The Towering Monarch of His Mighty Race
by Cat Rambo
It was a peanut butter jar, not even a brand name but generic, the two and a half
pound size, as big as a lantern. Oily dust roiled inside.
The woman dressed in gray picked the jar up and held it between her large flat
hands. There was something reflexive about the gesture, as though her mind were
very far away.
A boy said, "Those are Jumbo's ashes."
Her eyes returned to regard him dispassionately. It was an old look, a look that
had been weighing the universe for many years now and found it lacking.
"Jumbo," she said in a leaden voice.
The boy pushed on, fighting his way against her indifference, wanting to see her
thrill and liven, if only he found the right fact.
"There was a fire in 1975, here in Barnum Hall, and Jumbo, who was the Tufts
university mascot by then, burned up. They saved his ashes in that jar."
She turned it over, watching the flakes stir.
"Of course, he was stuffed then," the boy added. "The bones are in the
Smithsonian. His keeper, Matthew Scott, donated them."
For the first time her gaze sharpened, though not to the degree he wanted. "Is
Scott still alive?"
"No," he said. "He died in 1914. In an almshouse. How could he still be alive?"
She turned the jar with slow deliberation, letting the contents tumble once, twice,
three times. "Stranger things have happened."