My Cocaine Hippo

We are doing weekend chores together, and I know it’s not right to want another person to fail, but when he goes into the bowels of his truck, the rank intestines of a plumbing animal, tangled and greasy and faintly smelling of stuff that stains your clothes, and he’s looking for just this particular tiny thing that he needs to fix the irrigation system, a screwdriver you could pick your nose with, and it seems impossible that he could pull something that small out of the vast mess of bear guts in his truck, and then he does, and, well, it makes me feel like everything I do is dumb. What’s the point of cleaning and organizing anything? He navigates around me. This is how we work. 

Billie Best writes about cocaine hippos.

We could live in a laundry bag, and he’d still be able to find a wrinkle free shirt. Not that he cares about wrinkles. Or even wearing clean clothes. It would be cliché to call him my Pigpen, and frankly, he’s not a Peanut. He’s twice as big as me and his cloud of dust is an atmospheric river of coffee spills, syrup drips and toast crumbs and the occasional black bean. Maybe even a sweet potato peel which he carefully peels off a slice of roasted sweet potato because he doesn’t eat peels, although he does eat pork rinds, and somehow the peel finds its way into the bedroom or stuck to the bathroom rug, and I could spend hours wondering how it got there, but I have to stop myself or my life would disappear into pondering his existence and how to fix it. You see, I need to face the fact that he doesn’t need fixing. This is how he was meant to be.

Sunday, we spent the afternoon repairing the irrigation system that waters the gardens around the house and to entertain ourselves we drift into a conversation about Pablo Escobar’s rewilded hippos in Columbia. I listen as he fantasizes about how cool it must be to be one of those Cocaine Hippos because they have free range over an entire nation, and people seem to like them. They’re popular with the masses as they slip and slide in the mud and eat greens and bathe in natural settings that must be beautiful and peaceful, and such a nice place to nap. 

With a dreamy look in his eye, he muses that Cocaine Hippos have the luxury of being an apex predator with an unlimited food supply. When they’re done eating Columbia, they can just mosey on south to Ecuador or north to Panama. Maybe they’ll even cross the mountains, get used to the cold, or show up in the wetlands around Mexico City, or better yet, the Rio Grande. In the blink of an epoch, we could have Cocaine Hippos in Texas.

He’s on his knees, wet and muddy, spinning his whimsy, one of my favorite things about working outside together, the stories. I forget myself and it feels good. He does the engineering and I do the fetching, as much as I can in his Wonderland of chaos. I remind him that Cocaine Hippos are an invasive species preying on a defenseless ecosystem. While he digs around in his boat for a five-eighths inch tool of some sort, a thing he didn’t even ask me to get because I was presumed to be so unlikely to recognize it, we debate the idea of an ecosystem being defenseless and imagine a frog virus mutating to wipe out the whole herd. After that, I think about what a huge amount of compost a 4000 lb. hippo could render. Maybe we could sell it. 

Could Cocaine Hippos eat their way to El Paso? We have turkey sandwiches for lunch and the conversation meanders. Would The Wall stop them? What happens if the river runs dry? They’ve been called lake cows. We decide to call our restaurant the Lake Bacon Grill. Serving Texas BBQed hippo ribs and hippo ham salad. Our mothers used to make ham salad. And that’s how the day goes. Even when he’s crouched in the dirt burning his finger with a blow torch, he’s cheerful. And I’m just enjoying being inside someone else’s head. 

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6 thoughts on “My Cocaine Hippo

  1. Love this one!!! You and Roger are darn adorable!!!
    Ps. I once hand fed a young rhinoceros a biscuit treat, but was told by the zookeepers that although hippos look sweet, they can run up to 20 mph & they kill 500 people per year in Africa.

  2. Ever a fan of the imagination extrapolation universe close souls invent when just hanging out, unbothered with Other People around. an invented language of sorts. In joke humor. Kids in an adult sandbox.

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