Unfortunately, due to both life events and financial issues, Serial Flashers is closing its doors as of September 1.
Thank you for your support.
“Tackle him!” Brenda shouted, nearly beside herself. “Wrap him up and bring him down!”
Tackle him?!! Had Brenda taken leave of her senses? Couldn’t she see that this was an actual live hippopotamus and not some stray dog that had wandered into the yard? Couldn’t she make that distinction?
The hippopotamus opened its jaws wide. Lomax could see down its gullet, a place he momentarily expected to occupy and where an extremely unpleasant fate awaited him. At the last instant he dove to the ground, shielding his head with his hands. The beast passed over him, its hooves kicking up great clods of grass and buffeting Lomax from side to side. It thundered out of the yard and off down the road.
“You big coward,” Brenda called out. In the chaos of the moment, Lomax was uncertain whether Brenda was addressing the hippopotamus or himself.
He got to his feet, dusted himself off. He appeared to be intact and uninjured but for a hoof imprint blazoned across his chest. The hippopotamus had marked him as a way of commemorating its visit.
Lomax watched Brenda kneel over the dahlias. She gathered the scattered petals and stems as though hoping to reassemble the blossoms. Her lashes were bedewed with tears. “My beautiful dahlias,” she wailed. “Gone. All of them gone. Devoured by that horrible hippopotamus.”
“Brenda?” Lomax had to wave his hands to draw Brenda’s attention. “Did it ever occur to you to wonder what a hippopotamus was doing in our back yard?” This seemed to Lomax to be by far the more pressing issue.
“Occur to me?” Brenda’s anger surged to the fore again. “I know what he was doing. He was eating my dahlias.”
Lomax sighed. Brenda could not see beyond the dahlias. The improbability of the hippopotamus’s presence barely registered upon her.
It was the same thing the following day when a giant octopus appeared in the goldfish pond. Brenda was frantic over the fish. She demanded that Lomax save them. Lomax was seized by one tentacle, submerged and dunked till nearly drowned then blinded by an inky discharge as the octopus made good its escape down the drainpipe. The incident seemed something more than mere coincidence. Such a series of misfortunes defied the odds. Lomax began to entertain the notion that someone was out to get him.
The third day when Lomax ventured into the yard, he was confronted by a nine foot Komodo dragon. He barely batted an eyelash. It was almost to be expected. The dragon was stalking Marie Antoinette, Brenda’s prize Pekinese. As soon as Brenda yelled out the window for Lomax to do something, he lured the Komodo dragon indoors. He rushed back out again and locked the door behind him. Let Brenda deal with the dragon, he decided. It was an even match. Whichever one of them walked out the door alive, Lomax reasoned he was ahead of the game.
Better to deal with one potential assassin than with two. The math was so obvious that even Lomax had finally mastered it.
The hippopotamus barely stirred when it saw Lomax approaching. It cocked its head and shifted its feet but didn’t stop munching upon the dahlias or demonstrate any sign of alarm. Indeed, its eyes glittered with almost open disdain.
“Shoo!” Lomax waved a hand at the animal. “Git!” The hippopotamus, had it been capable of it, would have shrugged its shoulders. Its indifference, its complete lack of concern, was unnerving. “Go on!” Lomax waved his arms, assumed the most menacing expression he could summon. “Take a hike!” The hippopotamus bit off the head of a dahlia, as if to demonstrate its complete contempt.
“Grab his tail, Hank! Pull him by the tail!” Brenda stood by the back door, clearly furious. Lomax started to sidestep around the hippopotamus to comply and the beast moved with him, thwarting the stratagem. Lomax could smell the hippopotamus now, a stale, musty odor made up of several scents, none of which did anything to encourage him to approach closer. The animal’s blunt, chisel-shaped teeth looked powerful enough to bite clear through a man’s legs. The hot, malodorous tide of its breath engulfed Lomax, caused him to gag. Plainly he was no match for the hippopotamus. Any attempt to drive it away could only end in humiliation and disgrace.
That was when Brenda came charging down the steps, loaded for bear. Her eyes blazed. Her lips had pulled away from her teeth in a maniacal grimace. The hippopotamus stopped chewing, a look of apprehension in its eyes. It took a step back from the garden, as if to dissociate itself from the carnage wrought therein.
“Hah!” Brenda snorted. “Nice try, buster. Don’t think for a minute that you’re fooling anybody.” Brenda gathered a handful of chestnuts which lay scattered on the ground, the shells bristling with thorns. She began to pelt the hippopotamus, targeting its face and snout with deadly accuracy.
The hippopotamus gave a roar of protest, a cry of such volume and depth that the windowpanes of the house rattled. Brenda wasn’t discouraged or put off in the least. She picked up a broken branch and brandished it like a club.
“Didn’t care for that, eh? Well, you’re going to like this even less.” She stormed forward. The hippopotamus held its ground for a moment, ears laid back flat against its skull. Then it reassessed the situation and decided to execute a strategic retreat. It dare not move toward Brenda. So it turned and contemplated the only other line of retreat: straight at Lomax. Its eyes burned with cold fury and it seemed almost to smile at the prospect. It snorted air through its nostrils, pawed the earth with one hoof. Then it charged.
“Don’t let him get away!” Brenda cried. Lomax sought for a place of refuge, somewhere he might escape the onslaught. But he was caught between the house, the fence and the hippopotamus. There was nowhere to hide. He stared at the great grey bulk bearing down on him with the speed and impetus of a locomotive and knew that he was about to die.
Lomax knew it was going to be a bad day when he woke up, looked out the window and saw a hippopotamus grazing in the back yard. He rubbed his eyes and shook his head, certain that he must still be asleep. But when he looked again the hippopotamus was still there. Lomax was no judge of such things but the hippopotamus seemed an uncommonly large one, broad and bulky and stout, not an animal one would wish to antagonize or approach without permission. Lomax watched for a couple of minutes to be certain the hippopotamus was really there then turned and woke his wife.
“Brenda? Bren, honey?” Lomax shook her shoulder.
Brenda crawled out from under the covers, bleary-eyed and frowning. Her hair was a complete horror show. “What? What is it?”
“There’s a hippopotamus in the back yard.”
“There’s what? What are you trying to tell me?”
“A hippopotamus. In our back yard. A big one, too. Come and take a look.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake. Go back to sleep. It’s Saturday, remember? There’s no need to get up.”
“I’m serious. A hippopotamus, right outside the window. You’re going to want to see this.”
Brenda flung back the covers. She was scowling and looked seriously bent out of shape. Lomax was going to jolly her a bit, see if he couldn’t lighten her mood, but decided that maybe now wasn’t the best of times. Brenda stalked across the room.
“I swear,” she said, “sometimes you’re no better than a little boy. You’ll do anything for a laugh. Not a thought for the inconvenience it inflicts upon the rest of us. Did it ever occur to you, given that it’s a weekend, that I might have liked to sleep in?” Brenda glanced out the window. She stood stock still, staring at the spectacle as Lomax had done, but quickly regained her self-possession.
“What’s he doing, Hank, can you see? He’s in the middle of the garden. God damn him, he’s eating the dahlias. Go out and drive him away, Hank!”
“Do what?” Lomax stared at Brenda then looked out at the hippopotamus. The animal actually appeared to have gotten larger.
“Drive him away! Hurry, before the brute does any further damage. All my lovely dahlias, just look at them!”
Lomax wasn’t so much concerned about the dahlias. He was worried about the two plus tons of sinew, gristle and gaping jaws that comprised the hippopotamus. But he knew he would have to make a show of doing something. The dahlias meant the world to Brenda. She lavished endless care and attention upon them, was as fierce and protective in her devotion as a mother hen over its chicks. So Lomax blundered down the stairs and out the back door, thinking he could reason with the hippopotamus. One look at the beast up close was sufficient to drive this notion out of his head.
Thomas Canfield aspires to worry less, for which purpose he has taken up the study of children, and to laugh more, for which purpose he has taken up the study of politicians.
“It’s not advisable to move too quickly till the stitches are fully healed,” warned the vicar. Her husband nodded in agreement. I followed their gazes down to where the side of my trousers and the side of Mari’s wedding dress had been sliced open. The mattress was stained with dark blood. There were splatters of it on the white lace of the dress. Between us sat a swollen pink mass, bruised and purple – held together by narrow black sutures. I pulled away and watched in horror as the fleshy mass became grotesquely taut.
We had been joined at the hip.
And I saw then what I had not noticed previously. What should have been staring me in the face from the very moment I set foot on Skera. I knew at last why the couples always stood so close to each other. They were all likewise physically conjoined – the husbands, the wives and the partners.
“Don’t worry,” said Uncle Hector. “The skin has enough elasticity built in to it to allow for your more intimate of moments.”
He turned and winked slyly at Uncle Dougal.
From the corner of my eye I saw Mari lift her veil and blush.
“Don’t you just love our wedding band?” she asked, reaching down to stroke the bruised hunk of flesh that bound us. I couldn’t believe that the wedding she had so longed for was some sort of monstrous surgical ceremony.
Love might blossom slowly but it sure as hell withers at a pace. I suddenly felt a hatred for her that was so palpable it was like a lump of something foul that had gotten stuck in my throat. “This crazy!” I yelled. “How could you want this?”
She seemed taken aback by my outrage.
“I love you,” she said and patted the swollen lump of sutured flesh. “This is a physical representation of the emotional bond between us.”
“You’re all crazy,” I yelled at the assembled guests. “Give me one of those scalpels!”
“That would not be advisable,” warned the vicar. “It is not just the flesh that has been united but also the muscle tissue and the main arteries. Any attempt at separation would be both murder and suicide.”
“Your hearts truly beat as one,” gushed Mari’s mother.
“Till death do us part, my darling,” said Mari and leaned across to kiss me on the cheek. “I knew you were the one – as soon as I found that our blood types were compatible.”
All around me champagne flutes were being charged.
“To the happy couple,” said Mari’s father.
“And let no man put asunder,” added the vicar.
The chinking of the glasses easily drowned my stifled cry of terror.