Was there anything more frustrating, humiliating -- and plentiful -- than elephant poop?
Mercer thought the situation might be more bearable if she could actually be far away from the elephant compound when the "deposits" were made, but the sneaky creatures -- and how in the world could anything that big and slow manage to be sneaky? -- always did it the moment she turned her back. She would cross to the storage shed to put away her industrial-strength broom and the enormous shovel-dustpan she used, confident that the arena where little children came to "meet" the big, baggy, dusty creatures was clean and presentable. Then she would turn, thinking maybe if Dumbo and Jumbo and their friends -- not their names, but she preferred familiar handles -- were good boys and girls, maybe she would treat them with a long shower from the hose. They did seem to love it when she aimed the fire hose up over their heads and sent long, soft streamers of water all over them. The first few times they flapped their ears and let out little half-trumpeting sounds, she had been afraid she had startled or irritated them, and any minute now they would charge straight at the source of the irritation or fright. Meaning her. Then trample her. No one would be blamed except her, because after all, she had stepped into the elephant enclosure.
That still freaked her out a little. Yes, someone had to go into the enclosure during the long, dusty, bright summer days and regularly clean the arena. But why her, the new kid?
"The critters like you," Dr. Hawkins had said, when Bergen asked, her voice squeaking a little bit, when she was handed the assignment after just a week as go-fer and general assistant to everyone who worked with the elephants."Like -- a snack?" She had felt a little better when Dr. Hawkins grinned and shook his head, and the other, more experienced elephant handlers laughed and didn't show any irritation with her hesitation.