Hunting Hippos

Autumn Bettinger

I am careful when I step into the garden. My toes lift leaves and nudge blossoms, my heels wedge gently between woody hydrangea stems. I creep along this delicate ecosystem, watching as my four-year-old barrels through tulips and flattens trilliums. This is a massacre of bent and broken plants. He is on the hunt for garden hippos. He picks hyacinths and stuffs them inside his shirt to hide his scent. I follow his lead, rolling through the rosemary and flopping, perfumed, into the snapdragons. He gives me a jumble of hand gestures, which I take to mean:

stay put, don’t make a sound, possible hippo sighting.

After my son goes to sleep that night, his bare feet still dusted with soil, I regale my husband with our daring escapades. I tell him we smelled delicious, with twigs in our hair and scratches up our arms. I tell him how the garden hippo (cleverly disguised as our neighbor) is now telling everyone that she was poked with sticks and chased half-way up the block by her feral, plant-covered neighbors. I tell him this is exactly what a garden hippo would say to throw people off the scent. Our son told me so.

Autumn is a full-time mother of two in Portland, Oregon. When not changing diapers or slinging snacks, she can be found writing once the kids are asleep. Her work has appeared in The Journal of Compressed Literary ArtsThe Good Life Review, and was a finalist for The Prose Online International Flash Prize.

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