A story written for my granddaughter Lena on her fourth birthday

You only had to look at him to see that he looked different. I mean, did you ever see an elephant with yellow polka dots? And that was not all. He had a purple trunk, green ears and a red tail. When he was born and lying on the ground curled up next to his mother, he looked like a beach ball.

When the other elephants in the village saw him, they were not even sure he was an elephant and whether he should be allowed to stay in the village. Grumpface, one of the older elephants, argued he should go, lest they be laughed at by the other jungle animals. Gertrude, the baby’s mother, and Herman, his father, said it should not make any difference what he looked like. They said they loved him, and he would grow to be a good elephant.

There were arguments back and forth about what to do and finally Old Albert, the Chief of the village, decided the question should be put to a vote. The baby could stay only if more elephants said yes than said no. The elephants were lined up and two stones were placed in front of each of them. Those who wanted the baby to stay had to push with their trunk one stone forward and those who wanted the baby to leave, had to push two stones.

After each elephant voted, Old Albert counted each of the single stones and each of the two stones and when he finished counting, he announced that by a single vote it was decided the baby could stay. Gertrude and Herman were ever so happy and promised the baby would make them all proud. The decided to name the baby “Almost” because he almost did not receive enough votes to stay.

As a young elephant, it was not easy for Almost. It is well known young elephants are not always nice to each other. Sometimes they make fun of elephants that look different and Almost did look different. If he was mischievous as youngsters sometime are, unlike other elephants he could not run and hide in the bushes because his colors were so bright, he could easily be seen. He couldn’t even tell a fib that it was another elephant that was naughty, hoping it would be difficult to pick him out from the others, because Almost did not look like the other elephants.
So,      k while Almost was    fpermitted to stay in the village, he was always the butt of jokes and was never taken seriously.

Far away on the other side of the jungle there was an elephant village and the elephants who lived there were nasty, mean and lazy. When food was scarce, they would go to other villages and threaten the animals who lived there unless they gave up their food. They were known as the Meanies. Since Almost’s village was far away, the Meanies did not bother them. One year however the weather was so bad for such a long time that the crops failed and food was very scarce. After taking what they could from the villages near where they lived, but still looking for more, the Meanies crossed over to the other side of the jungle to the village where Almost lived. Old Albert had heard about the Meanies and told the elephants that if they did not give up their food the Meanies would harm them. Since Almost was never taken seriously, he was not permitted to attend the village meetings and did not know what was going on. He was wandering in the bushes and decided to return home. When he arrived at the village he suddenly came face to face with the Meanies. At that very moment, the sun which had been hidden behind a black cloud suddenly came out in a very bright sunshine. The sun’s rays landed on Almost bouncing off him and creating a blaze of colors so bright it looked like Fourth of July fireworks, blinding the Meanies. They could not tell it was a small elephant and instead thought it was a secret weapon that would destroy them. Fearing for their lives, they quickly ran off never to return.

When Old Albert and the other village elephants saw what happened, they let out a shout of approval and lifted Almost onto their shoulders and declared him a hero. From that day on, Almost was treated like all the other elephants and was a respected member of the village. To celebrate the day Almost saved the village from the Meanies, every year there was a big party with lots of food and dancing and on that day in honor of Almost all the elephants painted their bodies with all kinds of colors. A flag that had the same colors as Almost was raised in the center of the village and had printed on it in large bold letters the following words: