It was a lovely day in Harvey Street, and the Harvey Girls were all hanging out together in the common room of their trailer. Audrey and Dot were at a table; Audrey was scribbling into the page of a coloring book, while Dot was trying to solve a cube puzzle. Their friend Lotta, however, was looking through the bookcase for something to read. It was shortly after she'd started that she'd noticed a book she hadn't seen before.
"Hm? What's this?" Lotta gently tugged onto the end of the book and pulled it out, then looked at the title. "Stand Back, Said the Elephant, I'm Going to Sneeze?"
She brought the book over to the table that Audrey and Dot were at, then sat down with them. She opened the book and began to read it to herself. Within almost a minute, her friends could hear her giggling over what she was reading, sometimes accompanied by a few audible laughs.
"Hey, Lotta!" Audrey said, looking up from her coloring book. "Whatcha reading?"
"Oh, it's just this story I found in our bookshelf," Lotta replied. She'd finished the last page. "I've never read it before, but it sure is funny!"
"Is it?" Dot chimed in, putting down her cube puzzle. "What's it called?"
"It's called Stand Back, Said the Elephant, I'm Going to Sneeze." Lotta closed the book to show the cover to Audrey and Dot.
"Hmm, I don't remember having that book in our shelf," Dot stated. She took a moment to examine the cover before she spoke again.
"Allow me to guess. An elephant is about to sneeze..."
"His animal friends are worried..."
Lotta gave another nod.
"And they try to convince him not to let out the sneeze, right?"
"Yep!" said Lotta. "He doesn't actually sneeze at the end, but what happens is what would've happened if he did."
Audrey took every one of Dot and Lotta's words in, and her first response was a chuckle of amusement.
"That does sound pretty funny," said Audrey, "not to mention exciting!"
"Oh, it does!" Dot agreed. "And think about it. The suspense of such a large creature about to sneeze... It's really quite intriguing!"
Lotta couldn't help but nod in agreement. Suddenly an idea came to her.
"You know what we should do? We should all read this story together and pretend to be the characters," said Lotta.
"Yeah!" Audrey immediately said.
"For once, you've come up with a great idea, Lotta!" Dot stated.
Lotta couldn't help but blush for a moment before she spoke again.
"Okay, if we're going to read this story together, one of us is gonna be the one who's gonna sneeze," said Lotta. "So which one of us is it going to be?"
Audrey and Dot thought about this for a few seconds.
"Well, you're certainly larger than both of us, Lotta," Dot mentioned.
"You know..." Lotta took a moment to think about this. "I am, aren't I? I guess I could make a good sneezy elephant, but..."
Before she could speak again, however, Audrey's eyes suddenly widened and pupils shrunk. Her nose, feeling itchy, twitched a few times as her nostrils flared slightly. She lowered her eyelids as her breath hitched.
"Aaah... Aaaaaaah..." Audrey inhaled, quite convincingly, as she leaned her upper body backward.
Dot and Lotta looked at her in curiosity, which immediately turned to surprise. They knew what was going to happen: Audrey was going to sneeze. But what if it was going to be as big as the elephant's sneeze in the book?
Audrey tilted her neck as far back as it could go - but before she could sneeze, Dot placed her forefinger directly underneath Audrey's nose. Audrey opened her eyes halfway, seeing that Dot had her head turned away in fear while Lotta was covering her ears with both hands. But the urge to sneeze had gone away, and the tickle that remained was increasingly getting weaker and weaker. Finally, it was gone, and Audrey's breath had returned to normal.
Dot pulled her forefinger away from Audrey's nose, and Lotta removed her hands from her ears as all three of them sighed with relief, with Audrey wiping her forehead with her hand.
"Thanks, Dot..." Audrey said. She briefly placed her forefinger underneath her nose for a sniffle and a quick rub. "Talk about a false alarm, huh?"
"Yeah, you almost made my heart jump," said Dot.
"Sorry about that..." Audrey rubbed the back of her neck, looking a bit sheepish.
Just then Lotta's eyes widened as she got an idea. One that made her smile.
"That's it!" said Lotta. "Audrey, YOU can be the elephant that's going to sneeze!"
Audrey looked a bit surprised. "Huh? Who, me?"
"Well, the buildup to your sneeze was quite over the top, if you ask me," Dot pointed out.
"I guess if anyone can be over the top sometimes, it's you," Lotta replied. "You don't have a problem with being the one who has to sneeze, do ya?"
"Nah, of course not," Audrey replied. "I just didn't think I'd be destined for that role or whatever."
"And to be fair, watching you try not to sneeze and listening to your warnings would be a bit, um..." Dot tried to think of the right word. "...amusing?"
"So you're saying it'd be funny if I was like this?" Audrey lowered her eyelids, held her hand over her mouth and faked the windup for a sneeze, complete with a feigned attempt at warning. "Aaah, aaah... Oh, no, I... Haaaah... I'm gonna sneeze... AaaaaAAAHH..."
Dot and Lotta couldn't help but need to laugh from watching her do this. They managed to resist, with Dot putting one hand over her mouth and Lotta covering her mouth with both hands, but Audrey heard them and stopped acting.
"I think that's a yes," Audrey commented jokingly.
"To be fair, I couldn't help myself..." Dot admitted.
"Well, if you want me to be the elephant who has to sneeze, I'll do it," said Audrey. "I'll take that role and run with it!"
"Oh, goody!" said Lotta.
"As for the other roles, I think Lotta and I will be able to take care of them for you," Dot then said. "Wouldn't you say so, Lotta?"
Lotta nodded, then took out a little book stand that she'd found on the desk. She moved the table and the chairs out of the way with a few simple pushes as Audrey and Dot moved away from them. These movements created a little "center stage" in which the Harvey Girls would act out the story. Then, placing the book stand on the table, Lotta propped the copy of Stand Back, Said the Elephant, I'm Going to Sneeze upright so that she and her friends could read it with ease.
"Everybody ready?" Lotta asked. Audrey and Dot smiled and nodded. "Great! Let's get started!"
She opened up the book to the very first page, then moved to where Dot was. Audrey walked up to the book and read the first page a few times to memorize the words, and then moved to the center stage.
"Stand back!" Audrey started in a bit of a breathy, desperate-sounding voice, "said the elephant," and went briefly to her normal voice, then back to the breathy voice. "I'm going to sneeze!"
"I hate to alarm you, but I- don't wish to haa-harm you..." Audrey sniffled a couple times as she rubbed her nose quickly with her forefinger. "My friends, I fear... it's clear..." Another sniffle. "Oh, dear." She held out her hands, as if gesturing her friends to stay back. "You'd better stand back, I'm going to sneeze."
Dot and Lotta couldn't help but giggle to themselves. Audrey was already stealing the show as the sneezy elephant. She briefly turned to the book to turn the page, and Dot moved into center stage to read the words on it. Once she'd memorized the words, she turned to Audrey, who darted her eyes this way and that and wiggled her nose to make it look like she had to sneeze.
"Oh, no, oh, no!" Dot started, wincing as she sounded worried, "cried the buffalo," she added in her normal voice. "You're so big and strong, and your trunk is so long, your sneezes send everyone flying along!" Audrey gasped a couple of times, sending her neck back to keep up her fake sneezy act each time
"Bumping and thumping down pathway and trail..." Audrey sniffed again, trying to twitch her eyelids as Dot uttered her lines. "Bouncing and jouncing head over tail. Tumbling and bumbling, your sneeze is a gale..."
"Aaah-" Audrey gave another false inhale, only for Dot to place her forefinger underneath her nose.
"Or a hurricane! I hate to complain, but please, don't sneeze!" Dot finished.
Dot then removed her forefinger, giggling to herself in amusement as she moved out of center stage. Audrey turned the page of the book, and Lotta went over to the page to read the dialogue on it.
"No, no, please, don't sneeze!" Lotta said with a wince as she put her hands out, "cried the monkeys in the trees," she added in her normal voice, before going back to acting as the monkeys. "You make such a breeze when you sneeze."
"The last time, you blew us right out of the trees."
As Audrey acted like she was listening to the dialogue, she brought a forefinger up to try and stifle her acted sneeze, accompanied by a gasp and a backward jerk of her upper body.
"The branches began to bend and to sway."
Audrey repeated this action, this time accompanied by the word ah.
"And some of us landed so far away..."
Audrey removed her forefinger and lowered her eyelids, her mouth falling open until the next piece of dialogue made her a bit concerned.
"...we didn't get back until the next day!"
Audrey looked a bit worried as she covered her mouth with a feigned whimper, which quickly turned into another gasp.
"The leaves all went whirling," Lotta went on, "and tumbling and swirling, and the flowers shook for hours the last time you sneezed."
Audrey removed her hands from her mouth, but kept them in front of it as she gave another fake inhale. "Haah..." Before she could go any further, Lotta moved her upper body into her face.
"Even a cough would knock some of us off!" said Lotta. "Oh, PLEASE, don't sneeze!"
Dot moved back into center stage to turn to the next page of the book. She read the words on the left page first before she recited the words on the right page.
"With a shriek, the parrot opened his beak:" Dot then turned upward, covering the side of her mouth with one hand, then covering the other side with the other hand. "The elephant says he's going to sneeze!"
Audrey tilted her upper body back, eyelids halfway lowered as her mouth opened, until Dot used both of her hands to close her mouth manually, yet gently. Audrey's eyelids went back up.
"Oh, elephant, PLEASE!" Dot said, then went back into her normal voice once again, "cried the birds in the trees." As she let go of Audrey's face and read the dialogue as the birds, the latter stood there, looking a bit dazed but still not-really-sneezy.
"The last time we sneezed, we lost every feather," Dot mentioned. "We didn't know whether we'd ever get back together."
Audrey gave two more false gasps, the second of which she raised her forefinger back to her nose.
"Every parakeet was bare as a sheet from his head to his feet. What's more, all the whales had peacock's tails..."
Audrey removed her forefinger once again for another fake gasp, to which Lotta responded by shoving her own forefinger under Audrey's nose.
"And the wings of the cockatoo were stuck on the kangaroo."
"You must confess, it was quite a mess," Dot finished, "very confusing and not too amusing."
She could see that Lotta was having a bit of a struggle trying not to laugh, and Audrey was having trouble trying not to smile. "Even a snuffle makes our feathers ruffle..."
Audrey sniffled again, prompting Dot to say the final line of the page. "Oh, PLEASE, don't sneeze!"
Lotta turned the page for Dot, who proceeded to read the first paragraph of the page on the left, while Lotta took this pause to read the dialogue as the bees. Audrey stood where she was, fanning a hand in front of her face as her eyelids lowered again, and she gave a couple of false gasps.
"Fly, fly, called the birds to the bees," Dot read, first as the birds, then her normal voice and the birds again. "The elephant says he's going to sneeze!"
"Huuuh-" Audrey inhaled once again, only for Lotta to turn to face her before she held her nose.
"Oh, no!" Lotta said as the bees, briefly switching to her normal voice on the next line, "buzzed the bees," and back to the bees again. "Not a sneeze, not a sneeze!"
"The last time, he blew off our stings and our wings..." She let go of Audrey's nose, while Audrey stood there and sniffled a couple of times. "And we had to make do with rose thorns and glue."
"Furthermore - what a shock," Lotta went on as Audrey rubbed underneath her nose with her hand, "we all had to walk on our knees, if you please..." She moved one hand to the side of her mouth as she leaned toward Audrey, as though whispering, "and that's hard on bee's knees," then back to her upright position as Audrey kept her eyelids lowered and her nose twitching, "while our wings grew back in. What a sin!"
She held her hands together in a pleading gesture. "Oh, PLEASE, don't sneeze!"
Dot turned the page, and Lotta decided to read the bear's dialogue for her, since she was about the size of the bear compared to her friends.
"Beware, beware!" Lotta said, "called the bees to the bear, the elephant says he's going to sneeze!"
Then, as Lotta read the bear's dialogue, Audrey kept up her act of feeling a sneeze coming on, while Dot did her best to react in panic.
"Oh, please, not a sneeze!" Lotta started, "said the bear,"
"That's not fair. I declare, the last time he sneezed he blew off all my hair," Lotta placed her arm on her forehead as though she was trying to be overdramatic, "and left me so bare..." Upon the next line, Audrey almost pretended to sneeze again, only to be interrupted by Dot placing her forefinger underneath her nose. "I spent the whole winter in long underwear."
Lotta then hugged herself and pretended to shiver, as though she were cold. "Nothing's so sad as a bear that is bare."
"And the poor giraffe - don't laugh," Lotta then warned, "almost bent in half, and the alligator's snout was turned inside out the last time he sneezed."
Audrey sniffled loudly, then rubbed her nose twice with her forefinger. As Lotta's bear character had warned, Dot tried not to laugh, although it wasn't easy. That was because of how much fun this was, however, rather than the imagery.
"A sniff or a snuff is bad enough..." Lotta said, just as Audrey tilted her neck back once more. "But a sneeze!" Lotta placed her forefinger underneath Audrey's nose. "Oh, PLEASE, don't sneeze!"
The page was turned once again. Dot read the dialogue for Lotta, since she'd acted quite a bit already, and then turned to Audrey.
"I don't suppose you could hold your nose, or wait a while?" Dot started. Upon the next line of dialogue, Audrey did hold her nose with both hands, but then twitched her eyelids to make it look like it wasn't working, "Asked the crocodile with a sad little smile."
"Oh my, do try, said the fly," Dot added, before going into the dialogue as the fish. "We wish," then briefly went back to her normal voice again, "said the fish," and back to the fish.
"You would if you could. The last time you blew off all of our scales..." As she read the lines, Audrey rubbed the sides of her nose, acting like she was trying harder to fight her fake sneeze. "From our heads to our tails, and our gills got the chills." Then Audrey pulled her hands away from her nose, as though she couldn't take much more. "Our skin is so thin, if you do it again, we'll freeze!"
"Aaaah..." Audrey took another inhale, only for Dot to again cover her nose with her forefinger.
"Oh, PLEASE, don't sneeze!" Dot finished.
The page was turned.
"The zebra yelled..." Dot said, before Lotta did the zebra's dialogue.
"Yipes, you'll blow off my stripes, plus lots and lots of the leopard's spots!" Audrey looked a bit sneezy, but also worried - but this was all part of the act. "And all of the snakes will be tied up and knots!"
"The hippopotamus said," Lotta then switched to the hippo's dialogue, "A lot of us will fall right on our bottom-us if you sneeze..." Audrey took another big breath, but Lotta placed the palms of her hands over her mouth before she could pretend to release the sneeze. "Oh, PLEASE, don't sneeze."
The page was turned once again, to the climactic page. Audrey was smiling deep down; this had to be the best part. She gently pushed Lotta's hands away from her.
"I'm sorry, my friends," she said, almost sounding like she'd lost her sneeze, "said the elephant sadly." She lowered and twitched her eyelids once again. "About all of this, I d-do feel badly... If I could keep from sneezing, I'd do it gladly." She sniffled, doing her best to make it sound audible.
"But I have such a twitch in my trunk and an itch..." Audrey twitched her nose, shaking her head briefly. Upon the next line she rubbed her nose with her forefinger, "Plus a bit of a tickle and even a prickle..."
"Y-you muuuh... must run, fly and hop..." Audrey held her hands in front of her, as if gesturing toward her friends. "I, I'm afraid I... can't stop..." A final audible sniffle. "I would if I could... but there's... nothing to do..."
Dot's eyes widened and pupils shrunk in feigned fear as she winced, and then she reached up to plug her ears with her forefinger. Audrey improvised the buildup as Lotta turned to the next page and read all of the dialogue to herself.
"Aaaaaah... Aaaaaaaahhhhhh..." Audrey tilted her upper body back once, then again, before she sent it as far back as she could with a climactic false inhale. "HAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH-"
"Boo!" Lotta started her role, and Audrey pretended to look surprised as she turned to her. "Shouted a gray little mouse, jumping out of his house," Lotta continued. "He stood right up on his little tiptoes..." And she did just that. "Stuck out his tongue..." She paused to do that, too, along with the following, "and wiggled his nose."
"Eek!" Audrey pretended to scream as she jumped for a moment, "shouted the elephant, jumping in the air."
"That's a mouse! That's a mouse standing right there!" She pointed to Lotta, pretending to look scared as she held her other hand close to her mouth. Then she looked around hastily. "I must hide in a tree before he gets me, or jump in the lake. For goodness sake! Don't scare me, please spare me!"
The page was turned once again.
"The mouse laughed," Lotta said, and did that a bit before she continued her dialogue as the mouse. "Oh, pooh, now what could I do?" She placed her hand on Audrey's shoulder as she looked at her in false puzzlement. "A little thing like me..." Lotta pointed to herself, "to a big thing like you?" Then she pointed to Audrey.
"I only wanted to give you a scare, and it worked as sure as you're standing there," Lotta went on. "Elephant, think about it, please!" She let go of Audrey's shoulder, then pointed to her again. "You completely forgot to sneeze!"
Audrey stood there for a moment, then smiled.
"Well, what do you know?" she started, then laughed a bit as well. "Laughed the elephant." Back to her role as the elephant. "That's so! It's astounding, confounding, as I live and breathe! I don't think I really have to sneeze!"
"The elephant began to giggle." To make her laugh sound more convincing, Audrey thought of the funniest thing she could. "He-he-he-he! That's the funniest thing that has happened to me! Ha-ha-ha, ho-ho-ho!" And she went back to her normal voice, for the last time. "The elephant shook from his head to his toe."
"He ho-hoed and ha-haed, he giggled and guffawed, he chortled and chuckled until his knees buckled." She turned the page. "He sat down and rolled from side to side. In fact, the elephant laughed til he cried." When she got to that second sentence, she chuckled a little and pretended to wipe a tear from her eye.
As Audrey kept on reading, Dot and Lotta stood and watched, both of them cracking smiles in amusement.
"He laughed til the ground was shivering and shaking, and all of the trees were quivering and quaking. The monkeys came tumbling out of the trees, and the stings fell off every one of the bees. The bird's feathers went flying to goodness knows where..." Audrey turned the page.
"The zebra yelled..."
"Yipes! There go my stripes!" Lotta finished for her.
"While the hippo went thump right on his plump... you know what," Dot read the next part for her, ending it with a whispering gesture before she turned to the final page.
"And into a puddle, the mouse went, ker-plop!" Lotta made a landing gesture with her hands. "Then he sat up and shouted..." Back to the voice of the mouse for the last time. "This must simply stop!"
"We're terribly glad you don't have to sneeze. But if you must laugh, laugh softly. Oh, elephant, PLEASE!" And then she closed the book, as they had finished the story. "The end."
The Harvey Girls then finally laughed over their narration and reenactment of the story. It had been an exciting, hilarious time they had there.
"Man, that was awesome!" Audrey said.
"Oh, it was," Dot agreed. "Not to mention, lots of fun!"
"Yeah!" agreed Lotta. "I think I did everyone pretty good, too."
"Yes, and I also believe I put up a great performance," Dot replied, then turned to Audrey. "But Audrey?"
"I can safely say that you were the best part of the whole thing," said Dot. "Your pre-sneeze expressions and fake buildups - not to mention that last one - were done marvelously well!"
"Yeah, and they were really funny, too!" Lotta agreed. She laughed cutely into her hands for a few seconds.
"Gee, thanks, guys!" Audrey said as she smiled at her friends' compliments. "Do you think I should take up comedy?"
"Oh, yes," Dot admitted.
"For all we know, you took the show and stole it the way only you could," Lotta said.
"In fact, that was so much fun, I wouldn't mind reading the story like that again sometime," Dot mentioned. "The other kids should have seen us; they would have been laughing their heads off from watching your impressive acting skills!"
"Oh, I bet they would've!" Audrey agreed. The idea of her other friends being so amused by watching her act of needing to sneeze amused her as well. "Yeah, let's make sure all the other Harvey kids are with us next time we read that so we can see how they react."
"Done and done," Dot replied with a nod.
After they'd finished their conversation, however, Audrey's eyes suddenly widened and pupils shrunk. Her nose began to twitch, and her eyelids lowered as she tilted her upper body back. It looked like she'd felt the sudden urge to act like she was going to sneeze again, but if so, why was she doing it?
"Aaaah... Haaaaaaaaaaahhhhh..." Audrey inhaled.
Lotta couldn't help but giggle from watching the buildup. She must have thought Audrey was acting again. "Okay, Audrey, you got me," said Lotta.
"Uh, Lotta?" Dot asked, sounding concerned. "I think she's really going to sneeze!"
"HaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH..." Audrey replied, confirming that her sneeze that Dot had prevented before the Harvey Girls read the story was back with a vengeance.
Dot and Lotta took a few steps back, both of them looking concerned. Dot placed her hands over her eyes, and Lotta once again put her forefingers to her ears. It was only then, with a final inhale and a climactic backward jerk of her upper body, Audrey exploded.
By golly, that had to have been one of the biggest, loudest sneezes that Audrey had ever released, and that Dot and Lotta had ever heard. Like how the elephant's laughter caused the ground and trees to shake in the book, the sneeze echoed all throughout the trailer and caused a great many of the girls' things to shake. Not only that, a particularly large amout of saliva came firing out of her mouth, and a bit of clear mucus came bursting out of her nose, although her friends were lucky that neither of them got sprayed. The sneeze also felt particularly satisfying, and it was quite a relief to let it all out.
"Uuuugh...!" Audrey stood where she was, rolling her eyes involuntarily as she looked dizzy, genuinely dazed. She then sniffled loudly and brought her forefinger up to rub her nose a few times. Dot and Lotta looked at her, both of them surprised, shocked and a bit worried.
"Oh, my goodness!" Lotta said as she placed both of her hands on her face.
"A-Audrey, are you alright?!" Dot asked in concern. "That was the loudest sneeze I've ever heard!"
Audrey briefly stopped rubbing her nose to nod once. "Yeah... sorry, I don't know where that came from..." Another audible sniffle and some more rubbing. "I guess all my fake needing-to-sneeze made my real sneeze want to come out."
"Well, I suppose that makes sense..."
Dot then smiled forgivingly, and reached to the side of her to pull out a tissue box. She pulled out a couple of tissues, then walked over to Audrey and offered the tissues to her. Audrey was still rubbing her nose.
"Gesundheit!" said Dot.
"Thanks..." Audrey smiled as well, took the tissues and blew her nose for a few seconds. It was a loud blow, but it felt good, and brought yet more relief to her nose. Audrey couldn't help but smile as she wiped her nose with the tissues.
"Yeah. Gesundheit," Lotta echoed what Dot had said, but she wasn't sure if she was saying it right.
Audrey kept wiping her nose for a few seconds, then sighed in relief as she threw the used tissues away. She was feeling much better now that she'd fully recovered from the sneeze.
"You know what, guys?" Audrey asked. "Let's just pretend I didn't sneeze right after we finished that book."
"I don't think that'll be a problem, Audrey," Dot replied.
Lotta nodded in agreement. "And besides, if the other kids heard THAT sneeze, that'd probably be..." She put her hand over her mouth and stifled a giggle.
"...something to sneeze at?" Audrey finished for her.
Audrey and Lotta then laughed over the joke that the latter had made. Dot looked at them for a moment, but then chuckled as well so she wouldn't be let out of the joke.
With all honesty, though, the Harvey Girls couldn't wait to act out the story of "Stand Back, Said the Elephant, I'm Going to Sneeze" to the other kids in Harvey Street. They couldn't help but imagine just how impressed and amused they'd be during their performance...