The annual soccer match between the Elephants and the Rhinos was always a hotly contested event that drew creatures from the plains and the jungle. Birds jostled for prime limbs to watch from and all the predators took the day off so everyone could have fun. The previous year one of the lions got too excited and bit an antelope, so this year they were relegated to a rocky slope well away from the playing field. Their roaring complaints about such punishment fell on deaf ears. Because of his stripes, the head zebra was the umpire (a misnomer–should have been referee but by now it was a tradition to call them the umpire) and because he’d been raised by humans he could enunciate better when it was time to call a foul.
The ball was what humans used to call a medicine ball, (one of the elephants stole it while escaping a circus) covered with heavy duty leather and tough enough for big feet to kick without bursting. As the teams did their warm-up drills it rested at midfield awaiting the pummeling to come. When the sun reached the agreed on point in the sky, the teams took the field as the crowd went wild and yelled encouragement to the team they preferred. The reptiles felt the ump was biased because he’d been stepped on by a rhino as a foal but the monkeys screeched so loud their hisses were muffled and ignored. Besides, the elephants usually won because they were nimbler, but the rhinos put up such a good fight every year the tussle was well worth watching. The rules were simple. No goalie, just kick the ball over a vine laid on the ground at each end of the field. No use of trunks and no goring. Bumping and bullying were totally acceptable.
When play commenced, it felt like an earthquake as the massive tonnage lumbered across the field each time the ball was booted. The birds chirped loudly when the rhinos scored first due to a back leg kick that scooted between the head elephant’s massive feet and rolled over the vine. Trumpeting and snorting, the elephants went all out to even the score and formed a box with their bodies to keep the rhinos at bay. Things got worse for them though when the smallest rhino shoved his way through and stole the ball, then scored with a kick that traveled the length of the field. The baboons got a big hoot out of that maneuver and clapped their hands with approval. This caused the elephants to call time out so they could palaver. While they huddled, the rhinos complained to the ump that time shouldn’t have been granted as it took away their momentum. The ump felt it was insulting for them to question his authority so he gave the elephants a free kick when play recommenced.
As the sun inched its way toward the horizon, the elephants were worried that they might lose when sunset came and ended the game, so they decided to cheat by “accidentally” trunking the ball when any opportunity arose. Unfortunately, though their eyesight was notoriously bad, the rhinos caught on to that ploy and decided there was only one way to maintain their lead. The next time that the ball was launched into the air, the small rhino that scored the first goal stuck his horn straight up and “accidently” gored the ball, which ended the game. The controversy that ensued went on until well after sundown but in the end the ump had the final say. “No ball, no game. No rematch. Rhinos win.” As everyone went back to business as usual on the plains and in the jungle, there was a lot of tittering about the elephants finally losing when their cheating led to a deflating reprisal. The biggest topic of conversation around the waterhole the next day was “where do we get another ball for next year’s match?” Breaking into the circus to steal one became the mission of a young gorilla named Gonzo, but how that went is another story.