An Elephant’s Sufficiency by Sue

‘Do we have all we need?’ said Mrs Osborne, hands on hips as she surveyed the table in front of her.

‘An elephant’s sufficiency,’ I said,  running my eyes over the plates of pikeletes, scones, cup-cakes decorated with tooth-rotting objects, huge and delicious-looking slices of fruit cake, platters of asparagus and sausage rolls and little balls of something rolled in cocoa powder.

‘Oh,’ I said, pointing at the balls, ‘Mozart’s Balls.’

‘What?’ said Mrs Osborne turning pink.

The other kids standing around tittered, eyeing me as they talked behind their hands.

‘They’re a German confection – “Mozartkugeln” I think is the right term,’ I said being Horrible Hinemoa, ‘but “balls” is a close translation.’

The other girls turned away and tried to pretend I wasn’t there.

But of course I didn’t care and never had.

So here I was at another school Fair day, holding a plate adorned with my flourless chocolate cake.  How I detested school Fair Days. This regional school was much worse than my school back in Auckland.  Yes, I loathed the things, except for the jazz band.  But then I was peculiar. My friends told me I was weird. I didn’t like the pop-music my friends liked. Once I said I like Simon and Garfunkel. Anyone would think I was talking about the Middle Ages rather than the 1960’s. I used words out of wonderful books and plays, especially from the 1700 and 1800’s.  I loved the Roaring Twenties and adored P G Wodehouse.  When Dad took us to see a Noel Coward play I laughed till the tears ran down my cheeks.  Yeah – weird.

Anyway, back to the Elephant’s Sufficiency.

‘What do you mean by that?’ said Mrs Pascoe, deftly avoiding Mozart’s balls, ‘”Elephant’s Sufficiency”?’

I was stumped. Mum said it all the time and I didn’t know what it meant.

‘Ah,’ said the amused voice of my English teacher, Mr Thompson, ‘Hinemoa is making a joke as usual – the correct term is “Elegant Sufficiency” and if my memory serves me right, it was first used around 1722 and then in the Victorian era. Right Hinemoa?’

I jumped and turned round to see him standing just behind me, a grin from ear to ear. A friendly face.  Phew!

‘Er yes,’ I said, ‘I think it was … can’t remember …’ My voice tailed off.

‘Oh and I’ll have some of Mozart’s balls before anyone buys them all,’ said Mr Thompson,  as Mrs Thompson, my German teacher arrived pushing their new baby in his pram.  Mrs Thompson raised her eyebrows.  Mrs Pascoe handed him a bag, managing a sickly smile.

The other girls, eyes on the Elephant’s Sufficiency, began milling around Mrs Pascoe who was laying cellophane sheets over the edibles.

Under a marquee in the middle of the football field, the school jazz band started to play a ridiculous old 1950’s song, ‘Nellie the Elephant.’  The Thompsons and I stared at each other and started laughing.  I bought a  slab of fruit cake, then we headed off to listen to the band.

  • : Humour
  • : Elephant poo in the illustration


  1. Susan O'Neal

    I loved everything about this from the elephant’s sufficiency to the Thompson’s kindness. Written by someone who clearly loves playing with words, I hope once Hinemoa has settled into school there will be lots more vignettes like this one!

  2. Amrita Sarkar

    That was such an endearing story! And hey, I love Simon and Garfunkel. Also, Wodehouse. 🙂 I loved how quirky a character you have crafted in Hinemoa. I had no idea about Mozart’s Balls before, but now I know all. I think the needs and geeks are always eyed with suspicion right from the early years. It’s really unfortunate. I love your characterization and the way the story has come about. Very well-written! Thanks for sharing!

  3. K McLain

    Delightfully offbeat. It is difficult to build deep characters in such a short piece, but you succeeded in depicting Hinemoa and Mr. Thompson in ways that made them feel authentic and interesting. Great job!

  4. Stephen Sierer

    What a cute slice of life story. I liked the characterization, specifically of Hinemoa. Overall, a fun little piece with some funny wordplay and genuine characters.

  5. maria delaney

    Hi Sue,

    I loved this piece. As soon as I got to the third paragraph, my mind transported back to a time when I manned craft fair tables and baked goods for sale at my children’s school.

    This line made me laugh out loud;
    So here I was at another school Fair day, holding a plate adorned with my flourless chocolate cake. How I detested school Fair Days.

    Great job with the 500 words,

  6. Riham Gharib

    The world should have plenty more Mr. Thompsons. Luckily, I’ve met a few of them over the years, and your interesting story reminded me of their strategic interventions.

    The wordplay here is amazing, and the flow of the story is so smooth to the very end. The setting is also quite clever, all kinds of sticky situations could happen on such occasions …

    Lovely story Sue!

  7. cmschneider1418

    That was a fun story, I enjoyed reading it. The play on words was very clever and the scene flowed well! I also got a good sense of who Hinemoa was. Very well done!

  8. Sue Maynes

    Lots of fun in this story and I loved the addition of the old phrases and words. They gave the main character a touch of difference – her witty observations versus the staid school atmosphere. Very entertaining.

  9. Paul J P Slater

    Bring on more Mr Thompsons

    I loved the play on words and the humour running through the entire piece.

    Dammit, you now have me singing that last song.

    Thank you for sharing. Keep writing.

  10. SM Prasad

    Hi Sue,
    I learned so much as I read your story. I didn’t know the name Hinemoa, its pretty cool. -I thought that “horrible hinemoa” was an expression but then I saw that its really just a name. I had to look up elegant sufficiency, I don’t think I’ve heard that expression before. So getting through your story made me into a geeky nerd like Hinemoa. I loved her character and her unapologetic enthusiasm for “weird things”. I’ve never heard of “Nellie the Elephant” so after I finish your comment, I have something else to look up! Your story had an authentic voice of a teenager who knows who she is and knows how to stick to her guns. Great job.

  11. Michael Kurko

    Coming to one of your stories is like coming to a good meal. You always know you’re going to find something tasty. Your language is playful and bouncy as always with just enough idiosyncrasies to keep me guessing. I love you can make a story that’s not (and I mean this in the best possible way) not really about anything and still create a handful of characters who we want to get to know immediately.

    The Mozartkugeln tickled me pink and reminded me of the Capezzoli di Venere (Nipples of Venus) that Salieri was so fond of in the movie Amadeus. Thank you for another delightful treat.

  12. Peggy

    This was such a fun tale, Sue; I loved Hinemoa and her idiosyncrasies. I loved that she was very aware of these differences and that she was proud of them and didn’t care what others thought about her. And Mr Thompson was the coolest of all! I too love Simon and Garfunkel, and if that makes me weird, well, it’s just one more thing to celebrate about me (and Hinemoa)! Thanks for sharing this great story.