strike. Beaver Hateman was on a tour of the world preaching revolution and fermenting industrial action.
One day a beautiful elephant came into the cafe. The Old Monkey was playing the piano.
"Hello Old Monkey" she said
"Hello Miss Maggie. I never expected to see you again." he replied
"It’s been a long time"
"Yes, ma’am. A lot of water under the bridge"
"Play some of the old songs, Old Monkey"
The Old Monkey began to play a number. He was nervous.
"When will he be back?"
"Not tonight. He went home. Leave him alone, Miss Maggie. You’re bad luck to him."
"Play it once, Old Monkey, for old time’s sake."
"I don’t know what you mean, Miss Maggie."
"Play it, Old Monkey. Play 'Nellie the Elephant'"
"Oh I can’t remember it, Miss Maggie. I’m a little rusty on it."
"I’ll hum it for you....Sing it, Old Monkey"
The Old Monkey began to sing
Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk And said goodbye to the circus Off she went with a trumpety-trump Trump, trump, trump
At this point I stormed in...
"Old Monkey, I thought I told you never to play…."I shouted, then stared in amazement. I tried to maintain my cool.
"Hello, Maggie." I said
"Hello, Unc." she replied "I wasn’t sure you were the same, Let’s see last time we met…"
"It was the G10 in Paris” I snapped back.
"How nice, you remembered. But of course, that was the day that Beaver led a violent demonstration against the Summit" she murmured.
"Not an easy day to forget. I remember every detail - Beaver and his gang wore sackcloth, you wore blue." I said sardonically.
"Yes. I have put that dress away. When the unions are smashed, I’ll wear it again." she countered.
I first met Maggie when we were both at University, I studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics and she Natural Sciences. I admired her and admit to finding her the most agreeable and attractive cow (female elephant) that I had ever met.
We met again in Paris at the G10. By then I was at Harvard and she had gone into politics - she had won a parliamentary seat in one of the jungle suburbs.
Our relationship blossomed, we were to go away together - but she just disappeared from my life. I later heard the she had married a successful business elephant called Denis.
"Are you here with Denis?" I inquired. "Yes, we are here for a golf tournament" she replied. Before we could talk anymore she was whisked away by one of her political aides.
That night, for the first and only time, I drank a barrel of Black Tom.
"Sir, are you not going to bed?" said the Old Monkey - clearly concerned at my condition.
"No. Of all the Koolvat joints in all the world, she walks into mine." I responded angrily.
Then Maggie walked in.
"So, here's the successful Minister for Education - I hear they are calling you the banana snatcher?" I jibed.
"Yes, but I can take it - what I can't take is being away from you" she whispered.
"It's a bit late for that! Why did you do it! Why did you leave me!" I cried as the emotions welled up in me.
"I'm sorry, it was a mistake...but can't you see?...once I found out about the bicycle stealing accusation I could not afford the risk. Exposure of the matter could have destroyed my career. A politician's spouse has to have a blameless record." she cried.
"I DID NOT STEAL A BICYCLE!" I shouted.
"Forgive me, I have been a fool, how could I have given you up for a career in politics?...I can't think straight anymore...you'll have to do the thinking for both of us...lets leave Casablanca, together, on the first flight out in the morning." she whimpered.
That night I wrestled with my conscious. Then the phone rang. It was Wizard Blenkinsop. He desperately needed my help - unless I were prepared to buy Homeward it would fall into the hands of Beaver Hateman.
The next morning I met Maggie at the airport.
Denis fell out of the taxi I had ordered for him.
"Last night we said a great many things. You said I was to do the thinking for both of us. Well, I’ve done a lot of it since then and it all adds up to one thing. You’re getting on that plane with Denis where you belong. The Gorillas are on strike again, the jungle is in trouble - I know, and you know, that you are the only one who can sort this madness out. You have to run for Prime Minister." I told her.
"If that plane leaves and you are not on it you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life. We’ll always have Paris. We did’nt have, we’d lost it, until you came to Casablanca.
I’ve got a job to do too. I have to go and buy Homeward. I must become a world famous tycoon. It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little elephants don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.. Someday you’ll understand that.
Here’s looking at you, kid."
With that I waved her off.
Later that night I confided in The Old Monkey.
"I think it was probably for the best in the end....I'm not sure who would have worn the purple trousers in that relationship."
"Well, to be honest, Sir," said the Old Monkey "I always found her a bit shrill"