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.