Elsie was no ordinary giraffe - if you can consider giraffes ordinary at all. While her lofty companions enjoyed spending their time taking part in competitive sports, Elsie’s head was in the clouds.
The other giraffes amused themselves by having ‘standing up very tall’ competitions, leaf-picking and elbow-licking contests. Elsie tried standing up very tall, but she was so magnificently high off the ground that the altitude made her dizzy and passing birds landed on her head.
She had a good go at picking as many leaves as she could, but she never did care for the flavourless foliage. Elsie much prefered to munch on tangy grapefruits. Elsie even tried her hoof at elbow licking, but she found the idea revolting. When she saw the other giraffes with their long, black tongues reaching for the backs of their knees she started to feel queasy, which is a particularly unpleasant feeling when your neck is so long.
Elsie tried to fit in, but she just couldn’t do it. Unlike the other giraffes, she enjoyed peace and tranquility, not sports and competitions. It wasn’t that she didn’t like spending time with the others, but she had a very special way of spending her free time, and the herd jeered and hooted with laughter when they found out. They rolled around on the floor laughing, with gangly legs flailing in the air. Elsie felt very alone. All she really wanted was someone to understand her unusual ways.
When she got a moment to herself, in the privacy of a shady canopy of unpicked leaves, Elsie took a deep breath and prepared to relax. She stretched out her gangly limbs and began a long yoga session, then refreshed herself by gobbling a delicious grapefruit.
After that, Elsie felt her inner sparkle start to wake up, but it wasn’t quite as sparkly as it could be. There was one thing Elsie loved even more than sun salutations and citrus fruit. A sumptuous soak in a nice warm bath.
She would trot into the deepest part of the watering hole and sink her towering neck all the way down, until only her great yellow head bobbed above the surface. The sun-warmed water would lap gently against her skin and soften her hooves. She’d often sing her favourite bathing anthem:
“There’s nothing as lovely
As getting all bubbly,
Becoming quite sparkly clean.
My long legs are polished,
All dirt is demolished,
My head is beginning to dream.
A grapefruit in hoof,
A sky for the roof,
There’s just one thing for which I wish.
A friend, a companion,
Who’ll be understanding,
And get in my bath for a swish.”
One day, Elsie snatched a few moments to have a secret soak. Just as her inner sparkle was beginning to reach its optimum, there was a rustle in the trees. She popped her head out of the water, her sparkle levels taking a sudden nose dive. Someone was coming towards her. There was a soft padding across the ground, followed by a tremendous thumping that sent ripples through Elsie’s bath. What was this monster that had come to disrupt her bathtime?
The rustling got closer, and birds scattered from the source of the noise. Then through the trees burst not one monster, but two! A roaring, growling, bearded lion and a wallowing, walloping, stumbling hippopotamus.
Elsie lept back, but her hooves slipped, slid and skidded on the bottom of her bath, sending her into a faceful of bubbles. The hefty hippo thundered towards her, followed by the ferocious lion, who both stopped short of the watering hole. They stood gingerly at the water’s edge.
“Are you Elsie the giraffe?” the hippo asked hoity toitily.
Elsie was flabbergasted and too alarmed to say anything at all.
“We’ve been looking for a lovely place to take a bubbly dip, and a little hornbill at the fruitmarket told us about your secret bathtub.”
Elsie hesitated. Was this a trick set up by the giraffes to make her look silly?
“We brought a couple of gifts to make your bath even better. I only eat lemons, and my friend here, Lion, is a big fan of limes, so how about we drop a couple in the tub and join you for a soak?”
Elsie’s spotty ears pricked up. Grapefruit, lemon and lime sounded just marvellous, even good enough to eat.
“Do you really want to join me?” Elsie tentatively asked the unlikely pair.
“Well, only if you don’t mind,” Lion said in a soft, timid voice.
Hippo dipped a leathery toe in the water and looked up at Elsie, who gave an emphatic nod of her extensive neck. Lion and Hippo didn’t waste a second and bombed into the bath - lemons, limes and grapefruits whizzing, whirling and spinning all around them. The citrus fruits fizzled, sending miles of bubbles swishing across the water. Lion’s mane slicked softly down his neck and Hippo’s leathery skin softened.
Elsie sunk back down into her not-so-secret bath. She smiled at her new chums, who accepted her just as she was. No more pretending to enjoy standing up very tall, or trying to fit in with giraffes who made fun of her.
“A grapefruit in hoof,
A sky for the roof,
There’s nothing more for which I’d wish.
Two friends, two companions,
They’re quite understanding,
And we’re all in my bath for a swish.”