“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.