Lucinda Ann Pembrook was cute and dainty. Not that she liked to have herself thought of in those terms. If she had her way, people would think of her as Zanthia, Jungle Princess. She didn't mind being a girl, she even enjoyed a few girly things like dress-ups or playing with her dolls. Mind you her dolls were stuffed boa constrictors, alligators and gorillas. Somehow being as cute, petite and dainty as she was encouraged people to treat her like a breakable china figure when she was perfectly capable of carrying a bag of groceries, or climbing the ladder on the tall slide without anyone's help. She had even won a Swiss Army knife from the Bluebirds for her ability to tie complex camping knots. Lucinda knew she was rough, tough and ready, but how to convince the rest of the world was a problem.
One Saturday Lucinda was walking in the forest near her house when she came upon a very strange sight. In her path near a stream lay a gigantic elephant tangled and struggling in fishing line. Certainly Lucinda was surprised, I mean she didn't even live in India or Africa, nevertheless being a rough tough Bluebird, she knew just what to do. She jumped onto the elephant and started to undo knots and cut fishing line until she had freed the elephant.
At the arrival of Lucinda's skilled presence the elephant stopped struggling until the job was done. The elephant then shook itself, stood upright and sprouted an enormous pair of pink translucent wings. Now this was surprising. "I am the fairy elephant," proclaimed the elephant, "And I'm not even going to explain what I was doing here tangled in fishing line. Today you have won yourself a friend and someday, somehow, I shall reward you for your kindness." With that the fairy elephant disappeared in a shower of pink and gray sparkles.
Lucinda had no idea how to take this sequence of events, but she dutifully wrote them down in her journal of adventures.
On Monday at school the teacher announced that the school was in need of new playground equipment and a computer with an Internet connection for her class. In order to raise the money they were holding a public picnic. The teacher said that he was going to need volunteers for certain fundraising activities and passed around sheets with a list of those activities.
Lucinda loved computers. She longed for a chance to surf the highways and byways of the Internet looking for adventure. With great glee she scanned the volunteer list, ticking the boxes for those activities she thought she could help. One activity was the pb&j (peanut butter and jam) feed. Kids would get sponsors to agree to pay for how many pb&j sandwiches an individual kid could eat. Just as this activity caught Lucinda's eye, pink and gray sparkles burst over her paper and a tiny version of the fairy elephant appeared.
"I can help you win this contest and get your class that computer," said the elephant. Lucinda looked dubiously at the fairy. She knew all the big boys would volunteer and she wasn't sure she stood a chance with them. On the other hand beating the big boys at a contest would be a sure way to demonstrate her roughness and toughness. No one would dare call her cute anymore. "Okay, I'll do it!" said Lucinda. She took out her large black crayon especially to make a large black tick by the pb&j feed. The teacher gave her a strange look when she gave him her paper, but said nothing as he gave her a sponsors sheet to fill in.
That week she went to all of the richest people in town to get them to sponsor her. No one believed such a cute, dainty and petite little girl like Lucinda was going to be eating very many sandwiches. Therefore, they were generous in per sandwich pledges. As things progressed Lucinda got so excited that she was afraid she would get a stomachache before even beginning the feed.
Finally the day of the picnic arrived. Lucinda woke up bright and early to help put up the decorations and set out the picnic tables. The morning seemed to last forever waiting for the contest. She ran the three-legged race with her best friend. She helped pull on the tug-of-war. She even sat in the dunking booth. Here, people threw balls at a target which when hit, caused her to be dropped into a tub of water. Soon enough the hour of noon arrived. Many of her schoolmates were surprised to see Lucinda's name in the list of contestants for the feed.
People sat down at their tables in front of a raised wooden platform flanked on one side by a group of parents surrounded by bags of bread, and jars of peanut butter and jam. On the platform itself was a table with four plates heaping with sandwiches. Lucinda and three boys marched onto the stage and took their seats. One of the judges raised a brightly coloured pennant. Lucinda was just certain she could see the fairy elephant peeking at her from between the leaves of a distant cherry tree. With a mighty swish of her arm the judge flagged the start of the feed.
Lucinda started in on her sandwiches. To her amazement they were just like fairy floss (cotton candy), evaporating in her mouth with every bite. As fast as the boys were eating, she found she could easily keep up. The crowd cheered them all on keeping their own noisy tally of how many sandwiches were being eaten by each kid. It didn't take long for the boys to realise that they weren't just leaving Lucinda in the dust. She was happily cruising along matching them bite for bite.
It wasn't until 2pm that the strain could be seen on all of the contestants faces except Lucinda's. The first to go was a boy who, though willing to continue eating, found that he could no longer open his lips. So much peanut butter was sticking to the roof of his mouth that he had to be carried off to have his jaws surgically unglued. Lucinda, miraculously, found that for her peanut butter was just incapable of sticking to the roof of her mouth. The next boy passed out face first into his sandwiches leaving a perfect imprint of his features in the bread. The last boy was Jack Snidely, the meanest boy in class, and he wasn't about to be beaten by a girl. For another hour he kept pace with Lucinda, but you could tell it wasn't easy. Everyone heard the seams on his clothes creaking and eventually his buttons exploded off of his shirt. Just as his eyes were bulging out of his head he made a swift exit to the toilets where he had a long talk with God on the white porcelain telephone.
Lucinda was the only one left and she just kept on eating. She ate and she ate. She ate an enormous volume at an enormous pace. She ate so much that they had to send to the bakery for another truck load of bread, and to the supermarket for another two trucks of peanut butter and jam. She guzzled so continuously that the parents had to take shifts in making pb&j sandwiches for her to eat. At 6pm near the close of the picnic Lucinda delicately burped and said that she was done, could she please now have a dish of ice cream.
Everyone was stunned. The judges found that she had eaten nearly two tons of food, a weight roughly equivalent to an adult male elephant, and yet there she sat just as cute and dainty and petite as ever. In their amazement nobody noticed the platform buckling dangerously beneath Lucinda's chair, nor the four inch deep foot prints she left when she walked home. Fortunately, this side effect wore off in a day or so. Not only did her school have the money for new playground equipment through her efforts, but every student in her class had a new computer with an Internet connection.
That night Lucinda took down the events of the day in her journal of adventures, and thanked the fairy elephant for her help.
Copyright © 4 February 1997
Katherine Phelps <firstname.lastname@example.org>.