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.