Electronic devices have topped the list of preferred gifts for normal American males for years now, and for years Dave has asked for an elephant’s-foot wastebasket for Christmas. You can draw any conclusion from that that you wish, including that Dave is an antique or possibly deceased British gentleman from the Raj era given to monocles, pipe-smoking and imperialism. Or, he is not normal. As you prefer. It’s all the same to me.

But a while back I decided the only way to get him to quit asking for such a revolting item would be to make him one. First step is to look it up online, and sure enough, there is such a thing as a wastebasket made of a sawed-off elephant’s foot, and there is no effort made to pretty it up. Anyone who has one of these objects in his possession is seriously depraved, and no mistake. I know there is a tendency towards hyperbole these days, days in which failing to strap a bike helmet on your child constitutes abuse, and meat is murder; but I will state here unequivocally that elephant’s-foot wastebaskets are way worse than eating a hamburger.

One night I concocted a plan involving ceramic elephant toenails and batting and fabric and flour paste and a lot of criss-crossing with dental floss to simulate wrinkles, with the intention of removing the floss once the fabric was dry. It beats staying awake worrying about your finances, although it’s just as effective from an insomnia point of view. Once I got the toenails back from the kiln, it was going to have to be a quick operation so as to achieve full wrinkle while the foot was still wet. You never know how these things are going to work out until you try: as the old saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing fancy to toss your toilet-paper tube in. Well, it didn’t work so well. I couldn’t keep the fabric straight, and it tended to wrinkle up on its own, so I changed gears and went with that, only it took more and more fabric, until finally I had about forty bucks invested in cotton elephant skin. If I’d had to take down a real elephant, though, I’m sure it would have cost a lot more, even if I sold off the other three wastebaskets.

Dave ain’t right, but he ain’t bad, either, and he probably envisioned the wastebasket as the perfect accessory for his beloved bathroom, which he designed himself with wainscoting and dentil molding and nickel-plated faucets and a marble floor and an art collection. He spends an awful lot of time in there and it pleases him to have fancy surroundings, even if all he’s doing is the same thing England did to India.