"Look out!" a little girl shrieked, and a chorus of voices responded.
Bergen looked toward the fence on the other side of the trench around the elephant arena -- yeah, and like that would stop them if they really wanted to get out of there and go rampaging through the zoo? -- and saw a bunch of school-age children leaning against the railing, waving and shouting. At her. The air pressure built up behind her, and the distinct sweet-grainy-dusty-musky smell wrapped around her. Which one of her charges was it now, and what did he or she want?
She turned, just in time to see a big dusty gray serpentine mass sway toward her face, then upwards, grazing her hair. Please, don't let him sneeze in my face again, she prayed, and put up both hands to shove the trunk away before it wrapped around her. For some reason, one elephant found it amusing to try to drape its trunk around her shoulders, turning into a smothering, bone-crushing heavy muffler. Emphasis on muffler, as in wrapping around her face. And what one elephant did and got away with -- as if anyone could stop them, short of using tranquilizers and elephant guns? -- the other ones imitated.
The trunk curved around like a big snake and tapped her right shoulder from behind.
"Shemp!" Bergen laughed, partly in relief.That wasn't the elephant's name, but it seemed appropriate, since along with his tendency to tap people on their right shoulders, he liked to retrieve things she had pushed out of the way in her cleanup rounds, and bring them back to her. Like the big red rubber dodge balls she had played with in elementary school, or the hula-hoops, or the branches. She had named the big elephant for George of the Jungle's elephant pal -- usually referred to as the "big, peanut-loving bow-wow." Along with his tendency to fetch things she didn't want fetched, he had an uncanny ability to sense the presence of peanuts, even inside sealed cellophane bags, inside her backpack, as she walked past the arena on her way to her locker in the maintenance half of the elephant house.