One Bite at a Time

by Terri Coop

New skills? 2011 was nothing but learning things the hard way, by experience. Life’s unexpected twists left me single, with a struggling business, and a new home. Did I mention that new home was in a 300 square foot office tucked inside three stories and 12,000 square feet of damp drafty Civil War era bricks with a roof that is more of a suggestion than a reality? For the first three months I had no kitchen, hot water, or shower. 

Today, I was upstairs sweeping P4 (powdered-petrified-pigeon-poo) and thinking about this article. While some of my new skills will translate well to the zombie apocalypse (such as the ability to build a sump with an aquarium siphon and a kerosene pump), I realized I have honed one skill that will see me through whatever life throws at me.

 A few months ago, I remembered an old joke.

Q:  How do you eat an elephant?
A:  One bite at a time.

Those eleven words got me through winter when my tarp drains ruptured and water thundered onto the first floor and continue to see me through a clean-up that most men would have hired three guys to handle. 

The secret?

Since I can’t eat my elephant in one sitting, I carve off a hunk, slather on some ketchup, and swallow it one bite at a time. The cleaning never got done upstairs because the men in charge always wanted dumpsters and contractor bags and gigantic industrial brooms! Instead, I sweep the plaster and P4 into small piles and shovel those piles into Wal-Mart bags. When I come down the stairs, two bags of flotsam come with me. It isn’t a fast process, but it is relentless one. I know I’m only about twenty percent of the way there. Who cares? Architectural Digest hasn’t offered me their front cover.

I do get damn tired of elephant, day in and day out. Like someone who thought the thirty-five pound turkey was a good idea because it was on sale, I cringe every time I see the carcass. It never seems to get any smaller. Yet, when I least expect it, I get to throw away a bone.  

As winter slowly gives way to spring, I’m polishing up my elephant recipes and to-do list. My shower is framed in exposed 2X4s, the refrigerator is out in the warehouse, and I don’t have a stove. Who cares? The queen isn’t coming to visit any time soon and with my tankless hot water heater, I can shower until I am cozy and pruney. It took two cauldrons of salsa-stewed elephant to achieve this marginal level of liveability, but here I am. And I know that every elephant ka-bob brings me a bit closer to the finish line. 

My next goal, besides stalking unguarded trash cans to dump my bags of P4, is to apply this same principle to my novel. I am so busy that the prospect is daunting. Then I tell myself to not worry about the whole project. Just concentrate on the first act. 20,000 words. Shouldn’t take more than a couple of Dumbo-Delight club sandwiches to get that far. Then I can worry about the middle and the end. In fact, I think I’ll knock off a page right now. Elephant-in-a-blanket anyone?  

Terri Lynn Coop, along with being an accomplished elephant epicure, is a lawyer and writer. She and her two Chihuahuas dream of a day when the roof doesn’t leak and the garbage man picks up every week without a nasty phone call. It’s the simple things that make life grand. She writes about writing and tacky lawn art at www.readinrittinrhetoric.blogspot.com and stalks creepy clowns at www.whyifearclowns.net. She would be eternally grateful if you said hi to her on Twitter @TerriLCoop.

Image credit: Terri Coop


  1. I'll take mine with the mayo on the side...skinless of course.

    1. Done correctly, elephant actually burns calories!

  2. Replies
    1. And that particular pile of P4 is history! That curtain is the one I pulled down and had snag on the nail. I got to do the kermit flail while wearing it like a bourka. :P

  3. Contemplative, Terri.

    I attended a project management seminar once where they taught me essentially the same thing--but they used Swiss cheese instead of elephants. How do you make Swiss cheese? One hole at a time. :)

    1. I like it! I think I'll put a slice on my next Dumbo-delight club.

    2. Asian or African? One of 'ems better with Cheddar. I disremember which.

  4. Wow! Just... wow! If only Harry Potter was real and you could wave a wand. Until that happens, good luck!

  5. You are my hero, fo' shiz. We'll have much to talk about when we meet in person.

  6. Oh, man. How did I not see this before? We are soul sisters.

    Also, I see your 2-by-4 framed shower and raise you one acrylic shower stall unit that was installed without any subfloor underneath. Bouncy showers, anyone? :D

    One bite at a time… one bite at a time.

    I wonder what an elephant and Swiss cheese sandwich would taste like?


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