by Jon Pearson
Bobo the hippo stood on top of the hill and mashed down all the yellow weeds. He stood all by himself breathing in and out with his big belly, because to be such a great big thing was the only thing he knew. It was like having eyes all over his body, being so big, like he could see everywhere at once. It was summer and hot, and he was feeling the sky with his big, wide back for one tiny snowflake to land and melt. And he was not thinking anything because there was nothing to think, like before you are born or even have a body and you can see in all directions.
And, because he was a hippo, Bobo was not wearing shoes, and certainly not his fancy shoes, his Sunday shoes, the shoes his mother always kept in the closet. It felt nice being barefoot. He didn’t need a hat or shirt or shoes, standing there, and he wasn’t hungry, not at all. He was feeling full of nothing. And it was a day, a nice day, a day full of day, opening up again and again as if the day began as a worm, a nice blind worm that turned into a big, cold river full of pollywogs and army men marching along making bumping sounds and humming as if the whole world was humming, the mountains rising up and the sky rising up and the flies rising up from all the bumping and humming before anything got born and then, boom, it got born.
Toby, are you even listening? You can’t sit still for even a minute. You’re always wiggling and kicking your legs. Daddy doesn’t like that. Daddy is trying to tell you the story of being born and you can’t even…and just because you are a teddy bear doesn’t mean you can’t hold still. Don’t you want to know about how everything began? Grown-ups think they know everything, but they don’t. I was telling you about how the rivers got started, and I was telling you about being big and invisible like a hippopotamus, because a hippopotamus can’t see himself at all, and just standing there without any shoes feels full of nothing, especially on a hill.
Now, Mr. Golden, he would tell this story way better than I can. Mr. Golden is the man who told me to come to earth in the first place. Stop kicking, Toby, or I am going to have to put you back on the chair. Now listen. This is important. Mr. Golden is a very nice man. Don’t look away when I am talking. He is very big, Mr. Golden is. Anyway, he has a big, big, big face like a tub of water; like if you were sitting in a big warm tub of water, how you would feel tickly warm all over. You feel like you could go inside his face. Don’t worry. No one is going to put you in a tub of water. I am just saying that before you are born, you are just sitting there not doing anything and not wanting to do anything, which is a very nice feeling. And this man walks up, Mr. Golden, and he says, but he doesn’t say, but it’s as if he said, standing there quiet and tall with his very large face, “Hello, I want you to come with me,” and it’s the nicest feeling, like a cookie melting in milk or like a monkey spinning on a machine, like when I spin you around holding your paws and you go “Whee-e-e-e-e-e!”
And everything about Mister Golden was golden, the most golden. He was made out of light. Like I feel when I am looking straight ahead and not down at my legs or my hands or something. Looking down at myself, I just see a “me” sitting here, which is like seeing the me that is a car, the “Me” car, that I am always driving around in, but the “I” inside the car, driving, the light, that’s the “me” I never see. That’s Mr. Golden. He said I would be a person and being a person was like that. And he was right, because being a person feels like driving around in a car. You think I am just making this all up, don’t you, Toby? Well, if I squeeze your arm, I am not making that up. And I am not making this up either. You don’t have to believe me, and besides, it doesn’t matter. I know you would rather hear about Bobo the hippo anyway. So, okay, he just stood there waiting for the snowflake, and not knowing it doesn’t snow in the summer, he waited and waited and waited, seeing what he couldn’t see.
Category: Short Story