Becomes One Hundred Stories #41: Tells a Hippo Tale

This is a piece of short fiction in the style and universe of three of my novels: Becomes the Happy Man, Becomes God’s Silent Prophet, and Becomes the Meaning Blossom.

Tells a Hippo Tale

The sad young man said he felt defeated. He said he felt defeated all the time.

The young man asked why.

The sad young man said he wished he knew. He said if he knew then he would know what to do to stop being sad all the time.

The young man said he sometimes got sad, but whenever he got sad, he thought about the hippo and he always felt better. He said in fact he had been sad often like the sad young man was sad until he saw what happened to the hippo. He said after he saw what happened to the hippo, he no longer felt so sad, and any time he began to get sad, all he had to do was remember the hippo and then he was no longer sad.

The sad young man said what about the hippo.

The young man said maybe it was better if the sad young man saw what happened for himself.

The sad young man said he didn’t have time to go to the place where the hippos lived, so the young man should just tell him the story.

The young man said he would try to tell the sad young man what had happened to the hippo, but hearing about it might not be as effective as seeing it.

The sad young man said try.

So the young man tried.

The young man said it began with a pregnant hippo. A pregnant hippo in the warm pools of a spring that rose from the ground in the high grasslands. The young man said many animals lived in the pools of the springs, but the springs were known far and wide as the place where the hippos lived.

The sad young man said what about the pregnant hippo. He said what about the pregnant hippo, and what about the pregnant hippo had anything to do with him.

The young man said he would soon find out. He said the pregnant hippo wasn’t the important part of the story, but the baby hippo was.

The sad young man said well get to the part about the baby hippo then.

The young man said he was. He said the story of the baby hippo began with the pregnant hippo—the baby hippo’s mother.

The sad young man said the story likely began long before with the father hippo and the mother hippo getting together.

The young man said that was the beginning of a broader story. He said the story he had to tell only began with the pregnant hippo, just before she was ready to give birth.

The sad young man said to tell the story then.

The young man said the pregnant hippo lived with her herd in the pools of this spring. He said the pregnant hippo and her herd lived closely together because one of the biggest threats of living in the pools was the large crocodiles.

The sad young man said the story would come to no good.

The young man said the story held a lot of good for him, and it might have some good for the sad young man if he would listen to the story instead of interrupting.

The sad young man said go ahead.

The young man went ahead. He said when the pregnant hippo was ready to give birth, she left the herd to give birth in private.

The sad young man said yes he got it. The crocodile would eat the baby hippo because its mother was apart from the herd. Egregious.

The young man said no. The young man said after giving birth, the mother hippo succeeded in fending off the crocodiles and she succeeded in helping the infant hippo learn to swim and breathe and generally learn to live in the pools of the warm grassland spring.

The sad young man said where was the lesson in that.

The young man said he was coming to it. The young man said for two weeks the mother hippo and the baby hippo remained apart from the herd. He said in all that time, the mother hippo protected her baby from every threat and taught the baby to live.

The sad young man said and then she introduced the baby to the herd.

The young man said yes, it was inevitable. The young man said after two weeks it was time to introduce the baby to the rest of the herd.

The sad young man said and then something tragic happened. The sad young man said he could feel such things in the way people told stories.

The young man said a young bull from the herd challenged the mother hippo, and after a brief stand-off, she yielded. The young bull attacked the baby hippo, killing it with on snap of its jaws.

The sad young man said whereupon the baby hippo drifted down stream to where the crocodiles had a feast.

The young man said that was not part of the story.

The sad young man said it was always part of the story.

The young man said not the story he was trying to tell. Not the important part of the story.

The sad young man said what did the young man find so important about the death of a baby hippo. He asked the young man what had inspired him about a stupid brute force such as the young bull or an incompetent mother who could do nothing to protect her infant. He said that was always what happened, wasn’t it. He said that was exactly what made him sad all the time. The bullies always won and the so-called protectors always yielded to displays of power. He said the authorities gained strength by making promises to the weak but then stood by idle when it was time to act.

The young man smiled. The young man said that was exactly his first response when he had watched the scene unfold. He said he had first fallen into the same kind of funk the sad young man described.

The sad young man said so what kind of greedy pleasure did the young man derive from the story.

The young man said he derived neither greed nor pleasure. The young man said it was a simple observation. The young man said of course the world was wild and tough and crazy and dangerous, but you have survived. He said anyone who has lived long enough and has developed enough to read about such a story or think about such a story or observe such a story has battled their own countless enemies. From the trauma of birth to the germs and diseases in the environment to the rogue agents of chaos present throughout nature. Then the young man spoke directly to the sad young man and said even, yes even, to your own poor decision-making while maturing. In fact for much of your adolescence, your own decision-making is probably your greatest threat. And yet. And yet. And yet. Having fought all these threats, you exist in this wild, tough, crazy and dangerous place. You are not defeated. You are never defeated so long as you exist.

The sad young man looked at the young man. He did not say anything for awhile. Then he said but someday he wouldn’t exist.

The young man said but that someday is not today.

The sad young man said but his problem was that the herd was strange and he had no meaningful place in it.

The young man told the sad young man to stop chasing the heard and let the herd come to him.

The sad young man said that was egregious.

The young man said yes it was. He said sometimes that was the only way to be.

The sad young man asked whatever happened to the baby hippo’s mother.

The young man said she got pregnant again.

The sad young man asked if her next baby survived.

The young man said the sad young man would have to find that out for himself.

To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.