How to Forget that You’ve Got Gum in Your Hair
©2011 Joanne Wetzel
Dan was actually a hippopotamus. Everyone always said that he looked like the mailman, but I held my tongue. Back in 1992 he was putting on his high tops- four of them- when the fire alarm went off. He calmly tied the loops, as a hippo would do, stood up and patted me on the back. “No worries, little one.”
I ran out the sliding door, drunk on the blaring zing bing alarm. I was five, Dan the Hippo was fifteen. He was rather tall for the species but characteristically thoughtful. A few minutes later I heard him open and close the door and he joined me outside.
He pointed to the house with a massive hoof-hippo-high-top hand, “you know what that is?”
“Smoke?” I thought I heard a fire truck.
“Disappearing solution.” He was right– a corner of the house seemed to be gone.
“But my toys!” my eyes teared up to the point of max capacity.
“Yup, they might burn up,” he was now sitting in the dirt, sneakers off, his left hand tracing the outline of his right.
I shook my head, world-weary and full of stuffed animal chagrin. And then something caught my eye, perhaps lit from the fire burning 50 yards away. “What’s that,” I pointed.
“A monkey.” Dan was tapping his flipper-fin in the dirt, “and this is a duck.”
“I love penguins.”
He drew in the penguin’s nose, a large nose just short of a beak. “What should we name it?”
“I don’t know. What do you think his favorite color is?” because color choice and name were undeniably linked when you were five. Ask Pink Bear and Red Rabbit.
Dan sat up for a moment, his long flipper-hoof nails tapping his rubbery cheek, “Green maybe, or orange. Something that would look cool on your sneakers. You’d only buy kicks if you really liked the color.”
“Purple Adidas sneaks,” I said resolutely.
I laughed at the absurdity of it and started to draw in the dirt too, forgetting the crazy and mean world that flashed just behind us. “I’ll draw a turtle,” and I did– an ugly short turtle with purple sneakers. His name was Bob and he was, conveniently, an insurance salesman.